INEC’s Waiting Game In Rivers | Independent Newspapers Limited
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INEC’s Waiting Game In Rivers

Posted: May 6, 2016 at 3:30 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Daniel Abia
Port Harcourt-The integrity, credibility and competence of the independent national electoral commission, INEC under the present national chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has been tested on several occasions and without any doubt, the results of those tests have not been palatable.
From Kogi to Bayelsa, down to Rivers states and then to the federal capital territory, FCT, Abuja, virtually all the elections conducted so far by the Yakubu regime have been inconclusive.
In March19, 2016 when the rerun elections were ordered into three senatorial seats, twelve seats in the House of Representatives and twenty two seats in the House of Assembly by the Appeal Court, Nigerians sat on the edge. Their fear was what becomes of the election giving the fact that polls by this administration have been unsuccessful since Professor Attahiru Jega handed over the baton of chairmanship in 2015.
In conducting the election, everything was done to ensure that the exercise was hitch-free. This was confirmed by the level of security apparatus deployed to the state including customs, civil defense, immigration, DSS, SARS, soldiers and Police. But the state resident electoral commissioner, REC, Aniedi Ikoiwak had to cancel election in eight local government areas citing violence and other irregularities.
The areas mostly affected by that cancellation is the Rivers south east senatorial district, a political stronghold of Senator Magnus Abe, the All Progressives Congress, APC, senatorial candidate.
This area is made up of Eleme, Tai, Gokana, Khana, Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro and Oyigbo local government areas. Etche local government was also cancelled. The entire south-east senatorial district carries a projected population of about 1,720,790 people.
The contest for the sole senatorial seat of this district is between Magnus Abe of the APC and Olaka Wogu of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. In the 2015 general election, the PDP candidate, Wogu coasted home in victory with 408,353 votes while his counterpart, Abe, pulled 23,052.
Among the above-mentioned local government areas, Khana has the highest population of 384,443. The strongest politician from this council area is the former deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Dumnamene Dekor.

Dekor who is also seeking re-election into the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP having won in the 2015 election, is the greatest impediment the APC campaign train is having currently to penetrate the heart of the people there. This simply indicates that he is a popular candidate and may constitute the biggest problem to Abe in the rescheduled election.

It will be recalled that the invasion of Ogoni by the soldiers deployed from the 2nd Amphibious Brigade, Bori Camp in Port Harcourt in February 22 was majorly to Khana. This led to the killing of over nineteen persons and the destruction of a house belonging to former militant leader, Solomon Ndigbara, alias, Osama Bin Laden.

Osama has since been declared wanted by the security agencies including the military, Police and the department of the state security service, DSS. Both PDP and the APC have been embroiled in buck passing as far as the security situation in Khana and indeed, Ogoni generally is concerned.

While the former decried political persecution on the part of the APC federal government carefully orchestrated by some politicians in Ogoni, APC and the security agencies see the former militant leader as a gun runner, a killer and the brain behind the kidnappings in Ogoni.

Osama himself had said that he was being persecuted because he refused to decamp from the PDP to APC. He went on to say that some prominent politicians including Magnus Abe and Barry Mpigi had consistently pressurized him to defect like others, but he declined.

In April, when the House of Representatives Committee on Army arrived the state on a fact-finding mission as it concerned the military invasion of Ogoni and its attendant killing of innocent persons, Osama stated that he would only come out to testify publicly if the federal government and its agencies would guarantee his safety in writing.

His lawyer, Barrister Eugene Odey who testified before the Committee in the House of Assembly Auditorium expressed worry that his client who was granted amnesty like every other ex-militant by the government could now be hounded with such vigor and zest as a common criminal.

“If I can extract a written commitment from the security agencies and government that my client will not be arrested or killed, then I will make sure he comes out to testify publicly”, Odey assured. But event has over taken that plea. Osama has been declared a wanted man. A manhunt has been launched against him.

While the public is waiting patiently to see the outcome of the House Committee findings, questions are being asked as to when INEC will reschedule elections in the affected eight local government areas. But no answer is coming from anywhere. And the waiting game continues.

Right now, candidates of all the political parties contesting the election have already expressed worry over the undue delay of the electoral body to reschedule the election. Series of meetings are currently going on in the camps of both the APC and the PDP. The content of those meetings may not be known but it definitely bothers on strategies.

The state REC, Ikoiwak was quoted as saying that until the security situation in the state improves, he would not risk the lives of his staff or any Nigerian by going ahead with the election. There are therefore indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be at crossroads over the remaining results of the legislative re-run elections in the State.

Without any doubt, this is as a result of intense pressure from both the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as non-governmental organizations. Both the civil society groups and the PDP want the INEC to without further delay announce the results of the elections and stop playing hide and seek. APC on its part wants total cancellation of what it calls a complete charade that took place on March 19.

A senior official of the Rivers State headquarters of INEC, who would not wish to be named, had admitted that the commission had been under intense pressure, even more than in the build-up to the rerun election both that of last year and the March 19 rerun.
He said the commission was now under pressure on how to handle the impasse created by the suspension of election in the eight local government areas and the affected federal constituencies.
The man went on to say “the mandate given to us, through the various court orders, was to conduct election into 37 seats declared vacant by the court.
“We were in the process of doing that on
March 19 but it was scuttled by violence and other forms of disturbances. This made us to suspend the election in some of the affected areas.
“As things stand now, we have announced 15 results out of the 37 seats mandated by the court. Our main headache is how to handle the remaining 22 seats. This is more problematic than the real election of
March 19.”

Controversy had trailed the conduct of the re-run elections with the major contenders pointing accusing fingers at INEC for the regrettable way it handled the exercise.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike through his Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr Austin Tam-George, had alleged a desperate move by INEC to “subvert the will of Rivers people”.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt, the state capital, Tam-George called INEC officials to act within the law and respect the free choices made by the Rivers people in the recent rerun election in the state.

He warned the national INEC Commissioner, Mrs. Amina Zakari, and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi “to cease and desist from subverting the electoral outcomes in Tai-Eleme federal constituency, Ikwerre local government and other constituencies in Rivers State, whose results are still being held by INEC, in collusion with APC in Rivers State.

Comments (1)

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