The political tension in Rivers State, Nigeria, has escalated following an attack on the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Patrick Tonye-Cole, by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The attack reportedly took place at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Aba Road, GRA Junction, Port Harcourt, on March 18, 2023.
According to eyewitnesses, Tonye-Cole was accompanied by the APC State Chairman, Emeka Beke, and some party members when they were accosted by protesters, who blocked their access to the INEC building. The protesters were said to have pelted the APC leaders with stones and other dangerous objects, leading to the intervention of security agencies attached to them.
The situation became more volatile when a vehicle in their convoy was vandalized, and sporadic shooting ensued. Economic activities around the INEC office were also grounded, as fear and tension gripped the area.
The incident has been condemned by several political leaders and organizations, who called for calm and a thorough investigation into the matter. The APC accused the PDP of orchestrating the attack, saying it was a desperate attempt to intimidate their candidates and supporters ahead of the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Meanwhile, security operatives have been deployed to the area to maintain peace and order, while surveillance around the INEC office has been beefed up to prevent further violence.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has also condemned the attack, calling for a peaceful and fair election. He urged all political parties and their supporters to abide by the rules of the game and avoid any actions that could lead to violence and bloodshed.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Obo Effanga, also expressed concern over the incident, saying it was regrettable that the commission’s office had become a target of violence and intimidation.
Effanga assured the public that INEC remained committed to conducting a free, fair, and credible election in Rivers State, and urged all stakeholders to work together to ensure a peaceful and successful exercise.
The attack on Tonye-Cole and other APC leaders is not the first of its kind in the state, as political violence and intimidation have been a recurring issue in Rivers State. The upcoming gubernatorial election is expected to be fiercely contested between the APC and PDP, with both parties seeking to gain control of the state’s government.
The incident highlights the need for a peaceful and transparent electoral process, where all parties and candidates can compete freely and without fear of violence or intimidation. The Nigerian government and security agencies must take decisive measures to ensure the safety and security of all stakeholders in the electoral process and to prevent any form of electoral malpractice or violence.
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In conclusion, the attack on the APC Governorship candidate and other party leaders at the INEC office in Rivers State is a disturbing development that underscores the need for peaceful and transparent elections in Nigeria. All stakeholders must work together to ensure a level playing field and a credible electoral process that reflects the will of the people. The Nigerian government must also take steps to address the root causes of political violence and promote a culture of peaceful political engagement and dialogue.