The controversies that followed last Saturday’s congresses that produced House of Assembly candidates on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State continued on Wednesday as hell was let loose at the national secretariat of the PDP in Abuja, when protesters from the state chapter of the party stormed the Wadata Plaza to protest against perceived injustice meted out on them during the primaries in the state.
The protesters, who were mostly aggrieved aspirants and militants, started arriving the secretariat as early as 7.30a.m. and had taken over the entire premises even before the arrival of the staff of the secretariat.
The protesters carrying various placards with inscriptions like, “Wike can’t be our governor,” “We want clearance to contest the 2015 elections,” “Give us back our money,” “We are tired of two man state exco,” “Felix Obuah must go,” “Wike has bought the soul of Rivers PDP,” and “Criminals have been cleared to be PDP aspirants in River State,” among others.
The placards were displayed by the agitators who gathered in front of the party secretariat, chanting protest songs.
As the protesters, converged, the police looked on as some of the militants were thought to be carrying guns and other dangerous weapons.
However, the environment started getting charged when majority of the protesters who openly admitted that they were ex-militants, became violent.
They beat up a police inspector, Dauda Kato and other politicians who had business at the party secretariat.
They had initially allowed workers into the party secretariat but became violent around 9a.m. when they locked all three gates leading into the premises and stopped anyone going into the party headquarters or leaving the premises.
At this stage, workers inside the secretariat ran out of their offices and hence, no staff or member of the NWC was allowed in at press time.
They erected a canopy directly in front of the gates leading into the party secretariat and shared themselves into different teams with a team among the hundreds of the protesters taking charge of the gate, harassing anyone who attempted to enter the party secretariat.
Another team started making noise and dancing round the Zone 5 area, singing war songs and cursing party officials for allegedly selling the River State chapter of the party to former Education Minister, Nyesom Wike.
Another group made up of stern looking able-bodied men and ladies sat on the main road, and after consuming several bottles of alcohol, carried a casket and began chanting war songs in their Kalabari dialect.
At about 9:30am, the environment became charged the more as the protesters took their protest beyond the PDP secretariat as they molested any one who tried to enter the premises of a bank situated opposite the PDP secretariat, as well as other business premises situated within the Wuze Zone 5 Area where the party secretariat is located.
At this time, all staff of the party secretariat who were already in their offices ready to commence the day’s duty quickly fled for their lives.
While the staff were trying to find their ways out of the secretariat, the protesters tried to stop them from leaving.
A police inspector with the name tag. Dauda Kato, who tried to help the staff was hit with a stick in the face by a hefty looking protester and was left with a bloodied face as he had a deep cut to his right eyebrow.
The PDP secretariat staff, who managed to escape were seen making frantic phone calls to their colleagues who had not arrived for work, informing them of the situation on ground and asking them to stay away in their own interest.
Some others who had arrived and were prevented from entering the party secretariat stayed about 500 meters away from the building, watching from afar the activities of the protesters, while they took refuge under the shade of road-side trees.
At about 10:15a.m., a reinforcement of policemen were brought to the secretariat with a big police truck to complement those already on ground but they all could do nothing but watch helplessly as the protesters shouted, sang and danced round the area disturbing the peace of the environment.
Though most of the policemen were carrying batons rather than guns, some of the irate protesters were seen charging towards the policemen bearing guns, daring the policemen to shoot at them.
One of the calmer of the protesters who agreed to speak with the press identified himself as Hon. Davis Saloka from Eleme constituency. He said they were at the PDP secretariat to kick against the “open robbery perpetrated against them by the PDP.”
Narrating his ordeal, he said 107 members of the party paid to obtain the expression of interest and nomination forms, but only 32 who he said were
“Wike’s boys” were given “dubious clearance” while the rest of them were summarily disqualified from the race.
“We all bought forms to participate in the PDP primary election but what we saw was out of the ordinary.
“We attended the screening exercise but we didn’t know our fate until Friday night when we saw a list pasted saying only 32 persons were cleared to participate in the elections.
“We discovered that each person nominated from Wike’s camp were given clearance which gave them automatic ticket, while the rest of us were screened out.
“The most annoying thing is that we were not told the reason why we were disqualified from the so called party primary, and it is more curious to note that all we saw was a list that was neither signed nor was it a PDP letter head, but just contained the names of Wike’s boys as the only ones cleared to participate in the party primary.
“On Saturday, they just wrote the names of these people and said they were the winners of the PDP party primary where elections were not held. It is injustice, we won’t accept it,” he said.
Another protester who identified himself as Jude Lawrence Nwibie from Kana constituency 2, said he was disqualified for no reason.
He noted that he went through the screening exercise like his colleagues in accordance with the party’s guidelines for the election, but was surprised that the result of the screening exercise was not made public but they were only informed that they all scaled through.
He however said he was surprised to eventually see a list of 32 persons pasted a night before the party primary with a caveat that those were the only ones cleared to contest the election.
He noted that they were not informed of any disqualification before the election, a tactic he said, was adopted to deny them the right to appeal.
“A huge injustice was visited on us by the party just to please Nyesom Wike, an Ikwere man who wants to succeed another Ikwere man. Money was collected from us for the party nomination forms but we were prevented from participating in any party primary.
“Wike and Felix Obuah did the same thing during the ward congresses. They just wrote names of delegates. No delegate election was held. As a person, I’m angry that since Wike has cornered all the delegates, he should have at least allowed the primary elections to hold so that he can use his delegates to defeat us, if he is actually sure he’s on ground as a formidable politician in River State.
“We noticed that Wike is doing all these nonsense because he has the support of the national secretariat. We are here today to demand our right.
“I told my people back at home before leaving Port Harcourt for Abuja that two things can only happen on this journey I’ve embarked on. It’s either I’m given a clearance to contest and a real primary is held, from where the candidates of the party for the House of Assembly will emerge, or I will die here pursuing my agenda. Death means nothing to me. I won’t mind being a hero for democracy. We won’t watch and allow Wike and his cohort cheat us unchallenged,” he said.
The National Vice-Chairman of PDP for South-south, Dr. Cario Ojogboh, attempted to intervene, but to no avail. Even, the National Woman Leader of PDP, Dr. Kema Chikwe, was not allowed to address the aggrieved aspirants. She was allowed inside the party secretariat, whereas other members of the NWC stayed away.