The Supreme Court seemed give President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) a knock-out on the day the party stormed Port Harcourt, headquarters of Rivers State and the Niger Delta by shutting out the last hope of the party from contesting for any seat in Rivers State from Saturday. This is as three persons were feared dead through stampede at the rally.
The Supreme Court knocked out the remaining appeals from both the Tonye Cole faction and Magnus Abe side. The President who skipped Port Harcourt rally in the morning to visit nearby Bayelsa State and back at after 2pm, said at the APC presidential campaign rally held at the Adokiye Amesiemeka Sports Complex, Igwurita-Ali, Port Harcourt, that he was saddened by the knocks the party in the state received in series from the Supreme Court. No APC candidate is to feature on the ballot and there would be no challenge to the sitting governor, Nyesom Wike of the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Hopes were high even in the expansive stadium on Airport Road that Buhari and Amaechi would do something at the Supreme Court to make the rally a celebration rally. Some hinted at the grounds that the shifting of the rally from Monday must be to wrap up things at the apex court so that the party could make the new date a happy one. “I do not see how Buhari would not want to raise Tonye Cole’s hand”, an insider hinted at the rally grounds.
Ovation tore through the air when news filtered from the Supreme Court without details; Groups jumped down and began to dance for hours. Soon, it was realised that it was a negative verdict that was delivered which made Magnus Abe’s camp jubilant.
When Buhari and his entourage eventually came, he declared that his administration would ensure that the Rivers State chapter of the APC gets justice despite the ruling of the Supreme Court. He also declared that if re-elected for a second term in office, his administration would be fair and just to all sections of the country. He appealed to Nigerians to be patient with his government.
Buhari said: “I am really saddened by the ruling of the Supreme Court which barred APC from fielding candidates in Rivers State. The courts have barred us from participating in the general election in Rivers State. However, as we remain resolute in our effort to win the 2019 general election, I assure you that justice will be done.”
The President, who declared that his administration would remain steadfast and consistent in its fight against corruption, said he will be accountable to God and Nigerians.
“Our objectives are very clear. We will remain steadfast and consistent in our fight against corruption. We will continue in our effort to revolutionalise our agricultural sector.
“Nigeria will remain one united country and we will be fair and just to all sections of the country. We will remain accountable to God and you as we continue to serve you as President,” he said, adding:
“Let all Nigerians have the faith we will be fair to all and we will not allow any constituency in this country to be intimidated.”
Speaking earlier, former governor of the state and the sitting governor’s bitterest rival, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is the Director-General of Buhari Re-election Campaign Organisation, accused Governor Wike of lobbying the powers that be to be returned as governor for a second term.
Amaechi said: “Whatever Nyesom Wike and the PDP want in Rivers State, we are equal to the task. Wike is lobbying us to give him governor and in return, he will support us for President.” Those claims seemed to shock the crowd.
Speaking at the event, National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, commended members of the party in Rivers State for their fighting spirit despite efforts from certain quarters to demoralise them.
Oshiomhole said the APC-led Federal Government is committed to justice, fairness and democracy, pointing out that there is a difference between justice and judgment.
He said: “I want to appreciate APC members and supporters in Rivers State for their fighting spirit. I am impressed that despite the efforts to demoralise you, you still mobilised to welcome President Muhammadu Buhari. I salute your fighting spirit.
There is a difference between justice and judgment. We are committed to justice; we are committed to fairness; we are committed to democracy and we are committed to intrusion.”
Meanwhile, a man and two women were said to have lost their lives at the end of the rally.
Unconfirmed reports said stampede occurred immediately Buhari drove out of the stadium and a crowd followed.