Full Text of Press Conference By The Rivers State Chapter Of All Progressives Congress, APC, Held On Sunday, May 22, 2022, At The State Secretariat, 118 Woji Road, GRA, Port Harcourt
Gentlemen of the press, It has become expedient to address you as a means of clarifying and updating you with the recent happenings and present state of affairs of our great Party in Rivers State.
It is gratifying to recall that after the last national convention of the APC and the disposal of the very last court case against the party by the courts, our Party Chapter has been on fresh ascendancy and momentum.
So far, we have demonstrated the readiness and willingness to actively participate in the electioneering process which has kicked off with the conduct of delegate congresses.
Recall that due to the compact calendar of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, occasioned by the Electoral Act 2022, our Party shifted its Delegate Congresses twice. Eventually, sale of Forms for the Delegate Congresses was widely advertised and sold between Monday 9th May and 11:00pm on 11th May, 2022 at the State Party Secretariat, 118 Woji Road, Port Harcourt. Subsequently, the collated names of Delegates Aspirants was forwarded to the 319 Wards in readiness for the Congresses.
In line with the directive of APC National Headquarters, a Vetting Committee, headed by the State Legal Adviser, was also set up to vet the documentations of State Assembly Aspirants between 11th and 12th May, 2022. This was given wide publicity in the media prior to and during the exercise.
On 17th May, 2022 the APC Rivers State Congress and Screening Committee led by the Chairman, Dr. Adoyi Omale, arrived the State. The team’s arrival and its schedule for screening State Assembly Aspirants on Wednesday, 18th May, 2022 were widely publicized in the media. On the first day, 61 Aspirants presented themselves for screening while on the second day 28 Aspirants were screened putting the total number of Aspirants screened at 89.
Meanwhile, the Delegate Congresses were done and concluded on Wednesday 18th May, 2022 across the State. The exercise was peaceful and credible as it was witnessed by INEC and security officials in all the Wards.
However, a mention must be made of a particular development that acted as a dampener to our steady march forward. On the morning of Wednesday 18th May, 2022 a group of individuals assembled at the main gate of our Party Secretariat. Their motive was not clear to anyone. With every passing minute their number was growing just as they started becoming violent. By 9am the situation had gone out of control. They had no leader to engage with and the messages on the few placards they carried were incoherent.
Their extremely violent behaviour compelled the policemen at the Party Secretariat to lock up the Secretariat gate. Not long after, they started pushing the gate and later started throwing stones violently into the Secretariat premises with a view to hitting people inside and destroying property. Everything they did had the trappings of what happened in 2018 when a group of Senator Magnus Abe’s followers besieged, broke in, looted and later destroyed the former Party Secretariat at Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Before our eyes last Wednesday, history was about repeating itself perhaps because when the 2018 incident happened, the perpetrators went scot free with no consequences.
This time, the total breakdown of law and order necessitated calls for police reinforcement to avert danger and a repeat of the destruction of 2018 from recurring.
It took a long while before police personnel arrived and started to task of persuading the mob to disperse to no avail. They appeared hell bent on accomplishing their objective. However, after over an hour of engagement, the police were compelled to apply minimum force and successfully dispersed them.
It is pertinent to state that we believe the police account of the incident especially the fact that no life was lost. The real danger was the extremely violent way the mob attacked and bludgeoned anyone they identified to be our Party member. For example, an electrician who had come to fix some electrical fittings in the Secretariat was mistaken for our Party member and attacked and was almost killed before he managed to escape to an arriving police team. Another member was terribly beaten and his money, shoes and phones taken by the mob. All these actions point to the kind of looting and destruction the mob intended to unleash on the Secretariat were they allowed, just like in 2018. They were buoyed perhaps that they carried out the act in 2018 and got away with it without any consequences of any kind.
Sadly those who sent the mob were busy using various media platforms to control the narrative of the events and skewing it to paint themselves (the perpetrators of the evil act) as victims. They went as far as acting up that someone was shot dead. We believe the police account that no one died despite that the patience of the police was stretched to its elastic limit by the violent conduct of the mob. The sponsors of the mob are still flying the narrative that Congresses did not take place but much of the world now know that that is not the case. They thought their mob would succeed in preventing the conduct of the Congresses much to their satisfaction. But their plot failed!
Reflecting deeply on the incident, we have come to the conclusion that the mob was deliberately assembled and sent to block the Party gate as early as 6am to ensure that materials for the congresses were not sent to the 319 Wards for the congresses. Unknown to them, there was no such materials to be moved to the wards apart from a small slip for recording results in each ward. All returning officers had earlier collected the slips from the Committee and left for the various wards even as the mob continued to block the Party Secretariat gate. The Congresses were conducted on the Option A4 mode whereby members queued up, were counted and the result recorded on the small slip. Much to the disappointment of the mob and their sponsors, the Ward and LGA Congresses took place peacefully and transparently across the State fully observed by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security officials.
Despite the unfortunate incident of Wednesday, we believe that our march towards participating in the next stage of the electioneering calendar, which is the Primaries, will proceed apace without let. We hope to ultimately build on this momentum to achieve our overall objective of winning the 2023 elections, be it the State Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, Governorship and Presidential elections.
Returning Officers and Electoral Officers of 22 LGA’s completed and submitted the results of congresses they conducted. The only LGA that didn’t present any result was Asari Toru where unconfirmed reports claim the EO was hijacked at gunpoint and forced to declare that no Congress held there. The matter has been presented by the party to INEC Headquarters in Abuja and we are awaiting their directives on what to do next.
Thank you all.
Senibo Chris Finebone
State Publicity Secretary