By Codratus Godson & Gladys Nweke
To say that Rivers people are election-weary may be an understatement. Many states have put the elections behind them, some states like Bauchi, a sitting governor who lost has since congratulated the challenger who won. Life moves on, the economy grows on. Not so in Rivers State since 2015 when every election has gone into fracas, imbroglio, and disaster with calamitous consequences.
Now, tension has returned on Aba Road, the longest road in the Garden City as attention beams back on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state to begin collation of the governorship elections held on March 9, 2019.
Gov Nyesom Wike is expected to pick the ticket despite the tortuous delays and controversies but the opposition party in the state, All Progressives Congress 9APC), has kicked against the decision of INEC to get done with the exercise. The party said in a statement on Sunday, March 31, 2019, that INEC was merely acting a script written to favour Gov Wike.
The police in the state said late Monday, April 1, 2019, that it is prepared to protect the INEC zone so that the collation can begin. The commission held stakeholders meeting at the weekend to brief the political parties and the security agencies but the candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), the party the APC is backing for the polls, Awara Biokpomabo, bared his mind and left, setting the stage to cue in more disagreements. The next day, the APC issued the statement condemning the processes.
The police in the state which has since been accused of towing the line of INEC and the state government rose in Monday to say they are backing the collation. APC had said only seven local councils results were ready when crisis that stopped further action at the INEC headquarters on Aba Road began. The party wondered how INEC got the 17 LGAs that they said they want to collate now.
The police said collation would go ahead and that security would be tights. The Police spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, a deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said: “Security has been beefed up in the State as INEC commences the collation of the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly Election Results, scheduled to begin tomorrow 2nd April, 2019.
“The State Commissioner of Police and the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), Usman .A. Belel, after a meeting of the Agency and other bodies superintending over the elections, agreed to put in place adequate security measures, to ensure that the entire process is transparent and seamlessly carried out.”
He said part of the security measures put in place, as agreed by the agencies, include massive deployments of Police Personnel and other sister security agencies to the venue and the outer perimeter of the Collation Centre; total closure of the PH/Aba Express Road, the stretch from the Waterlines to the GRA junctions, both in and outwards of the roads, diversions only to Olu Obasanjo and Polo Club Roads”.
He said the commissioner of police called for patience over the expected hardship the closure would cause. He said: “Politicians, candidates and indeed unauthorized persons are seriously warned to stay clear from the Collation Centre, as any person or group whose act or omission undermines the process will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the Electoral Act.”
On the other hand, the APC said it condemned the so-called timelines and activities to conclude the March 9 governorship election in Rivers State as announced at the stakeholders meeting. “It is a mere charade well-organised and choreographed by the INEC in its bid to work from answer to question. “The ultimate result can only be to announce their preferred partner and collaborator as winner against the AAC candidate who the party said was clearly in the lead before collation was aborted. “Whether INEC will succeed in its machinations will be seen in the days to come”, the publicity secretary, Chris Fineboy, stated.
He said several actions of INEC had prepared the minds of many that the entire exercise was skewed to favour Gov. Wike and the PDP leaving in the process, several questions without answers.
“For example, where and under whose custody were the result sheets and other sensitive materials involved in the collation process kept since they were not returned to the Central Bank for safe-keeping? How come that Gov. Wike knew about the 17 LGAs whose results had been allegedly collated and had posted same on his official Twitter handle long before INEC made the announcement? Answers to these and other questions will continue to hang on the neck of INEC like an albatross. The truth is that what is happening now is in complete fulfilment of the tripartite collaboration between Gov. Wike, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Obo Effanga, ably assisted by the Administrative Secretary of INEC in Rivers State, Etim John. INEC Headquarters is merely leading the Nunc Dimittis.”