By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
A former representative of Rivers South-East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Abe, and a former Rivers State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Ojukaye Flag-Amachree have disagreed on the alleged violent attack against members of the party loyal to Abe.
Abe in a statement signed by his Spokesperson, Parry Benson, alleged that APC members loyal to the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and controlled by Amachree attacked their rival colleagues in Asari Toru Local Government Area.
Benson said the attackers invaded the venue of a peaceful gathering of APC members in Buguma City with weapons, inflicting serious injuries on many persons including women.
He said Ben Horsfall and other party members almost lost their lives on Monday in Buguma because they dare to disagree with the Minister of Transport.
The statement said: “The Rivers State version of Federal might was yesterday visited on Ben Horsfall and some members of the APC in Buguma City. This is ominous beginning to the New Year in Rivers State and a clear sign of what is ahead for Rivers people.
“Nigerians will do well to remember that it was the same Hon. Ben Horsfall who risked life and limb and physically served the court papers of the now-famous case of Amaechi Vs. INEC on the then sitting Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia.
“It was Hon. Ben Horsfall’s courage and his conviction to disagree with the powers that be at that time made the case possible. Ben Horsfall was never assaulted, attacked, or brutalized for his open confrontation with then-Governor Omehia.
“Today, for daring to hold a different view from Amaechi, but for the grace of God, Hon Ben Horsfall, himself and several others could have died.
“Nigerians will do well to remember that the political violence that engulfed Rivers State and claimed so many lives before the 2015 elections actually started with attacks on supporters of the Grassroots Democratic Initiative, then led by the Minister of State for Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike.
“Nigerians will also recollect that the first place the GDI peacefully held a rally in Rivers State was in Gokana Local Government Area (my home local government), because I flatly refused despite orders from above to allow violence on Rivers people of any political persuasion”.
Benson recalled that similar violence was visited on party members at the old party secretariat, the state judiciary and the state party secretariat at Waterlines Junction.
“The temptation and the belief of the minister and his supporters that violence offers a short cut to the resolution of the situation in the party has become evident.
“I have been restrained in my reactions, in the belief that we cannot all lose our heads at the same time, but the lack of effective response to these issues by the security agencies, is leading these criminals and their sponsors to the conclusion that they are above the law, and now becoming emboldened and unrestrained.
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“When the security agencies allow political crime to reign unchallenged, they should not be surprised when violent crime ravages the society; for these politically protected, and privileged criminals are the same ones tormenting our society today because they can act with impunity and are being protected for their political roles.
“This is a test case for Rivers State ahead of 2023. The political issues in the APC in Rivers State cannot be resolved by violence. Even if we succeed in killing one another, will that bring peace to the party? Will that endear the party to the majority of Rivers people?
“All leaders of Rivers State must stand up in clear condemnation of the resort to violence, for at the end of the day anyone can become a victim when violence reigns.”
But Flag-Amachree denied the allegations that he carried out an attack on certain members of the APC, in Asari Toru, saying he was not even aware that such an incident took place.
He said if such attacks ever occurred, it could have been because the people of Asari-Toru were not accommodative of any other faction in Rivers APC apart from the party’s Caretaker Committee recognised by the APC Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Gov. Mai Mala Buni.
Amachree said he got the report of the purported attack like every other person insisting that he had no reason to attack Horsefall or any other person despite their political differences.
He said: “I have not had any quarrel with Horsfall whom I helped to return to the (Rivers State) House of Assembly in 2011. But the fact is that I am not aware of any attack”.
Flag-Amachree also said the political situation in Asari Toru would not affect the APC’s forthcoming membership registration and validation exercise.
“We are very prepared and only waiting for the date to come and materials’ distribution to start. There was no attack, so nothing will affect the exercise negativity.”