PDP Should Not Hamper Election Tribunals
IN recent times, the leadership rank of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including some state governors, have been taking up valuable media space raising the false alarm that officials of Department of State Security (DSS) have been meddling with electoral tribunals and harassing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).Their curious charges have mostly got to do with the on-going election petitions being heard in the three PDP states: Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia.
The PDP claims that the purported DSS actions in the PDP-controlled states are also targeted at its candidates in the recent governorship elections; the sole aim being to put the party at a disadvantage when verdicts are passed in the cases before the election tribunals. From the desperation being exhibited by the PDP, there is hardly any doubt that their intention is to influence the judgment of the tribunals by crying wolf where there is none. They think their antics would deflect favourable verdict in their direction. But they are grossly mistaken.
For those who are non-partisan and dispassionate about events in the three states, the reason why the DSS has appeared in the election petition matters, is all too obvious: to investigate reports of electoral fraud and impunity of INEC officials. Take Abia State for example.
Before the Election Tribunal Commenced sitting in Umuahia, it was widely reported in the media that six INEC staff were arrested by the State Police Command, having been caught red-handed with card readers, result sheets and electoral materials that were used in the elections. At the point of the arrest of the INEC officials, the Peoples Democratic Party had been the target of many accusing fingers.
They were accused of masterminding the despicable act of tampering with and destroying exhibits. In response, the PDP adopted a rather laconic approach on the matter. This came as a surprise to many, especially as INEC staff made it virtually impossible for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate, Dr Alex Otti, to gain access to inspect electoral materials used during balloting.
This happened in spite of repeated warnings from the tribunal judges.
Therefore, it became so glaring and self-evident that the PDP in Abia was determined to destroy all evidences exposing their obnoxious acts during the elections. Further, the same INEC in Abia allowed the PDP government officials to carry away people’s PVCs prior to the polls. This was after it had become clear that the card readers would obstruct their gambit.
As if all that is not enough, the INEC office in Obingwa Local Government Area (LGA) was set ablaze and all the election materials incinerated. Also attempts were recently made to burn down the INEC office in Umuahia. For any law-abiding citizen, men of good conscience and democratically-conscious people, these are extremely serious issues, which an unbiased State Police Command and the DSS are constitutionally mandated to investigate. It is also instructive to note that official reports were filed to the DSS that warranted their investigations, bearing in mind that the out-gone INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, admitted publicly that some of his staff in Abia State had behaved disgracefully during the last general elections.
Given instances of atrocious INEC officials’ behaviour in Abia State, it is not out of place to assume that both Akwa Ibom and Rivers States experienced similar obstacles, which necessitated the relocation of their tribunals to Abuja. The PDP should allow the judicial process to take its normal course. The party should put a stop to its current scaremongering.
It has been set down and generally agreed that elections should be free, fair and credible. Where this has turned out to be the case, the laws found it necessary to institute judicial processes for seeking redress. It is this process that is currently going on across the country.
It is all aimed at consolidating the democratic process. It is a gross disservice to humanity for a group of people or institution to act in ways capable of disrupting the process, as the PDP is currently doing by raising false alarm against the DSS and other security agencies dutifully carrying out their lawful responsibilities. The PDP should understand that crying wolf will not and can never channel undeserved tribunal victories to their camp.
• Mr Uzoukwu wrote in from Abuja.