By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT: SIGNS that the political climate in Rivers state may witness some level of tension over the 2011 election has started manifesting with the arrest pen ultimate Monday of 12 factional members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state otherwise called the Restoration Group.
The group is a fall out of the crisis that rocked the political structure of the former governor of the state, Dr Peter Odili in 2007 which later gave birth to two visible contending factions. One led by Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the other by former Governor Peter Odili. Prominent in the Odili group are deposed Governor Celestine Omehia, former Minister of Transport and Secretary to the Rivers state government, Dr Abiye Sekibo, former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara etc.
While the Amaechi group has its henchmen as Secretary to the State government, Magnus Abe who was Commissioner of Information to Dr Peter Odili, Chief of Staff to Government House, Chief Nyesom Wike who was a two time Chairman of Obio Akpo LGA in Dr Peter Odiliâ€™s administration, Commissioner for Works, Dakuku Peterside who is said to be an Odili boy when the former was deputy governor under Chief Rufus Ada George in the old Rivers state etc.
Before the arrest of the factional members of the PDP thatÂ Monday, the political situation in the state was calm. It looked like a state with no opposition of any sort.
The local activities of the Restoration Group had only existed more on the pages of a few local newspapers in the state, apparently because its bigwigs reside in Abuja.Â It would be recalled that soon after the emergence of Amaechi as governor, via a Supreme Court verdict, the prominent members of the Odili camp relocated to Abuja.
And transformed into what has become known as the Abuja politicians.
They are said to rarely come to the state, nor comment on the programmes and policies of the Amaechi administration, even if they kept touch with unfolding events in the state.
Since they are far away in Abuja with little comments on events in the state, many saw the state government as sailing without any serious opposition, particularly given recent developments where most of those that contested the last governorship election with the PDP cross carpeted to the PDP. This perception however changed on Monday with the arrest of the 12 factional members of the PDP.
Before the arrest, there was no parallel secretariat of the party in the state. The only state PDP secretariat known to many was the one on Aba Road. Meanwhile, when the 12 that have been styled the â€˜twelve disciplesâ€™ met on Tuesday at Ohaeto Street, they reportedly hanged a banner which announced the birth of a parallel state Secretariat of the party.
Their gathering was allegedly to strategise on how to go about the e registration for members of the party that was recently launched in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan but has been suspended by the party. Those thatÂ were in the meeting were two former Commissioners, Lolo Ibieneye, Mrs Chidi Nancy, former Deputy state Chairman of the PDP, Prince Ohochukwu, Ejor Ngowah Ejor, Nwuke Anucha, Sokuru Jaja, Dominic Saatah Agiobu Fubara, Achinike Wonodi, Francis Ebenezer, Grant Orugbani and lali Green.
Mid way into their meeting, men from the Rivers State Police Command swooped on them and whisked them away to the state Police headquarters. Confirming the arrest to the Saturday Vanguard, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Dr Mrs Rita Inoma Abbey, said the police acted on a tip off that some persons were conducting themselves in a manner that would breach peace in the state.Â They had no option but to intervene for the sake of peace, law and order.
The following day being Tuesday , they were arraigned behind closed doors at the Magistrate chambers, and later granted bail in the sum of N500, 000 each and that civil servants not below level 15 in the state civil service should sign surety for them.
The matter which is before Magistrate Israel Agbesor was adjourned to 18th of this month for hearing.
The state government on its part described the assembly at Ohaeto Street as a gathering of thugs and cultists with a mission to ferment trouble in the state.Â A statement from the Secretary to the state government, Mr Magnus Abbe, defended the action of the Police.
â€œInformation received by the Security Agencies in Rivers State indicates that today, Monday, August 09, 2010, some hired thugs and cultists had gathered at a house somewhere in Port Harcourt and were conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace.
The security agencies on receiving the report acted swiftly to contain the situation, whereupon their Political Paymasters emerged. It is clear, therefore, that the actions of these persons were sponsored by the so_called Abuja Group, with a clear intention of trying to use violence to create some disturbances in the state capital to attract attention.
Hoisting the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party (PDP) flag, over that kind of activity cannot give it any kind of legitimacy.Â Clearly, the security agencies cannot fold their arms to allow developments capable of causing the breach of the peace. The Rivers State Government has gone over and beyond the call of duty to make the state safe for diverse opinions to thrive.