Unholy siege in Rivers State
The story of the March 19 re-run elections in Rivers State is that of perilous siege. It is the story of a state being held hostage by forces of darkness whose main intent is to unleash a reign of terror on the environment. A major accomplice in this unholy siege is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Under the headship of Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, it has become an object of unedifying banters; hardly living up to its billing. It has never conducted any election that can, strictly, speaking, pass the test of substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
In Kogi and Bayelsa states, for instance, the commission gave us a travesty of an election. Both could not be concluded in one ballot. They were, as has become customary, declared inconclusive. The Kogi scenario will, for a long time to come, pass for one of the sore points of our national struggle to join the league of democratic nations. In Bayelsa State, the elections were almost marred by violent conducts. INEC displayed lack of capacity. But the Kogi and Bayelsa scenarios pale into insignificance when the case of Rivers state is introduced into the mix. In Rivers, the commission presented the image of a lame duck. It just could not handle the re-run elections satisfactorily. Even when the commission declared to the world that it was ready for the exercise, everything ended up shoddily.
The commission allowed security agents whose role was the protection of life and property to intrude into and hijack the electoral process. The security agents abandoned the job they were sent to do and, instead, made themselves a part of INEC’s complements of staff. In the face of this dereliction on the part of INEC and the security personnel, the exercise ended in a fiasco in a number of places. That was why INEC cancelled the exercise in about 10 constituencies. The commission was responding to its own mess. But weeks after the conduct of the elections, the commission is still holding on to the results of some of the constituencies. It has been releasing the results piecemeal, thus creating the impression that election is a mystical exercise. You have to employ the expertise of diviners to decode the meaning of what you are into.
In the case of Rivers State, the commission has given an impression that it is taking instructions from a vested interest. Otherwise, why is INEC so incapacitated in its own election? The delay in releasing results is causing anxiety and heightening tension in the state. People now believe that the results of the elections are being manipulated to serve the interest of INEC’s masters.
But it has not been easy to thwart the will of the people in Rivers state. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains the dominant party in the state. By withholding the results, INEC is adding faggots to a blazing fire. It should end the siege in the state by releasing the outstanding results forthwith. It should also conduct fresh elections in the constituencies where it cancelled the exercise the last time. It should not take the commission eternity to conclude a mere supplementary election in one state of the federation. The question we cannot ignore is: if INEC cannot get it right in just one state, what happens when it is saddled with conducting general elections nationwide?
The siege situation is also playing out at another level. The Rivers state government under Nyesom Wike is being blamed for the violence that engulfed the state during the re-run elections. Most of the critics are silent on the role of the former governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi, whose role in the election was most questionable. It was as if the state was going to war. But tough talk and violence will solve nothing. Enemies of the state are trying to get from the back door what they could not get through the ballots. Governor Wike and his party are being demonised to no end over the killings. But the man has challenged his traducers, demanding an autopsy to be carried on the dead to ascertain who killed them.
Some persons are calling for a declaration of state of emergency in the state. Decent minds cannot fathom this. It is simply inconceivable. There is no justification for it. Violence in elections does not only take place in Rivers state. It happens everywhere in Nigeria. One is then at a loss as to why Rivers is being singled out as a special case. There is nothing different here. The call for emergency rule is only a ploy to sack Wike by every means imaginable. It is a most destructive plot, which President Muhammadu Buhari must not contemplate. It is an ill wind, which will blow no one any good.
Buhari as the father of the nation, should begin the process of rebuilding the shattered provinces of Nigeria. The northeast is in bits and pieces. Buhari needs to face the war there. He does not need to open another flank for conflicts down south.
Okonta, a retired civil servant, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.