The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Tonye Cole on Monday said he was assaulted by thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt.
Mr Cole who was at INEC office to obtain documents to lodge a petition against INEC’s declaration of Siminialayi Fubara as the winner of the 18 March governorship election in the state, Channels TV reported.
Mr Fubara, who was a candidate of the PDP, scored 302,614 votes, while Mr Cole came second with 95,274 votes, according to INEC.
Mr Cole had rejected the election result and vowed to challenge it at the tribunal.
He told Channels television that he was attacked by PDP thugs who prevented him and his team from accessing INEC office on Monday.
Mr Cole and some leaders of the APC in the state stormed the INEC office last Friday and threatened to return on Monday if the commission did not furnish them with documents needed to lodge a case at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr Cole said, “We are supposed to be in a democracy and one of the tenets of democracy is that after an election, INEC being supposedly an impartial umpire will have documents and these documents are available to everybody who participated in the election. These are critical documents which when we take to an electoral tribunal, we will build our case upon that to the electoral tribunal.
“On Friday, we were at INEC, and we asked for these documents, but they have not given us a single one. We said we were coming back today (Monday) and because we said we are coming back today, the PDP organised thugs everywhere to prevent us from getting to the INEC office.
“I wasn’t deterred and so I went with my party chairman, the women leader, the youth leader, and senior officials of the APC to the INEC office.
“They had barricaded the road from GRA Junction, everywhere boys, girls. They began to assault me, I came out and a woman began to drag my shirt, they pulled me from the back, first, they were throwing water then they began to throw food and the next minute they started throwing stones.
“The next thing after that, we started hearing gunshots, it took my security people to forcefully evict me. They destroyed our vehicles, they injured me. They slapped me, they punched me, they pulled my shirt, they dragged me and then threw stones at me until I was injured in the back,” he said.
Mr Cole said they ran to the APC office for safety but the thugs followed them to the party office.
Speaking further, Mr Cole urged INEC and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba to intervene, adding that the Rivers State governorship tribunal cannot hold in the state with the current events.
Tonye Cole playing to gallery – PDP
The PDP, PREMIUM TIMES understands, had staged a protest to the INEC office in the state on Monday demanding a joint inspection of election materials with the APC.
The PDP protesters at the INEC office were led by Samuel Nwanosike, Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area and Edison Ehie, the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly.
PREMIUM TIMES could not reach Messrs Nwanosike and Ehie for comments at the time of filing this report.
But the party spokesperson in the state, Sydney Gbara, told this newspaper that Mr Cole having lost the governorship election was “playing to the gallery for people to know he actually contested”.
Mr Gbara said the INEC office is a public office, and queried why Mr Cole and his people came on Monday when they knew the PDP were there.
“Ordinarily for peace to reign, we had wanted to go there on Friday but we said the APC were there we left it for peace to reign. Today we were there and you (APC) came there. That is the man who said he wants to govern Rivers State but this is the same person who is looking for every means to forment trouble,” he said.
Mr Gbara said the PDP wants to witness the inspection of election materials by every political party in the state to “prevent the subversion of the mandate of the people of the state”.
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