It has emerged that Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, may have acted based on false report, to demolish two hotels in Eleme, Rivers State, on Sunday, May 10, 2020, and declare a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Youth Leader wanted.
Wike, who personally supervised the destruction of Prodest Hotel, and Edemeteh Hotel, located in Alode and Onne community, respectively, said the hotels violated his Executive Order on prohibition of hospitality activities in Rivers State for the period of the lockdown he imposed on the state over the coronavirus pandemic. However, The Neighbourhood can confirm that Wike’s twin actions in Alode where he also declared Princewill Osaronwa Osaroeijji, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Youth Leader in Eleme wanted with a N5 million bounty on his head, was more of political in-fighting than violation of his Executive Order by the victims.
The newspaper has it in good authority that the framing up of Osaroejiji recently sworn-in as PDP Youth leader in Eleme local government was an extension of internal fight for power in Eleme PDP. Those who plotted the involvement of Gov. Wike in the melee, it was gathered, have been opposed to the emergence of Osaroejiji, who until the 2019 general election was a staunch member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Eleme as the new PDP Youth leader. As one of the APC youth arrowheads in Eleme, then, Osoroejiji, who is also the Alode Youth leader, hedged out PDP in Alode making the community a bastion of support for APC. Working with then Eleme Youth President, Isaac Obe, they ensured that PDP lost all elections in their community. But he was to part ways with APC after he suffered life-threatening gun attack that left him limping. The Neighbourhood learnt that Osaroejiji bolted away from his former party in protest at how its members abandoned him to suffer the pains.
A member of the Osaroejiji family who spoke to The Neighbourhood in Eleme, independent as well as partisan sources familiar with the power tussle in Eleme PDP, gave clearer insight into the matter.
The newspaper gathered that the battle for the control of Eleme PDP had pitched the party’s old horses against recent returnees to its fold. Following the crises that swallowed APC in Rivers State prior to the 2019 general election, some of its members across Rivers State headed back to PDP after the polls, and some of those returnees have been playing too close to Governor Nyesom Wike. The Neighbourhood was told by multiple partisan sources in Eleme that the development had left bitter taste in the mouths of those who felt they had worked to keep the party alive in the area while the now-returnees junketed with the opposition. One of the returnees had served as a Commissioner in the Chibuike Amaechi administration while Wike was Chief of Staff and both have been seen too close in the governor’s public engagements .
The first leg of the fight reared its head when Mr. Wike wanted to fill the slot for Eleme in the appointment of a Commissioner for the State Executive Council. The returnees reportedly made what a knowledgeable source in Eleme politics told The Neighbourhood were “strong moves” to capture the slot. The source revealed that however, Wike eventually ceded it to the other side but reportedly dropped a promise of “compensating” the returnee-members in subsequent appointments. The decision of the governor still left the inside battle simmering and soon as the PDP scheduled its recent congress, the keen rivalry resurfaced. In Rivers State, political parties eye certain positions as key to their survival in the local government areas and often go for “strong men” to fill them. Since youths often determine the fortunes of political parties in the state, the strength of such parties are therefore tied to the choice of a Youth Leader in a local government area. PDP’s case in Eleme, this time, was not different.
During the horse-trading for the offices to be filled, leaders of PDP, it was gathered, considered the antecedent of Osaroejiji in his Alode community. In the 2015 general election, PDP scored almost zero, a feat tied to the “performance” of APC youths in that community. Alode was considered APC stronghold in Eleme where it always garnered the highest votes, and so it remained until about three years later when internal wrangling tore its strength. Some of its “most dreaded” youths either reportedly played the Judas or openly canvassed support and votes for PDP in protest. One such election result was so disastrous for APC that it had yet to recover from that defeat in the hands of PDP. So when the ruling party in Rivers State needed a “strong” Youth Leader, it naturally fell on Osaroejiji from Alode.
Soon after Gov. Wike issued his Executive Order on May 4 and disclosed his resort to the use of Task Force to enforce same, The Neighbourhood gathered, he directed local chapter PDP leadership to form the Task Force in their areas aside the state Task Force which he is the leader. So, Eleme local government set up its own version and of course, the choice of who to be its Chairman followed the pattern of the emergence of the Youth leader. But Osaroejiji resides in Port Harcourt and so, had to be home regularly and would sometimes spend the night in Eleme but not in his family house considering several attempts on his life by suspected armed men. During one such alleged attacks, his family house was razed while he escaped by a whisker. On that day, a family source told The Neighbourhood, when the gunmen arrived the Osaroejiji family house, they pretended to be lawful guests to the younger Osaroejiji but a certain comment one of them made triggered suspicion in a younger brother of the Alode Youth Leader who told the ‘guests’ to wait while he checked whether his brother was in his room. That was the window Princewill needed to escape through a fence.
On the said night of the incident that triggered Wike’s action, it was learnt, members of the Rivers State Task Force on COVID19 visited Prodest Hotel. As Wike had earlier directed hotels in Rivers State, the COVID19 Task Force demanded for the manifest of “guests” in the hotel. The request was countered by the manager who told them there was no manifest as there were no guests. It was gathered that the Task Force then made a demand for N100,000 from the manager and threatened “dire consequences” should he decline granting that demand. But the manager was said to have insisted there was no such money as they had seized operations since the governor’s order.
A senior member of the Osaroejiji family told The Neighbourhood that their son is a victim of politics. “Since my brother(Princewill) was lodging there that night as he was unable to return to Port Harcourt that night due to the (national) curfew, and the manager possibly aware that he was Chairman of the Local Government Task Force on COVID-19, placed a call on his phone line for an intervention. Details of what led to the governor declaring our son wanted remains unclear. But I can tell you that it is their fight in their party(PDP)”, the family source told The Neighbourhood in Eleme. The newspaper gathered that Princewill was a regular guest to the hotel the days he was unable to return to Port Harcourt.
Another source familiar with the power tussle in Eleme PDP disclosed to the newspaper that the altercation between Princewill and members of the State Task Force that night was reported to a top PDP source in Eleme who allegedly saw a door to “deal” with Princewill. The source reportedly called Mr. Wike with a report of how Princewill led a group of “cultists to attack the Rivers State Task Force on COVID-19 in Eleme leaving many injured and fighting for their lives.” He was also reported to have told Wike that the hotel where the “attack” occurred belonged to Princewill, “a cultist and an outlaw who is on the wanted list.” Wike was made to believe the hotel was “a notorious den of cultists and hardened criminals”, who, if he(Wike) must win the war against COVID-19 in Rivers State, must be dislodged.” Wike quickly acted without hard evidence before him.
When The Neighbourhood placed a call on the PDP Youth leader’s telephone number, the service provider said it was not available indicating it was either switched off or the user was outside network coverage area.
On Tuesday, the PDP said it had expelled Princewill.