In the 2015 elections, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), controlled the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), and the All Progressives Congress (APC) was in opposition.
The Military was heavily involved during the elections which took place in Ekiti, Rivers and others. Despite the huge Military involvement in that election, no soldiers were reported shot dead by armed political thugs because the then opposition APC, unlike the then ruling PDP did not recruit and arm our youths with lethal weapons during the elections to shoot at sight anyone who tried to stop them from snatching election materials
Armed militants recruited by PDP, openly enjoyed the protection of the police and military and terrorized and chased away both opponents & voters into hiding, hijacked sensitive election materials, wrote millions of ghost votes for themselves and got Mrs Gesila Khan the then REC to declare PDP winner.
The then Rivers REC Mrs. Khan and her team made history as the most compromised and corrupt State INEC office in Nigeria based on several corroborating evidence of collusion with PDP to announce false results with impunity. Many police officers and EOs are still subjects of criminal investigation as a fall out of that election.
Comparatively in this 2019 elections:
1. The APC controls the Federal Government, PDP in opposition. The roles reversed. Fact
2. Military involved also in the elections but this time more as a repelling force against the activities of armed political thugs, to create the enabling environment for citizens to vote, than as a participant in the elections. Fact
3. At least four military personnel shot dead and two lying in critical conditions in various parts of the State including Abonnema, Khana, Obio Akpor by thugs with illegal arms procured for them by the political actors. Fact
4. Real voter turnout increased significantly compared to 2015 as the Military presence provided adequate security and assurance for voters to come out and vote. The recorded votes though much lower than criminally fabricated results of 2015 reflect the true will of the people. The millions of ghost votes accepted by INEC in 2015 when armed PDP thugs were used to scare voters away, hijack election materials and generate fabricated results is a violent rape of our democracy. Fact
5. In most of the LGAs, the Military adequately contained the attempts by the armed PDP thugs to hijack election materials which these thugs did with impunity and the full connivance of the PDP controlled security agencies & INEC in 2015. Fact.
Questions and Answers on the Performance of the INEC Team in Rivers State:
1. Since INEC’s reason for illegally suspending the elections was widespread violence and disruption of the electoral process across the 23 LGAs, is it then still possible in such a widespread violent disruptive situation, for the same INEC to honestly turn around and claim to mysteriously have in its custody the election results for 17 out of 23 LGAs, as announced four days following the arrival of the INEC fact finding team? 17 LGAs out of 23 is well over 70%. How could the electoral process have overcome the purported massive violence and disruption to produce over 70% return of results from the field. Very fishy!
2. How come in at least 15 of the 23 LGAs, most of the adhoc staff, namely the Collation and Returning Officers have all been identified as card-carrying members of the PDP some of whom also ran primaries races only a few months back on the PDP platform? Careless mistake by INEC? Hardly!!!
3. How come the incumbent PDP guber candidate was able to publish on his twitter handle the same story of concluded elections in 17 LGAs well before INEC went public with this incredulous claim? Backdoor channels at work? Untidy!!
4. How come Rivers-INEC engaged dismissed or suspended staff of the University of Port Harcourt, as adhoc staff to manage very sensitive electoral duties in gross violation of the electoral law. Another careless mistake? Hardly.
5. How come INEC bluntly refused to mention in any of its statements or reports the very grievous incident of a serving governor who is on the ballot raiding the collation centre for his LGA and in the full glare of all present at the collation centre, forcefully snatched the election materials, abducted some protesting Agents of the AAC and in the process even got a military personnel shot by his own armed personnel. The wounded soldier still lies in critical condition at the Port Harcourt Military Hospital as one of the living witnesses of this incident totally ignored by INEC in all its reports when INEC is fully aware that such an action is a clear violation of the electoral law as only accredited Party Agents are allowed access by law at the collation centres.
6. Knowing what we all know about the INEC -Wike joint venture, can anyone in good conscience hold the view that if indeed the incoming results were in favour of the incumbent PDP candidate, this Gesila infected INEC team would have stampeded the INEC headquarters into the suspension decision using the clearly false alarm of widespread violence as they did? Hardly!!! Rather they would rush to announce the results instead of holding back the results for weeks with the high probability of releasing them contaminated.
7. Does INEC Headquarters really believe that this openly compromised Rivers State INEC personnel who stampeded them into suspending a smooth-running election with a false alarm, has the integrity to keep in custody election returns from LGAs for close to two weeks without tampering and contamination? Serious doubts!!!
8. How come up until this moment INEC is yet to openly acknowledge that by the time the strange suspension order was released, only election results in 7 LGAs, namely Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru, Ahoada-West, Eleme, Oyigbo, Ikwerre and PHALGA had been announced at the LGA collation centres. There were also confirmed reports of election cancellations in a few LGAs such as Abua/Odual and Tai. Even more disturbing is the fact that they have also flatly refused to give the public the list of the 17 LGAs whose results mysteriously found their way despite the widespread violence to their secure custody. Is this transparent? Not a farthing chance!!
8. The practice and norms of conducting general elections as is well known the world over, accepts the cancellation of elections in localized areas based on situations peculiar to that location but the idea of a state-wide blanket suspension of an otherwise smooth running election relying on a spurious allegation of widespread violence as done by the Rivers State INEC team takes election fraud way out of all rational proportions. Even Mrs Gesila will puke at this gaffe and for sure Rivers people will not accept to live with this fraud.
9. Have we really wondered why in the preceding presidential election of February the 23rd, despite recording more cases of violence and deaths in isolated areas, Mr Effanga the REC did not deem it fit to recommend a state-wide blanket suspension of the election but only did so for just only 2/3 LGAs out of 23? Now what changed between those two weeks except the desperation of the PDP Governor to forcefully dictate the outcome of the election in his favour by all means? Unfortunately, this time the PDP doesn’t control the security agencies as was in 2015 & with the PDP armed political thugs fully overpowered by the military, they had no choice but fall back on the successor of Gesila Khan to come to their rescue.
10. Let’s we forget, the incumbent governor and his collaborators in INEC had only a few months back, rehearsed this suspension gambit in the bye-election into the House Assembly for Port Harcourt Local Government Area 3 constituency. As soon as the returned votes in that election started tending towards a loss for the PDP, Mr. Effanga and his team wasted no time in suspending that election indefinitely to date, without caring a hoot the negative impact that has had on the constituency who have been denied representation in the State Assembly for all this while. Clearly PDP and REC Effanga tested the waters in that smaller election and since they went scot free, they felt emboldened to re-enact the same in the gubernatorial election.
The people of Rivers State at every strata of the society witnessed for the first time an election cycle which recorded at once, the highest real voter turnout, the lowest incident of ballot box/election materials snatching and most pleasingly the lowest cases of civilian fatalities.
All these positives were down mainly to the adequate deployment of military personnel who placed their lives on the line in the discharge of their duties.
The people of Rivers State across the 23 LGAs are fully appreciative of this horror saving sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. They also firmly believe that if this tempo of active military deployment is maintained in our elections, by the time we get to the next election cycle, the threat of deadly conflicts and violence caused by armed political thugs would be drastically reduced if not wiped out as less and less youths will be ready to risk their lives just to elect politicians.
Rivers people are united in the demand to delegitimize all portions of the last election exercise which fail to meet the integrity test and request INEC Headquarters to transfer REC Effanga and his tainted team out the State and re-conduct elections in affected areas, the results of which the people would accept as fair, free, credible and can live with, so that the people can in unity begin to rebuild their devastated economy and regain lost grounds.
R. B. Dagogo-Jack is a Socio-political commentator and analyst. He writes from Eleme, Rivers State