In contrast with the mournful mood of the nation, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike on Saturday held a political rally in Port Harcourt to receive some prominent members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who defected from the party to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Wike’s political rally coincided with the day and the exact hours Nigeria was holding a burial at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, for the country’s Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, and six other senior officers who died in a plane crash on Friday.
The Port Harcourt rally was briefly broadcast live by Channels Television before the station quickly switched over to the live broadcast of the burial at about 3:30 p.m.
The political rally continued, nonetheless.
The jubilant crowd danced to drumming and loud music. They sang the state’s PDP victory song “Stand up for Jesus!”
The PDP Chairman in Rivers, Desmond Akawor, told Mr Wike and the crowd that the rally was “the final burial” for the APC in the oil-rich state.
“Today, the pillars of that party (APC), those who left during the hard times, who thought they would have seen greener pastures, they have toiled day and night and they have discovered that there is no other better place than home, and they have decided to come back home (the PDP) today,” Mr Akawor said before receiving the defectors.
One of the defectors said he went to the APC on “loan” to “save a sinking ship”, while another said that the APC has been destroyed in Rivers because of the “insincerity” of the party leaders.
Governor Wike said at the rally that the PDP would continue to win elections in Rivers.
Several Nigerians believe the Port Harcourt rally was a display of insensitivity to the national mourning mood.
“There is something called national mood,” a Facebook user said of the rally. “What is so special about Wike hosting APC decampees today that can’t wait till another day?”
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately get a comment from the Rivers State government, as the Commissioner for Information in the state, Paulinus Nsirim did not respond to calls from the newspaper.
‘Officers’ death colossal loss to Nigeria’ – Wike
Governor Wike, in a statement earlier on Saturday, however, described the death of Mr Attahiru and other officers as a “colossal loss” to Nigeria.
“It is with profound sadness that I convey the deepest condolences of the Government and people of Rivers State to the Nigerian Armed Forces and bereaved families of Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru and other military personnel on board the ill-fated aircraft.
“We feel deeply saddened by the colossal loss of these patriotic and thoroughbred officers who sacrificed their lives to make our nation safe. Our thoughts are with the Nigerian Armed Forces and affected families in this hour of grief,” the governor said in the statement from his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri.
Mr Wike’s party, the PDP has described the late officers as “heroes who gave their lives for the security of our nation”.