Crowds gather in Rivers for APC•Police stop Amaechi’s fans
•Lawmakers’ plane grounded
Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s supporters, who thronged the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa to welcome All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders, were barred from the facility yesterday by policemen. The policemen said they were acting on the orders of the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu.
Undeterred by the police action, Amaechi’s army of supporters from the 23 local government areas stayed at the junction of the airport on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Expressway, singing, drumming and dancing.
Apparently to show total support to the Rivers governor, thousands of people stormed the Government House, Port Harcourt. They were initially at the main gate on Azikiwe Road, but the gate was later left open for them to enter the seat of power.
The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, hinted on Sunday night that the First Lady, Dame Patience, was expected to leave Port Harcourt for Abuja at 11:30 pm yesterday. The APC leaders, including former Head of State Gen. Mohammed Buhari, Chief Bisi Akande, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and some governors, would fly in from Abuja around 2 pm.
The leaders of the main opposition party are visiting Rivers State to persuade Amaechi and his teeming supporters to join the APC. There have been similar visits to some of the G-7 governors.
Reporters and photographers of various media houses in Port Harcourt and those from outside Rivers state, in a Toyota Hiace bus, had it rough with the overzealous policemen at the gate of the airport, as they were initially prevented from driving in.
Two senior police officers called the security personnel to order, after the identity cards of the media men had been thoroughly checked.
As at 3:46 pm, when our reporter left the airport, the supporters of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) chairman were still waiting at the junction of the airport, while the crowd at the Government House started dispersing around 6 pm, when it became obvious that the APC leaders would no longer visit.
A police officer, who would not want to be named, said the supporters of Amaechi were prevented from accessing the airport to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
When the policeman was reminded that supporters of the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, were always allowed into the airport, even up to the VIP Lounge and the tarmac to receive Wike, Jonathan or his wife, he declined to comment.
The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a telephone interview, said the visit to Port Harcourt by the leaders of the main opposition party was shifted till 11 am today, because of “coordination and logistics”.
Amaechi, who spoke through the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, said today’s crowd would be three times bigger than yesterday’s.
Okocha said: “The police and other enemies of progress want to diminish the support of Rivers people for Governor Amaechi, but they have failed. Rivers people refuse to be intimidated or cowed. Their support is unwavering and they will not take the law into their own hands.”
The First Lady, who was scheduled to leave Port Harcourt yesterday, did not leave. There was no official explanation for the change secluded.
The wife of the President was in Rivers state for the funeral of her mother, the late Madam Charity Fyneface Oba, aka Mama Sisi, at Okrika, headquarters of Okrika Local Government Area.
At the funeral service at the playground of Okrika National Secondary School last Friday, Dame Jonathan refused to shake Amaechi while she moved round to greet dignitaries, but the Rivers governor, unperturbed, danced to the music of Gozie Okeke, Buchi and Yinka Ayefele, among others.
The members of the advanced team of the First Lady were already at the airport yesterday, waiting for their boss, who did not show up.
The Secretary to the Rivers State Government, George Feyii, commissioners, local government chairmen and other top Rivers government officials were at the airport waiting to receive the APC leaders.