As Rivers State gears up for the legislative (s)election rerun tomorrow, the capital city Port Harcourt is increasingly resembling a war zone.
With both sides ratcheting up the rhetoric, Governor Nyesom Wike threatened to kill anyone that tried to swap result sheets a few days ago, over 30 people were reportedly killed in violence leading up to voting day. Two soldiers were killed yesterday in Abonnema, in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Wike is rumoured to have moved his wife and children abroad allegedly in anticipation of the violence. A woman, who is hoping to fly out of Port Harcourt to Abuja this evening, is scared and regretting she didn’t leave earlier. She told Naijiant.com that the Inspector-General of Police Solomon Arase was in her area this morning. There were police officers and soldiers literally everywhere and the streets of the city were deserted.
Human Rights Watch in a 2008 report “Politics as War: The Human Rights Impact and Causes of Post-Election Violence in Rivers State, Nigeria” stated that: “The epidemic of violence that has plagued much of the Niger Delta in recent years has its roots in the corrupt, violent, and unaccountable nature of politics in the region”. And that: “Crime and political violence have both grown in stride with the Niger Delta’s colossal failures of governance”.
In 2003 a local observer group described the campaign period in Rivers State as “low-intensity armed struggle.” This has gotten progressively worse since then. The worsening situation is mainly due to the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) with Amaechi are seeking to gain hold of the legislature and use it to impeach Governor Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both sides are seeking to control the riches of Rivers State as one of the country’s richest oil-producing states.