Despite the huge crowd that had attended its recent campaigns for the 2919 general election, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State may be in for a shocking defeat on Saturday, February 16 and Saturday, March 2 when the various legs of the voting shall hold.
Unlike the major opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, PDP has lost the factors that placed it in pole position in 2015. In that year’s election, apart from the heavy military and political support then President Goodluck Jonathan, and his wife, Patience, offered PDP, armed militants, supported by the Federal Government and patronised by leaders of the party in Rivers State, held everywhere hostage. By this same period in 2015, the opposition APC had come under heavy attacks with several of their members either killed or wounded. Then Governor Chibuike Amaechi, was under severe persecution including being locked out by Federal forces out of the Rivers State Government House, his official residence. Special Forces were posted from Abuja to Port Harcourt to mark Amaechi’s daily movements. Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, the Commissioner of Police, anchored the domestic persecution of Amaechi in total connivance with Mr. Nyesom Wike, who was the governorship candidate of PDP.
The PDP, to muzzle APC leaders, recruited and armed various militia camps across the state, with APC campaign trains attacked. APC governorship candidate in 2015, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, escaped assassination in Okrika when his campaign efforts were attacked by armed men believed to be working for PDP. Lives were lost in those incidents though Peterside managed to escape unhurt.
Two days to actual voting, the attacks intensified with offices of APC candidates set ablaze. Mr. Magnus Abe, a senate candidate then for Rivers South East senatorial district, had his office in Bori, Khana local government, torched by arsonists. Fingers pointed at the direction of the PDP and their armed militant groups. Not even RACs run by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were spared the destructive activity of the PDP gang groups who burnt them in areas considered APC bastion.
Election days witnessed real war as PDP militia went berserk and in some instances beheaded persons considered to be supporters of or sympathetic to APC. Worst were supporters in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government where families were wiped out over their partisan preferences.
However, as the Saturday election approaches for the presidential and National Assembly elections, the PDP can not boast of enjoying any of such unholy advantage. With Niger Delta militants enjoying the Federal Government Amnesty and a robust engagement with the government at the centre under the direct directives of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, PDP has lost its major backbone and ferocious fire power and cover.
Prior to the 2015 general election, the Niger Delta region was shared into three sectors among the militants with a ‘General’ in command. Such Generals owned sophisticated weapons, including gun boats. On the day of the governorship election, armed militants, reportedly ‘imported” from Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo states, made amphibious landing by night through the Buguma axis of the River Sombreiro. Reports said they were then apportioned their sectors of operation with strict directives not to spare any opposition. Part of the policy of intimidation of APC supporters on the governorship election day was the aerial surveillance of Peterside’s residence by a copter manned by armed Federal agents, which had drone equipment installed on it for high pixel photos.
The PDP has lost all of that being as empty this time as every other politcal party. The Neighbourhood found grounds PDP might be defeated in Rivers State in all the elections in 2019.