By JIMITOTA ONOYUME
THE crisis rocking the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State deepened as the faction loyal to Governor Chibuike Amaechi went ahead to inaugurate it’s state secretariat at No. 38, Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port-Harcourt.
The Rivers PDP had been factionalised long before the crack in the party at the August 31 National Special Convention of the party in Abuja where six governors staged a walkout alongside aggrieved members to float what has come to be known as ‘New PDP.’ The faction is headed by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Bareje. The factional group loyal to Amaechi adopted the n PDP led by Baraje.
In the meantime, activities at 38, Forces Avenue Street, Old GRA went on smoothly until after the flag of the factional PDP was hoisted. Barely ten minutes after they finished the exercise, security men, led by Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department, CID, in the state, Mr Sam Okaula, stormed the venue.
The police said they had instruction to stop the programme because there is only one legitimate PDP in the state and the country. They removed the flags that had been hoisted and took over the secretariat.
Earlier, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr Tony Okocha, in company of the Caretaker Committee Chairman, Obio Akpor local government area, Mr Chikordi Dike, Chairman Eleme local government area, Mr Oji Oji; the Publicity Secretary of the PDP faction, Mr George Ukwoma; and several others had performed the opening ceremony of the secretariat.
Okocha, in his address, said the development would open a breathe of fresh air and consolidate internal democracy within the system.
“In strict obedience to the directive of the national leadership of the New PDP, I hereby open the office of the Rivers State chapter. As I open this new secretariat of our great party, the PDP, I hope that this will usher in fresh air and democratic renewal in our state and nation,” he said.
“The New PDP is a national response to the impunity, recklessness and dictatorial tendencies typical of the former leadership of our party. I therefore urge the party executive in the state to immediately commence the mobilization of party men and women to deliver the party from the stranglehold of tyrants.
“I commend the governors of Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kwara, Niger, our indefatigable Governor of Rivers State and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and other adherents for this uncommon display of courage. They are indeed heroes of democracy.
“On Abubakar Kawu-Baraje-led national leadership of the PDP we stand”.
Okocha later went to supervise the hoisting of the PDP and the nation’s flags at the premises. They had hardly finished this aspect of the ceremony when security men came to take over the place.
Meanwhile, the Felix Obuah-led faction of the party loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike, has described the action of those who opened the new secretariat as criminal. Obuah, who spoke through his media aide, Mr Jerry Needam, said the group was the authentic PDP. He accused those behind the new secretariat of plotting to destabilise the peace in the state.
The Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, says any attempt by anybody to open up a parallel secretariat in the state in the name of the new PDP other than the existing legitimate ruling Peoples Democratic Party, led by its national and state chairmen, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Hon Felix Obuah respectively is criminal, provocative and an affront with no other aim than to cause chaos, and breakdown of law and order in the state,” Needam said.
“ Such move not only amounts to an outright disregard for the rule of law, but is also aimed at truncating the nation’s democracy”. The Chairman further said that there “there is a subsisting Federal High Court order barring any attempt to impersonate and, or float any other political party in the name of the PDP which must not be abused.
“We are therefore calling on all to resist this arrant madness and animalism of one man desperate and power drunk”.
Meanwhile, policemen, who sealed the nPDP secretariat, barricaded the Forces Avenue road with their patrol vehicles. Motorists were diverted to other roads in the area.
Rivers State Police Public Relations officer, DSP Angela Agabe, explained to newsmen that they took the action to avert fracas by loyalists of the two factions of the PDP in the state.
The police action to block the Forces Avenue road that Thursday resulted in a drama between the security body and Amaechi.
The governor, who, on that day, had led one hundred and two former Speakers in the country on tour of some of his projects in the state, got to the barricade mounted by the police on the road at about 730p.m. but could not access the private gate into his residence at Government House.
The Forces Avenue road leads to the private gate of the Government House. All efforts by the aides of the governor to allow Amaechi and his entourage drive through to the gate of the Government house fell on deaf ears.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Dave Iyofor, said his boss waited in his car to allow his security details alert the policemen that barricaded the road that he should be allowed to drive through to his residence but they told him they had orders from above to shut down the road. “The governor was patient to allow them time to call the persons above. After waiting for several more minutes, the governor was forced to take an alternative route, the Azikiwe Road approach to get to the Government House,” he said.
The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the action by the police, said it was an abuse of federalism and political authority.
Wondering why the governor of the state could be stopped from accessing his residence through the private gate of the Government House, Port Harcourt, the commissioner said the police action was strange and a violation of the tenets of popular democracy.
At press time, the secretariat of the nPDP that was opened by the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt was still under lock and key with stern looking policemen all over.