Rivers 2023: Anxiety As Repeat Of 2019 Scenario Looms

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The Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2023 general elections is planning to win all seats in the state.

The Rivers State PDP in its aim to come out victorious has filed multiple suits in court seeking to disqualify main opposition parties and candidates in the 2023 race.

Some stakeholders of the opposition party have expressed fear over the sincerity of the judiciary and the likelihood of the 2019 scenario repeating itself.

In 2019, the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were delisted from the ballots in Rivers State.

PDP which benefitted from APC being delisted from the ballots in 2019 is not hiding its intention of repeating the feat in 2023

The Rivers State chapter of PDP in multiple suits is directly or indirectly up against different political parties before the 2023 race.

Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on October 25 nullified all primary elections conducted by the Rivers APC over the unlawful exclusion of some party members as delegates to the primaries.

The presiding Judge, Justice E A Obeli had ruled over a suit filed by one George Orlu and four others as plaintiffs against Rivers APC.

Orlu and four others had sought nullification of all the party’s primaries over exclusion from the delegates list.

People, however, believe that the Rivers PDP has a hand in the outcome of the court judgement.

In separate suits filed by Rivers PDP, Justice Stephen Daylop-Pam of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on the 4th of November sacked three National Assembly candidates of the Labour Party (LP) in the state.

The candidates are contesting to represent Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Constituencies.

According to Daylop-Pam, the Rivers PDP proved that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not monitor the primary elections of LP in the affected constituencies.

Justice Daylop-Pam, however, in a pending PDP suit seeking to disqualify all National and State Assembly candidates of the APC has recused himself from hearing the matter on an allegation that he would favour PDP.

There are fears that opposition parties in the state may face the 2019 scenario.

SDP’s Reaction To The Move

The counsel for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Femi Falana (SAN) in another suit by Rivers PDP seeking the disqualification of 15 assembly candidates of the party has described the move as unhealthy for democracy.

Falana said, “PDP sued the INEC, the SDP and 15 members of the SDP, challenging results of the primaries conducted by the SDP. And I think PDP is doing that to all the other political parties in Rivers State with a view not to having an election in this state for any position. The sole purpose of the case is an attempt by the PDP to be the sole contestant in all elections in Rivers State in 2023.”

PDP Won’t Succeed This Time – Lulu-Briggs, Accord Candidate

The governorship candidate of the Accord Party in Rivers, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, believed Rivers PDP would not have its way this time with the meddling in the internal affairs of other parties.

He said, “They claim they are big parties with big candidates. Why are they afraid of the Davids in so-called small parties beating the Goliaths in their party? We are waiting for them. The judgement of the High court won’t fly, going by provisions of the electoral laws. We are ready for them.”

Judiciary Pandering To Wike’s Wishes — Beke, APC Chairman

The Chairman of APC in Rivers State, Emeke Beke has accused the judiciary in Rivers of pandering to the wishes of Governor Wike.

Beke alleged that the ruling of the High Court judgement which sacked all Rivers APC candidates in the state was predetermined weeks before it was delivered.

Beke said, “This judgement has been on the streets of Port Harcourt more than three weeks before it was delivered. Everybody was aware of this judgement before it came. It calls for concern that today the judiciary has turned to where people will buy judgements. It’s total shame on the judiciary.”

The spokesman of the APC in the state, Darlington Nwauju, is optimistic that the appeal filed by the party against the High Court disqualification of its candidates would succeed and upturn the judgement of the court of the first instance.

Nwauju said, “The appellate court shall treat the matter dispassionately and deliver justice because this is not an action against the primaries of our party but an attempt at challenging the composition of our delegates list.

“We assure Rivers people that the attempt to rehash the 2019 episode in Rivers is already dead on arrival. Nothing will stop APC Rivers from being on the ballot in 2023. The Supreme Court has decided on a plethora of cases affirming that political parties are their own operating authorities and can regulate their own internal affairs.

“The subject matter for which Justice Obene granted reliefs of the plaintiffs is entirely our internal affairs, therefore it is a travesty of justice as far as we are concerned.”

APC Has Itself To Blame — Gbemre

The National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre while speaking on the issue said: “I don’t appreciate the inordinate audacity of Wike but the APC should have itself to blame. If Rivers APC has restored internal democracy in her primaries this time around, learning from the bitter 2019 misfortune, Wike will have no room to meddle in their affairs.

“By embracing the same imposition and dancing to the supremacy of the party leader above carrying everyone along, the party gave room to Wike to meddle. If they are not careful, they will suffer the same fate as in 2019.”

I Wish All Opposition Candidates Bad Luck —Wike

However, Governor Wike maintains that “it’s PDP that will win this state, no other party will win. All those who want to run in other parties, I wish them bad luck because I don’t know why people would waste their money that they want to run for governorship in this state. What will they come and tell the people?”

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