ROTIMI Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, says he and the state’s chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are ready for battle in the coming presidential election in Rivers State.
Amaechi said this when President Muhammadu Buhari visited the state on Tuesday as part of his nationwide campaign tour.
This is coming in spite of the several campaigns against hate speech and inciting statements by politicians, including by the international committee.
Amaechi vowed that he would “battle Wike to the last” and that he doesn’t need any federal help to do that.
“Your Excellency, let me welcome you to Rivers State, and I welcome you to a state here whatever Wike wants on Saturday we will give him, free. We don’t want money from the federal,” Amaechi said as the mammoth crowd cheered him on and the master of ceremony hailed him as “the Lion”.
“Whatever PDP wants in Rivers State, we are equal to the task. It’s as simple as that.
“You know it gets to a stage that a man must be a man. It gets to a stage a man cannot be any other thing but a man.
“Your Excellency, I’m not going to Abuja again. I’m here from today to the election day.
“In 2015, the army tried to arrest me as a sitting governor.
“We have a governor who is busy lobbying us, trying to negotiate with us, ‘let us give you presidency, you give me governor’. He is afraid, is he not? We will battle him to the last.
“You know for long I’ve not spoken like this, (but) today, we ill sing like the Igbo (people) would sing.”
Amaechi then broke into Igbo war songs which roughly translate into “it is time to show strength, let the coward not come close to where a show of strength is taking place”, and “the warrior’s eyes is bloodshot”. As he sang, he displayed some war-like dance steps to show his preparedness for battle. As he danced, the MC kept hailing him “Lion, Lion”.
“On Saturday, they should get ready,” Amaechi continued. “The support we want is that Mr President should just thank us when we finish. We are ready for them.
“You know they used federal and state agencies against us. They kill our people, APC people, every day, cut off their necks every day,” he further said.
Amaechi said he had been betrayed “serially” by people he had helped, including senators. He recounted how he made the present Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, his chief of staff, made him a local government area chairman, and later nominated him as a minister, but “he saw Jonathan and betrayed me”
“After you finish helping them, after praying for them, they go and betray you for a pot of porridge. Saturday is our day,” he said.
Already reports say several people were killed in a stampede that occurred at the Rivers APC rally ground. A report by the Punch puts the number of dead at four, and eight injured, but Reuben Abati, a journalist-turned-politician, reported on his blog that 14 people died during the rally and scores were injured.
A day earlier, the PDP had held its presidential campaign rally in Rivers State, where Governor Wike referred to the APC as “darkness” and “dictatorship” while the PDP is “light” and “freedom”.
In a tweet later on Tuesday, Wike said “Rivers State does not believe in violence and we will not support any dance for violence…Evil plots to fuel violence by the APC will fail.”
The leadership of the PDP has already called on the International Criminal Court to blacklist Amaechi for inciting violence just days before the election. The party also said Nigerians should hold Amaechi responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the state or any other part of the country during the elections.
Over the years, River State, rich in crude oil and home to many international oil companies, has been notorious for electoral violence. The state always tops the list of flashpoints where violence is expected to erupt during elections.
During the 2015 general elections, a senior police officer on election duty was beheaded in one of the communities in the state, and his orderly was also killed. A member of the National Youth Service Corps who was working as an ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also killed.
However, there may be a twist to this coming election in River State. INEC has excluded the ruling APC from fielding any candidate for the elections in the state. This is following a court judgement that nullified the primary elections held by the two APC factions in Rivers State; one led by Amaechi, and the other by a serving Senator, Magnus Abe.
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, struck out an appeal by the Rivers APC on one of the court cases about the internal crisis in the party. The three-man panel of justices said an explanation on the decision would be given at a later date.