More than 2,000 members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Rivers State stormed the national headquarters of the party in Abuja to protest the alleged plan by the party and the Presidency to impose a former Minister of State (Education), Mr. Nyesom Wike, on them as the party’s governorship candidate.
The protesters also complained against perceived injustice meted out to them during the last Saturday PDP House of Assembly primaries in the state.
The protesters also carried a mock casket, which they said signified that their enemies had been buried as they danced singing mournful songs to depict the alleged death of their enemies.
The protesters were said to have started arriving the secretariat as early as 6.30am and took over the entire premises of the secretariat even before the arrival of its members of staff.
They carried various placards with inscriptions such as “Wike can’t be our governor,” “We want clearance to contest 2015 elections,” “Give us back our money,” “We are tired of a two-man state exco,” “Felix Obuh must go,” “Wike has bought the soul of Rivers PDP,” and “Criminals have been cleared to be PDP aspirants in River State.” They also sang different war songs as they clustered in front of the party secretariat.
Policemen, who were mobilised to the scene, looked in awe as the protesters erected a pavilion with which they blocked the entrance to the building.
The more than 70 policemen were led by two assistant commissioners.
The National Women Leader of the party, Chief Kema Chikwe, who attempted to address the protesters around 1.47pm, was harassed and was hurriedly escorted out of the troubled zone by the police.
The National Vice chairman of the party in the South-South, Dr. Cairo Ojugboh, who also came to pacify the angry protesters, was asked to leave the party’s headquarters by the protesters. He obeyed the order.
The protesters forced members of the NWC of the party and their members of staff to stay away from office.
Some of the protesters, who openly admitted to being ex-militants, locked all the three gates leading to the premises and stopped people from going in and out of the party headquarters.
A team of the protesters was positioned at each entrance of the gates, in order to make sure that their orders were obeyed.
At some point, the environment became charged as the protesters took their protest beyond the PDP secretariat to the premises of a bank situated opposite the PDP secretariat, as well as other business premises around Wuze Zone 5 Area where the party secretariat was located.
Some members of staff who had reported early to commence the day’s duty also fled for their lives.
A reinforcement team of policemen was later brought in to complement those already on ground, but they all watched helplessly as the protesters shouted, sang and danced round the area.
Some of the protesters were alleged to be carrying guns, an allegation that was said to have emboldened them to dare the policemen.
One of the protesters, who agreed to speak with journalists, Mr. Davis Saloka, from Eleme constituency, said they were at the PDP secretariat to oppose the “open robbery perpetrated against us by the PDP.”
He said 107 members of the party paid to obtain the expression of interest and nomination forms, but only 32, whom he said were “Wike’s boys,” were given “dubious clearance” while the rest of them were disqualified from the race.
He said, “We all bought forms to participate in the PDP primary but what we saw was out of the ordinary. We attended the screening exercise but we didn’t know our fate until Friday night when we saw a pasted list, saying only 32 persons were cleared to participate in the election.
“We discovered that each person nominated from Wike’s camp was cleared and given automatic ticket while the rest of us were screened out.
“The most annoying thing is that we were not told the reason why we were disqualified from the so-called party primary, and it is more curious to note that all we saw was a list that was neither signed nor was it on a PDP letterhead, but just contained the names of Wike’s boys as the only ones cleared to participate in the party primary.”