ABIA 2015 Governorship RACE: BETWEEN WINNING AND RIGGING
The mass protests, negative public reactions, inconclusive results processing, etc, that have trailed the March 28th and April 11th general elections in Abia State constitute food for thought for followers of Abia politics; particularly those genuinely committed to the struggle for change. The real winners of these elections are not essentially the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) candidates who are temporarily robbed of their victories, but Abians who voted in defiance of weather condition, hunger occasioned by several months of backlog of unpaid salaries, proven cases of harassments, and molestations by agents of the outgoing monstrous administration in the State. Abians who also voted massively for free education and insured tomorrow for their children. Abians who voted for guaranteed urban and infrastructural renewal of Aba and Abia. We witnessed a most desperate attempt to keep whitewashing glaring failure, near total lack of governance and incompetence of the last eight (8) years of the exiting administration in the state.
There is no doubt that Abians made up their minds to vote against any stooge planted by a government that has turned her eyes the other way while several pensioners and retired public servants languish to death as a result of unsettlement of due benefits, a government that has stashed the State funds away for the purpose of muscling out opposition through selective payments, unprecedented bribery of stakeholders and agents of the electoral umpire as currently being experienced. Abians appear to have been fooled in this short-run. But, the collective will of Abians as expressed in these elections, will in the long-run prove that Abians are not fools nor fooled by all these. The profligate acts of Abia State Government and her agents to forcefully buy over and predominate the electoral space in the state could have been uncalled for if the PDP administration in the state had endeared itself to the hearts of Abians through noticeable performances.
Abians prepared to give the PDP administration in the State its score card. As the outcome of the elections remain contentious, it is important to urge Abians to optimistically wait for the change they voted for notwithstanding the egregious manipulations and provocations that have attended the process. The change can only be delayed and not denied. We must remain vigilant in these trial days preceding these decisive victories. After all, eternal vigilance is said to be the price of freedom. This is one way through which we can stand on their way and frustrate their evil machinations over the elections where Abians spoke with one voice for change. The collusion and connivance by Abia INEC officials and PDP was somehow played down during the national elections of March 28th for obvious reasons. But on April 11th, the veracity and audacity to manipulate and win at all cost were more pronounced. Firstly, the overt insistence by the Commission to give out for distribution large quantities of Incident forms to the various Local Governments irrespective of directives to the contrary marked a major wake-up call. Though after resistance by agents of the opposing parties only twenty (20) pieces were given to each Local Government. It is curiously suspicious to have over eighty thousand (80,000) and forty thousand (40,000) votes come from only Obingwa and Osisioma Local Governments respectively based on accreditation with the Incident forms. Where did these forms come from? The criminalized snatching of ballot boxes with droves of thugs and illegal uniformed security operatives are just fair and tolerable by the entire electoral apparatus in Umuahia.
One is tempted to query the essence of the Card-Reader. Is it just another monumental national fraud by the Independent National Electoral Commission? If the immediate consequence of the underlining purpose could so easily be shelved by even election touts, the answer to the above question must be in affirmative. Perhaps, the PDP which vehemently opposed the deployment of the Card-Readers for the 2015 general elections saw the tomorrow of the application of the devices. Above all, even with the acknowledgement of the huge damages done to the electoral processes in the State, consequent upon which results from the contentious three Local Governments of Obingwa, Osisioma, and Isiala-Ngwa North were announced cancelled by the Prof. Ozurumba (The Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria Nnsukka) – the State returning Officer, it took only the prompt visit of the outgoing Governor – T.A. Orji, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Olisa Metuh (PDP National Pulicity Secretary), and other PDP stalwarts for the cancelled results to be re-admitted after these political heavy weights had private discussions with the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (Prof. Celina Oko) and Prof. Ozurumba. What a rape on our democracy, a discredit to the integrity of the INEC, a slap on the face of Abians.
As transparent as the REC in the state has been projected, it is important to re-emphasize that she sat and folded her arms while the PDP's script was being acted by her immediate subordinates. It is important to stress at this time how the prayers, fasting, and steadfastness of Nigerians were attended to by God himself to avert the catastrophic predictions of the concluded national elections. We do not expect that any other tier of leader would want to create a cataclysmic environment of violence for his subjects in a bid to win in a do or die manner. The attempts to thwart the will of the people through a rancorous manipulation of the electoral process as being perpetrated by the PDP in Abia State is to say the least condemnable. The national elections were successful because INEC strictly adhered to the provisions and guidelines for the conduct of the elections.
The desperation to win at all cost that occasioned the abandonment of the Card-Readers in collusion with the suspected Principal elements in the Commission in Umuahia points to a glaring electoral malpractice which the REC should have by now been concerned about. Abians are drawing her attention to this worrisome developments within the INEC in the State. The resort to advance mass production of Incident forms beyond what has been sent to the state is an ominous approximation to rigging. It is important to allow Abians to freely and willingly decide what manner of Abia State they want through a free and fair electoral process. Whether they want an Abia with the continuation of the pervasive rot, controlled by a nest of mindless and unconscientized cohorts who carry on by deceit and perpetual falsification of truism or an Abia driven by an independent minded achiever and technocrat who has the pedigree and potentials to reposition the state within the comity of states in the country. Whether they want a man who has made committed pronouncements to the future of Abia children and youths or a leader who will sustain the promotion of the culture of touting and reward for brigandous behaviors.
The tacit endorsement of the abandonment of the use of the Electronic Card-Readers is disturbing. The Electronic Card-Reader, is identified as one of the welcome innovations by INEC to guarantee the integrity of the voting process and enhance the belief and commitment of our people to the democratic evolution. Anything that did not follow the planned pattern as specified by INEC must be challenged. Abians must also be made to know that the late arrival of materials and officials to polling units, has been uncovered to be deliberate in order to drag the voting and collation processes into the night, to wear out voters who may be determined to wait to protect their votes. This was intended to cause psychological provocation, and facilitated their mass rigging during the last elections.
In the run-offs that have been scheduled, Abians must also resolve to challenge overzealous security men, some of whom may be fake in their brazen attempts to keep the voters away from polling and collation centres. We must be united in our resolve to ensure that the huge sums of the public funds which have been expended to buy over the electoral officials in the state are rendered ineffective. We must not give any of these officials room to perpetrate their nefarious acts to our detriment. Checks have shown that many of these electoral process actors are not indigenes of the State. They are probably on mercantilist missions, as such can bow to financial overtures to mortgage our state. We must counter their pecuniary interest to save our state. We must not allow Local Governments Transition Committee Chairmen to have field times – snatching ballot boxes, unleashing illegal military operatives on the people during the planned supplementary elections with reckless abandon.
Abians salute Professor Attahiru Jega – the INEC Chairman for his commitment to the future democratic health of the country viz a viz the state. We can only ask that he continues to keep his eyes closely on the Abia democratic ball to check the corrupt excesses and willingness to collude to subvert stipulated procedures and provisions for pecuniary gains by the Commission's staff. He must continuously engage the Abia election managers to play by the rules until the rightful winner emerges. A good account of this could be given by ordering and insisting that the rules and due electoral processes of INEC are complied with. Established cases of compromised officials must be dealt with promptly. We give the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Abia State some credit for her seemingly indifferent disposition and commitment. But not good credit due to her reluctance to stand firmly on the side of truth and honour. Abians are not delighted by the observed biased tendencies of the State Residence Electoral Commissioner as being evidenced by the unfolding events. This has prompted rumor mongering and promoted suspicion of her integrity. She must be urged to be categorical at critical times as a proof of her non-alignment and unquestionable transparency.
Where Abians express their will by voting overwhelmingly for change, and suddenly, someone takes it as a duty to dictate for them through the back door that their decision will not prevail is an open invitation to chaos and anarchy in the state.
By Emelogu Martins (Esq), Abuja-based Management Consultant, is a contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com