The Odds Against Wike In Rivers | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Odds Against Wike In Rivers

Posted: Sep 14, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (3)

By  Temidayo  Akinsuyi LAGOS

Of all  governorship elections conducted by the  Independent  National  Electoral Commission (INEC)  on April 11 2015, the  election in  Rivers State received the  greatest  criticisms from  both local and international observers owing to events leading to the conduct of the highly flawed two-horse contest between the All  Progressives  Congress (APC) and the  Peoples  Democratic  Party. Many Nigerians, who were alarmed by the degree of violence and bloodletting that trailed the exercise called for an outright cancellation of the election. Also, officials of INEC and the security agencies came under public opprobrium over their ignominious role in the election.

  Peterside  and Wike

Peterside and Wike

More worrisome is the result of the governorship poll as declared by the electoral umpire, INEC. While declaring  Chief  Nyesom  Wike of the PDP the winner,  the Returning  Officer,  Prof. Faraday  Orumwense said Wike polled 1,029,102 votes (87.77 per cent) to beat the candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ),  Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who got 124,896 votes (10.65 per cent).  This however contradicts a 94-page INEC document which puts the total number of accredited voters for the April 11 governorship election in Rivers State at 292, 878. The document was allegedly signed by Ibrahim Bawa, the acting director in charge of INEC Legal Unit and Abimbola Oladunjoye, head of unit, Data Management, of the Commission’s Information Communication Technology Department.

To many political observers, the result is not a true reflection of the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state given the large followership commanded by the APC, which then was the ruling party in the state, Peterside’s popularity amongst the electorate and the unbridled electoral fraud that marred the exercise. And going by the plethora of evidence testifying against the PDP and its candidate in the election, it may not be wrong to assume that the opposition APC might get a favourable judgement  at the end of the day.

Political Insurgency Before Polls

Ominous signs that the election in the state will be bloody was evident long before the D-day especially given the war of attrition between the immediate past governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi and former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan. Listed as one of the major falshpoints of electoral violence, Before the March 28 and April 11 elections, tension has been running high in the  state widely reffered to as  the  Treasure Base Of The Nation. The state has been embroiled in political crises culminating in street protests, demonstrations, assassinations and attacks and counter-at¬tacks on politicians belonging to different political parties. On the day of the election, the state lived up to its billing as sup¬porters of the  APC and PDP unleashed violence on one another.

By the time the dust cleared, APC claimed about 12 of its members including a monarch and his two children were mur¬dered in cold blood allegedly by PDP thugs, a claim PDP vehemently denied. Also on that day, aggrieved supporters of the APC blocked major roads within Port-Harcourt, the state capital protesting the conduct of the elections by INEC. The presence of heavily-armed security officers at the INEC office didn’t deter the protesters from laying siege to the electoral body’s office while calling for the conduct of fresh polls and removal of the state’s INEC Resident Com¬missioner, Ghesila  Khan  who they accused of bias.

Also worthy of mention is the violence that marred  the APC governorship rally in Okrika in January when thugs, suspected to be working for the PDP invaded the venue of the rally in Okrika Local Government Area destroying equipment being set up for the exercise. Several people were injured while trying to flee for their lives. Determined to hold the rally in Okrika as it had done in other local governments of the state, the APC again fixed the rally for Tuesday February 16.

The programme, held at the Okrika National Secondary School Field was in top gear when three explosives went off close to the campaign ground. Peterside, who is yet to address the gathering, was whisked away by security agents in what many called ‘a calculated attempt on his life’.  At the end of the melee,  a policeman was killed while several supporters of the APC, including a correspondent with Channels television, Charles Eruka was stabbed.

Observers Reject Results, PDP Kicks

During the presidential and National Assembly elections, the scale of violence visited on the electorate was most disturbing. Several corpses lay on the streets during and after the elections. Blood of voters flowed. Too many gun shots were fired at voters. There was so much commotion. During the governorship and State House of Assembly poll, the level of violence was simply taken a few notches higher. Police vehicles, INEC offices, private homes were burnt, just as several people were also killed with brute and mindless ease. Election materials were hijacked by hired thugs in many places.

Following the conduct of the exercise, it was reported that at least six persons were killed in Rivers State following violence that trailed the conduct of the governorship and house of assembly elections. Witnesses and officials also reported cases of ballot box snatching and other irregularities. Despite the presence of over 17,000 policemen deployed to provide security in the state, violence was reported in many areas including Gokana, Kana, Asari Toru, Ikwere, Obio Akpor, Ozuoba, Bomu, Norwa, among others.

Armed thugs invaded a collation centre in Buguma, Asari Toru Local Government Area, killing at least five persons, a witness said. The attackers also set fire on some houses in the area. The witness, who pleaded that his identity be protected, said gunmen invaded Kalabari National College, Buguma in the early hours of the day and demanded that electoral materials be handed to them.

International election observers who monitored the exercise in the state were unequivocal in their demand for the cancellation of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections the state.  Making the call in Port Harcourt, the leader of African Centre for Leadership Strategies and Development, Mr Humphrey Bekaren, who spoke on behalf of the observers, made the call in Port Harcourt. He said the observers were shocked that INEC disregarded the widely reported violent irregularities to begin the process of declaring results in the state. According to him , what happened in Rivers was a far cry from what election should be, adding that there were reported incidents like deliberate delays and diversion of electoral materials, attacks on electoral officers, widespread arson and voter intimidation.

“We request all lovers of democracy to join us in calling for the outright cancellation of the phony election. Unless this is done, we would have sown the seed that could eventually grow into providing a shade of fear and death over us. What we saw did not meet international standard of electioneering, not even the ones set by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC,’’ he said.

Also speaking, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka also called for an outright cancellation of the polls, describing it as atrocious. “There is no question in my mind that what happened in Rivers State during the presidential and assembly elections are, well, complete atrocious and the finger points definitely at the kind of middle character that I am talking about” he said.

Army, INEC Witnesses Confirm Fraud

Following a spirited but failed attempts by Governor Nyesom Wike to stay proceedings, the elections tribunal headed by Justice Muazu Pindiga  proceeded with their task with several witnesses coming forward to testify of high-level electoral rigging and malpractice in the election.

Giving his testimony,  a staff of  INEC , Mr Charles Okoye,  who is a witness for the APC in the ongoing trial for the April 11 Rivers State Governorship election,  averred that the election was marred by violence. Okoye, who was in charge of INEC’s election, campaign and party monitoring group in the state, said this in his testimony to the tribunal in Abuja, gave the testimony while being led in evidence by counsel to the petitioners, Mr Akinlolu Olujimi (SAN).

He said that the report gathered by him and other members of his group showed that there was no election in major parts of the state. According to him, the election only held in some part of the Eleme Local Government Area, and that it was marred by violence like in other reports gotten from other areas.

“The election was characterised by violence, shooting, ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters and other forms of impunity in the major part of Rivers. I did a compilation of field report of what was gathered by me and other members of my group who monitored the election,’’ Okoye said.

Also testifying, the Nigerian Army also said that elections did not take place in most parts of the state. The military personnel who represented the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on subpoena, admitted that violence by political thugs marred the electioneering process and that officials of the INEC were rescued by military operatives on several violent occasions.

Captain Garba Sani who led the deployment of the security forces to maintain law and order in the state, while testifying on behalf of the told the Justice  Ambrosa-led tribunal how his team encountered thugs in virtually everywhere they visited.

Led in evidence by the counsel to the APC and Peterside, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN),  the witness confirmed arresting some of the armed thugs and handed them over to the police for further actions.

Sani said: “We arrived at Tai Local government on April 10 to ascertain the level of security but we encountered thugs, over  200 in a particular place and some of them carrying machetes about. I was able to arrest one of them with his cutlass and handed him over to police who came in an operational truck. There were a lot of road blocks mounted by thugs and as we are clearing one, the hoodlums were erecting in other places.

“Specifically, we had serious crisis in Nonwa community on the Election Day, some of the thugs came up and disrupted the electioneering processes. They carted away some election materials. In the process of curtailing them, one corporal by name Jelili was injured and we had to take him to hospital we rescued some INEC officials from the claws of the thugs and we moved them to INEC office at the local government headquarters.”

“Along the line, we saw a patrol van of civil defence operatives who stopped us and told us how they arrested some policemen and thugs thumb printing ballot papers and we handed them over at a police station. In some places, there were attempts to conduct elections but I did not see any particular place where election took place.”

Corruption Allegations Of Officials

The Rivers Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ms  Ghesila  Khan who supervised the conduct of the election was also enmeshed in allegations of bribery leading to her detention by the DSS. Khan, who was quizzed twice in July by the DSS over her role in the Rivers general elections, especially those of the National Assembly and Governorship elections which the PDP won was said to have reduced financial inducements to rig the election. It was also alleged that the sums of N700million and N900million were found in two different accounts belonging to her, an allegation she denied through her lawyer, Mr. Selekeowei Larry, SAN.

Denying the allegation levelled against her, Mrs. Khan’s  lawyer  said  “My client wishes to place it on record that she did not at anytime collect bribe from anyone and she does not have such money in her account as alleged by the APC. We therefore, challenge the APC or anyone who has her bank account containing that sum of money to produce it.”

Also, it was alleged that Justice Mu’azu Pindiga, chairman of the Rivers State governorship election tribunal, was removed after investigators from the Department of State Security (DSS) discovered that the judge had accepted a bribe of N200 million from Governor Nyesom Wike, the major defendant in an electoral case before the tribunal, according to an online media, Sahara reporters.

Pindiga was replaced on the orders of the President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, with another jurist, Suleiman Ambursa who was previously on the Rivers State National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal panel.

However, in a swift reaction, the Rivers  State Government denied offering any bribe to any judge. In a statement signed by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant ( Media ) to Governor Wike, the state government said the story was another fabrication by the APC using Sahara reporters as a front.

“Our attention has been drawn to yet another falsehood being circulated by the infamous online media arm of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sahara Reporters. The medium in a concocted report claimed that the former chairman of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, Justice Mu’azu Pindiga was removed because Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike offered him a bribe of N200m. This story is false in its entirety. It is part of a larger conspiracy by the APC and her axis of evil media agents to mislead members of the public” the statement said.

Comments (3)

  • Sep 20, 2015 at 7:00 am emeka

    The evil and impunity that took place in rivers state is taking time to deal with. High time the tribunal discharged the rogue wike gvt and jailed for all the atrocities they committed against the people.

  • Sep 14, 2015 at 4:18 pm Country Man

    This write up is piece of thrash and a clear evidence of jaundiced journalism. Just could not continue reading an article that is clearly partisan. But let the whole world know that no amount of bias and calumny can install an unpopular candidate as a governor in Rivers State…

    • Sep 20, 2015 at 7:00 am emeka

      Anybody in sympathy with the evil that took place in rivers shamelessly deserve pity, otherwise is doomed

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