‘We Demand Justice For Victims Of Political Violence And Murders In Rivers’
A fortnight ago, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State held a procession along the streets of Port Harcourt, on what it called the Black Day, culminating in a special memorial service at the Port Harcourt Polo Club for victims of politically motivated violence and murders in the state before, during and after the last general elections, some of whom, APC claimed, were its members. On the sideline, Dakuku Peterside, the party’s governorship candidate in the election, which the Election Petition Tribunal and Appeal Court, both in Abuja has ordered a rerun, spoke to some journalists on the significance of the event and their quest for justice for victims of the violence.
How do you rate the turnout at this Black Day procession for persons killed during the last elections?
The turnout was excellent; you could see the number of people who came out on the streets and at the memorial service itself, and by their turnout, I believe Rivers people have made a statement.
They are saying ‘no’ to political violence, kidnapping and politically motivated assassinations.
Unfortunately, we thought that at the end of the election in April, we would have come to the end of this matter, but it has continue in different dimensions and has manifested itself in form of kidnappings, armed robberies and more assassinations, because those persons who were armed by these politicians have not been disarmed.
So, we have continued with the same experience, as the present state government lacks the political will and moral right to attack the issue; hence we have been living with it.
What kind of responses or solidarity have you had from people outside the state on this issue?
The responses we have gotten across the country so far confirms that Nigerians are in solidarity and in sympathy with the people of Rivers on what we have gone through during the period of the elections and what we are still going through.
The Nigerian people are concerned that Rivers has remained a black spot in our democratic development and they have condemned in totality the level of violence visited on the people of the state who were only trying to cast their votes in exercise of their democratic rights.
The prayer of every right-thinking Nigerian is that this should never happen again in our political development.
There were reports that several persons, especially from your party, were attacked on their way to the procession and the memoriam service. How true is this?
Yes, our people were attacked. People were attacked in Abonema, Omuma, Etche and Ikwerre Councils.
In Ikwerre, thugs, wielding sticks, knives and other dangerous weapons attacked helpless women, who were coming for the procession in solidarity with the souls and spirits of those who lost their lives during the elections.
It is unfortunate and I know that these attackers cannot escape the long arms of the law. They have refused to admit the fact that times have changed and the days of impunity and lawlessness are gone.
We have drawn the attention of the security agencies at the highest echelon and I am convinced that they are doing something about it.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has accused you and your party of playing politics with lives of Rivers people who died during the elections. Also, some PDP leaders and the state government officials claimed that the deaths were mostly cult-related and cult clashes and had nothing to do with the elections. What is your response to these?
It is most uncharitable for PDP to say that those that lost their lives during the elections died in cult-related activities.
What kind of cult-related reason would lead to the killing of a man who is above 65 years old and whose three children, his driver, his friend and a relative who came visiting were also murdered in cold blood? What sort of cult-related reasons would have warranted that kind of killings?
Those attacked coming for President Muhammadu Buhari’s rally before the elections, were they also members of a cult? What cult were they members of?
Many persons were killed before, during and even after the elections and I ask, what cult do they belong to? What cult-related offence would they have committed on the day of election?
It is lack of respect for human life that would lead to such a statement.
What hope is there for justice for the victims and their families?
The APC as a political party sympatises with all those who lost their loved ones in the carnage that took place during the elections and all those who are victims of political violence in Rivers and we have said over and over again that we would continue to pursue justice for all those who lost their loved ones and other victims.
As a corollary, we are planning to set up a political violence victims support fund to be unveiled at the appropriate time.
We are not going to rest on our oars until we see some form of justice meted out to all those who perpetrated the violence, and we think it would give some level of comfort to the bereaved families.