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HURIWA WARNS ON POSSIBLE VIOLENCE IN 2015 ELECTION IN AKWA IBOM: WANTS POLITICIANS TO WORK FOR PEACE

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Gentlemen of the forth estate of the Realm, I thank you for honouring this invitation even with very short notice. We are at a historic threshold of our nationhood with diverse and multifarious events of global proportion such as organized violence, terrorism and manifestations of other odious crimes threatening to tear us apart. Importantly, we decided to brief the media today after we paid a visit to Akwa Ibom state to honour the invitation of some of our partners that recently embarked on prison audit to the South/South geopolitical zone and during the course of our visit to that State, some of our members presented written protest against some politicians in that state who are threatening fire and brimstone should their political platform the PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY abide by the recently announced consensus by the State governor that his successor in 2015 will have to emerge from the Eket Senatorial District.

Gentlemen, it will interest you to know that part of the two page written document signed by two of our registered members resident in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, they informed us thus: "Akwa Ibom state has since 2007 been in the news for all the good reasons. Except for a few moments of failure of human judgment, the state, under His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has been visited with uncommon transformation. This is the testimony of almost everyone who has visited the state in the past four years". Ironically, when our National Coordinator later joined our development partner in the exercise of the Prison audit at the Uyo prison, most of the speakers at the event also repeated similar sentiments as expressed by the two members of HURIWA that served us a written protest urging us to help engage the media to sensitize the leading stakeholders in Nigeria on the reason for all hands to be on deck to work towards peacefully and constructively avoiding the repeat of the pre-2011 election violence that happened in Akwa Ibom state.

Also from the written statement that was presented to HURIWA by those two key members of HURIWA we were told in clear terms that there are evidence that remarkable improvements in the infrastructure of the state from what they termed a mere backward state, Akwa Ibom, they stated has risen to occupy a pride of place as a model for peer review in good governance, relegating its forebears in public mention and acclaim.

Highlighting the landmark human rights achievements made in Akwa Ibom state since 2007 by the elected government, our members told us that "This is principally the effect of the visionary work done by Governor Akpabio who has signed into law a bill outlawing the criminalizing obnoxious widowhood practices in the state; domesticated the Child Rights Act and made primary and secondary education free and compulsory to every child in Akwa Ibom state irrespective of tribe or state of origin".

One outcome of Gov. Akpabio's work in the state, they stated, is the growth of peace which has been a cherished item of value for people of the state. This has brought about an increase in tourism, business, leisure and created what they identified as avenue for statewide engagement in the judicious use of accruing revenue which has resulted in improved infrastructural development and improved quality of life. As a human right group we have yet to embark on independent and comprehensive audit of the state of infrastructure in Akwa Ibom state so we are not in a position to endorse or reject these views expressed by our members in their individual capacity, but we are convinced beyond the shadow of doubts that there are ominous signs that some aggrieved politicians within the ruling PDP who have lost out of the scheme of governance in Akwa Ibom state are gearing for a fight and may precipitate a conflagration of bloody dimension as run up to the 2015 elections begins in Akwa Ibom state and because of precedence, learning from the lesson of the inter-party rivalry that tore apart Awa Ibom state in the 2011 general elections, we are hereby urging the Akwa Ibom state Governor, all Senators and Federal Legislators from Akwa Ibom state, members of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly, all former and serving public office holders including members of the esteemed club of opposition political parties to unite under one good cause of saving that beautiful state from ever experiencing same kind of politically-motivated violence in the coming year 2015 general election.

We were reminded by our members in Akwa Ibom state thus; "However, the state since creation, has, like other states of the federation, operated on the principle of a tripod zonal structure viz: Uyo senatorial zone, Ikot Ekpene senatorial zone and Eket senatorial zone. This was to ensure equity, fairness, justice, peace and a sense of oneness in the harnessing of valuable human capital in the advancement of the state. Sadly, of these zones, and despite the values placed on power rotation as the only mechanism to achieve equity, fairness, justice and peace in the state, Eket has remained progressively the weeping child of the tripod".

"To achieve balance therefore, Gov. Akpabio, publicly declared his intention to support Eket senatorial zone in its quest to produce his successor".

"This public declaration has been very much welcomed and embraced by the generality of Akwa Ibom indigenes although there are few persons for either selfish political interest have objected to this noble idea that is specifically targeted at bringing about equity and fair play and to allow for all sections of the state to feel a strong sense of belonging in the democratic scheme of things".

Indeed, as a legally registered civil society group with strong inclination for democracy, HURIWA upholds the constitutional right of every qualified indigene to vie for the office of governor. However, in keeping with agreements reached between brothers who are also gentlemen, it is expected that all political stakeholders in that oil rich state must give peace a chance.

One of those fingered to be opposed to this time tested and time honored modality of bringing about political equity is said to have been in the service of the Akwa Ibom state Government for upward of a dozen unbroken years as Commissioner for Finance and SSG, despite starting off as a civil servant in the Ministry of Finance. This man has reportedly denied any involvement.

There are insinuations which this gentleman has denied that he is ever remotely involved in the ongoing sinister plots to unsettle the peace of the state because of perceived apprehension by this man that the new arrangement that will see to the emergence of the best and most qualified person from Eket zone as the next PDP governorship candidate in the 2015 poll will scheme him out of the bargain since Uyo his zone is said to have produced several governors including the incumbent.


We in the human rights community concerned about a peaceful, transparent and fair election in 2015 hereby endorse this zoning arrangement because we believe that every section of this country must be allowed equality of representation and participation and therefore we view any threats to this arrangement as a threat to the power-shift disposition of most people in the state and consequently this disposition of opposition to the general agreement and consensus of the people could lead to violence reminiscent of the 2011 election violence in which several precious lives were wasted.

There are allegations in certain quarters that some politicians with enormous wealth whose sources of money in their hands are questionable may also want to constitute a threat to peace similar to the ugly scenario in 2011 if their selfish political agenda are not met. These persons are said to have unprecedented confidence in their enormous monetary fire power to deploy these resources to unleash unquantifiable violence on the state to disturb the peace and cause violence. This is the dilemma which must be arrested without further delay through peaceful and constructive dialogue by all political stakeholders including those persons that are currently having running political battle with the current powers-that-be in Akwa Ibom state for the sake of the future of the good people of that state and especially women and Children who are always the greatest victims of any politically motivated crises. Sadly, there is no evidence to show that children of he political elite died during the 2011 pre-and post election violence in Akwa Ibom state.

"In politics, no one knows the extent to which such monies could be deployed. The rise in the crime rate in Enugu between 1999 and 2007 was traced to the deployment of illicit money at the governorship elections with which small arms were put in the hands of the political thugs. We fear same for Akwa Ibom state", so say our two members who wrote our national executive committee to intervene by waging media advocacy to promote peace and social justice in their home state.

This is the reason for this EARLY WARNING SIGNAL that we are serving through the media so all hands in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria must be on deck to ensure that 2015 election in that state and indeed all parts of Nigeria do not experience a repeat of the horrible and horrendous bloodshed that characterize the 2011 elections. As Human Rights Crusaders we are obliged by our consciences to raise alarm where necessary to stop violent conflict from ever happening because we believe that the best strategy against conflict is to prevent it from happening through effective and result oriented proactive measures including playing the role of GOOD GOVERNANCE WHISTLEBLOWERS because without peace there can be no good governance.

Our members further stated thus; "With the unfolding trend, there is great fear of a return of armed militancy and crisis which may surpass that of 2011 pre-governorship election which heightened tension and saw a high degree of destruction of lives and public property".

We in [HURIWA] are not in a position to accuse any particular politician of masterminding the possible resurgence of political insurgency in 2015 but we are by this media event serving a notice to all political leaders and civil society stakeholders in Nigeria to do the needful to avoid the repeat of the pre-2011 election bloody violence in Akwa Ibom state. No one should allow gubernatorial ambition to undermine the peace and social wellbeing of the people of Akwa Ibom state and any part of Nigeria for that matter.

Politicians from any part of Nigeria must not see political positions as birth right and by believing in this warped idea of political hegemony bring his or her state into ignominy through instigation of violence or in the specific case of Akwa Ibom bringing the peaceful state to that sordid and ignoble past as aforementioned.

We have found out through intense research we commissioned since 2011 that Illicit money deployed during elections is the primary cause of militancy which has robbed our children of their childhood turning most of them into child soldiers. We witnessed in some parts of Nigeria including Rivers state and Borno before the 2007 elections.

The scenario graphically depicted above by these two members of our group in their position paper to us, gave Nigerians a lot to chew in handling militancy and handling effects of same on women and children most of who were forced out of school and into the creeks. HURIWA shares similar sentiment institutionally with our two worried members that Akwa Ibom's descent into anarchy [God forbid] will not augur well for the south south region and would have ripple effects nationally.

"It will be unfortunate if the current status of Akwa Ibom state as tourism and investment destination is sacrificed to satisfy any one person's selfish governorship ambition, which may result in investment and human capital flight and disruptions in the lives of the people", they also wrote. Finally, let me reiterate that we are bringing this warning in good faith following persistent complaints by our members in the Akwa Ibom state chapter and we believe that the media will help us to sensitize Nigerian politicians on the necessity for conducting their political affairs with the genuine love of the country and the fear of God.