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What Buhari should do to restore peace in Rivers — Nwuche

Chibudom Nwuche is a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. In this interview, he advises President Muhammadu Buhari on what to do ahead…

Chibudom Nwuche is a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. In this interview, he advises President Muhammadu Buhari on what to do ahead of a fresh rerun in Rivers State. Excerpts:

As someone who witnessed the Rivers State rerun elections, what was your experience?
If I call, the election in Rivers State a sham, I’ll be dignifying what transpired. To even call it a violent sham, I’m still dignifying it. What happened was a wanton and mindless violence unleashed on law abiding citizens of this country without protection from any authority whatsoever.
In Rivers State, hell was let loose. On the day of elections, there was ballot snatching, shooting, and people were murdered innocently. And where leaders ensured that the elections took place in a free and fair manner, PDP thugs beat up the INEC officials and compelled them to change the results. So, what we had was full scale fraud masquerading as elections.
The idea of having elections in the first place was misconceived. For instance, in my area alone, over 70 persons have been killed, those are the ones recorded and over 100 kidnapped and raped in the past six months.
All these crimes have their known culprits moving about freely. In many communities in my area, the villagers are paying protection fees to criminals to stay alive. How can you possibly have a free and fair election in such circumstances?
On the eve of the elections, announcements were made in some communities that they would behead you if you vote for APC. That was why the turnout was very poor. In some areas, they had two voters in one polling unit. Some brought five booklets to a unit, but they couldn’t exhaust one because of the palpable atmosphere of terror, which had been unleashed on the people of the areas by criminal gangs who appeared to enjoy support from certain segments of the society.
Can you imagine that where they arrested criminals for kidnapping or assassination, they were released without charge? You see well-funded NGOs mobilizing for the release of the ones that were kept in police custody on human rights grounds. They brought lawyers from nowhere. The crime in Rivers State, I believe has the tacit support of the powers-that-be, otherwise the police would not be so handicapped.
I think that the president must do something about Rivers State. The argument is that the South-South means nothing; our people are fed up; they want law and order and stability. They want peace and want to feel protected by the federal government.
What should happen is for the federal government to fish out the perpetrators of the over 1000 deaths in Rivers State and prosecute them. It should also arrest and prosecute the known sponsors of this violence to restore confidence in the government as a starting point.
Who were the perpetrators of the violence?
Nigerians must call a spade a spade. The idea of calling genocide cult clashes is cynical; it should be condemned. If it is a cult clash, how come it is one-sided? Why were all those killed defenseless while the killers were always heavily armed? How come 95 percent of those killed were APC members? Nigerians must speak the truth. The violence was deployed to intimidate voters not to vote a particular party.
Deployed by whom?
By the PDP government in Rivers State, obviously, otherwise who should arrest criminals? They have well mobilized NGOs to prove their case to free them. Have you heard about any prosecution or conviction so far?
Some say that the violence was caused by big men from both parties, most of whom are alleged to be cult members. What is your view on that?
If every big man in Rivers State is a cultist, then I am not a big man, because I’m not a cultist. My principle has always been that whatever I cannot get through hard work and prayers, I do not need it. I do not believe in any cult group whatsoever. I believe in the power of God; I don’t believe in sacrifices. I know that nobody will admit to being a cultist publicly, but by their responses, you should know.
What specific action would you want the president to take on this matter?
Well, the president is elected by all and empowered by the constitution to bring law and order to any part of the federation that appears to be facing crisis that has defied solutions for a prolonged period of time. When Nigerians are dying in their huts every day, you can’t keep quiet. He is our president. He should do whatever needs to be done. I don’t want to begin to say emergency, but the president should do what this calls for. It has been done before in this country, and nothing happened, and order was restored.
Let the president assess the situation based on the plethora of available facts and take a decision to protect the lives and property of Nigerians to assure them of security in Rivers State. That is what this moment calls for. It is not a time to play politics with peoples’ lives.
He should do whatever is needed to be done to bring the anarchy in Rivers under control. But for the sake of our country, there is an urgent need for him to bring to book those who brought this crisis. Rivers State situation calls for drastic action and the president must summon the courage to deploy whatever is required in Rivers State.

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