The National Leader of Unity House Foundation (UHF), Wenenda Wali, has expressed worry over happenings in Rivers State that, in his view, are endangering and undermining democracy.
Last week, some persons said to be supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took to the streets in Port Harcourt with charms and other fetish items by way of protest to stop opposition candidates in the March 18 Rivers guber election from collecting Certified True Copies (CTC) of result sheets of the national and state elections of the 2023 elections held in Rivers State.
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by the party’s governorship candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole, were reported to have been attacked, when they sought to obtain the CTCs of the said some documents from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Port Harcourt, meant to aid their case at the tribunal against the declaration of victory for the PDP in the guber poll.
Wali, who is equally a supporter of All Progressives Congress (APC), wondered why the PDP was afraid and using violence to stop the opposition parties from accessing INEC to obtain relevant documents to support their petitions at the tribunal.
He said he was not surprised that people could make themselves available to be used for diabolic, fetish and violent activities in the name of politics, considering the level of hunger and poverty in the land.
His words: “With regard to what has been happening in the city of Port Harcourt for over a week now. I put it down to a lot of factors. And one of the most fundamental reasons for why we have that kind of situation is the sociological part of our challenges where the political elite deliberately and intentionally create the kind of scenario that will make it possible for people to be used for all kinds of not-too-good purposes. So, it is not surprising to me that you have an army of people who can make themselves available for public nuisance for a week or more.
“Am I angry with them? Not exactly. Why am I not angry with them? Because if they were gainfully employed they will not be there. And the other part of it is, apart from the stipend that they get from going there, if you go there you are sure of at least one meal, or even two a day. And you can’t tell me that all the people who are there are happy. They are not happy. But they just have to go there because it provides an opportunity to feed for that day at least and probably have some take-homes in terms of financial incentive or inducement.”
The good governance advocate noted that “Basically, it’s a problem if we live in denial and say it’s a PDP thing. I don’t think so. It’s a bigger challenge, a bigger issue that is beyond PDP, but it’s about us as a people. And it’s about us as a country and as a nation because we will probably be deluding ourselves to think that it can only happen in Port Harcourt, just the same way we said kidnapping was only for expatriates. We now know where that got us because everybody was just keeping quiet and trying to rationalize nonsense.”
He further observed that “The right to protest is an inalienable right enshrined and protected by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. But like they say, your right to swing your arms ends where my right to defend my nose begins. You have a right to protest but you have no right to infringe on my own freedom. What has happened is nothing that can be said to be a peaceful protest, rather it’s a riot and people have been attacked, people have been humiliated.
“I can tell you that even the act of bringing or doing fetish things to achieve political objectives is a criminal conduct. They are things that are specifically stated in the Electoral Act that are not tolerable in the political process. And you can draw from there and say what is the government doing? What is the state doing? What are the security operatives doing? It’s instructive to know too that the crime scene is less than three minutes’ drive from most of the security installations. You have the Bori Camp, the Nigeria Air Force base, and the mobile police barracks. All of them are three minutes’ drive from the scene and all of them were affected. Yet, everybody is just keeping quiet.”
Continuing, he alleged that “To a large extent I think that there is some kind of collaboration between the state, that is, the political authorities and the security agencies to put us where we are now. But like I said earlier on, they are able to achieve it because of the weaponization of poverty. They know that there is an army of unemployed youths that is always ready to do their bid any time, any day. Just call on them and they will do it, not because they want to, but for alimentary considerations -stomach infrastructure. Not that they love what they are doing. No reasonable person, no normal human being will agree to go do those terrible stuff like sitting down under the sun from morning till night for just N1500 or N2000.”
He added: “How can APC want to access documents from INEC and PDP says no you cannot access documents, we have to access the documents jointly. Where do they derive that authority from? And Nigeria is keeping quiet, with this brazen attack on our democratic process. A man goes to INEC, keep an appointment to come and pick up documents, legitimate documents. Not inspection, let’s be clear on that. The APC governorship candidate and his team didn’t go to do any inspection, they just wanted certified true copies of election results which are things they are entitled to. Every political party is entitled to it.”