ONYEDI GABRIEL, Port Harcourt
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, has lambasted the state’s Governor, Nyesom Wike, for claiming that vice-chancellors were being appointed to help the APC-led Federal Government rig elections in 2023.
Wike had during a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 9200 capacity ultramodern convocation arena for the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), accused the Federal Government of appointing compromised academics, willing to submit names of politically exposed lecturers as returning officers to rig elections for the ruling party as vice-chancellors of federal universities.
Wike also warned VCs and lecturers to be wary of attempts by some unscrupulous politicians to use them to manipulate elections.
He declared that those contemplating rigging elections in Rivers would be treated as coup plotters saying it was worrisome that Nigeria had degenerated to the point where politicians influenced the appointment of VCs for the purposes of rigging elections.
He said: “Let me warn, not one person will dare to rig election in Rivers State. Not one person will dare it. I have told people, allow the university community to produce those who will be leaders of this country.
“Don’t turn the university community to be where you will have politicians who manipulate and change the mandate of the people. Anybody who does that, you know it is a coup and you know the punishment for coup plotters.”
But Eze, a founding member of the APC, in a statement in Port Harcourt at the weekend, described Wike’s comments as a tragic irony.
He said the governor was guilty of his unfounded allegation against the APC-led Federal Government, claiming that Wike was embittered because his preferred candidate for the office of the Vice-Chancellor of UNIPORT could not make it.
Absolving the APC from acts of electoral malpractices, Eze said Wike failed to understand that the APC-led government under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari strongly abhorred electoral fraud and similar acts.
He said the anti-corruption posture of the administration saw the APC lose elections in Edo, Zamafara, Adamawa and even Rivers states.
Eze said the widely published report of the police recovering N114 million from N360 million allegedly used to bribe electoral officers in Rivers added credence to his position.
According to a report released by the Nigeria Police Force, about N114 million out of N360 million bribe for the 2016 bye-election results allegedly offered by the Rivers State government to 23 staff members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been recovered.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Joseph Egbonike, revealed this while appearing before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on assessment and status of all recovered loots, movable and immovable assets from 2002 to 2020.
He said: “Governor Nyesom Wike would have saved himself the public odium by ignoring comments on issues pertaining to democracy and election, but he laid bare his folly and made an open showdown his chucklehead”.
Eze said the appointment of Prof. Georgewill Owunari, as UNIPORT VC was a divine orchestration arising from good wishes and prayers of people of goodwill.
He appealed to the new VC to close his ears to the smear campaigns of adversaries and deploy his energies and administrative prowess towards improving the fortunes of students and members of staff of the university.
He described Owunari as a leading light in public administration, an erudite scholar, a revered and respected administrator.