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INEC March 28 Polls in Rivers: Why Ogoni Insists on Outright Cancellation/Rerun

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By: Ifeanyi Izeze Without doubt, the Ogoni people of Rivers state has come, through years of agitation against the irresponsibility and callousness of Shell Petroleum Development Company in the area and the federal government perceived complicity and docility in redressing the injustice, to be the most politically aware, closely-knitted and focused bloc in the entire state and even the Niger Delta region. So When the Ogoni apex organization, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), in its assessment of what transpired across Ogoni as elections on March 28 said, The March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Rivers state particularly Ogoni, to say the least, was a sham, it was not surprising that it completely aligned with posits by several other interest groups and political blocs across the state calling for outright cancellation and rescheduling of the elections. If MOSOP after collating field reports and evidence from its agents dispatched to monitor the elections particularly in Ogoni, could come out to publicly chastise the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it could have attempted to give, (even if it was a deceitful one) impression of a transparent and accountable approach that would have reflected the Commission neutrality and fairness, it means the Ogoni people are fully convinced the results announced as votes from the area outrightly contradicted their position and how they would have voted on the March 28 elections particularly the National Assembly elections. As alleged by the Ogonis, violence was orchestrated to scare away voters, and the officers of the Nigerian Police Force were also used to arrest some APC leaders and faithful thereby scaring away the ordinary electorates. In almost all the wards across Ogoni were reports of faulty card reading machine, hijack of sensitive materials by hoodlums, non availability of original results sheets and presentation of fake result sheets, intimidation, harassment of the electorates and killings in some areas. Throughout Gokana, Khana, Tai and even Opobo/Nkoro local government areas, trained-INEC ad hoc personnel were replaced with untrained manpower suspected to be PDP members and this was done in connivance with the Local Government Areas, Electoral Officers in the affected LGAs. As discovered, in Wards 6, 9, 16 17 and 18, of Khana local government area, the Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers were all known PDP members in addition to the sudden change and appearance of fresh and non-trained INEC ad-hoc personnel. The most egregious aspect of the glaring irregularities and breaches in the election is in the area of a wilful and deliberate non availability of results sheets in nearly all voting centres. This was deliberately made so as to pave the way for the writing of the results thereafter. This was the case as contained in the petition to INEC by Ogoni. And based on the conviction that the Ogonis were not allowed to vote in the March 28 presidential and National Assembly polls, Senator Magnus Abe representing Rivers South-East in the National Assembly also joined in the call on INEC to cancel and reschedule the elections. If Senator Magnus Abe, a member of the Senate Committee on INEC could openly express shock at what he described as massive fraud which marred the exercise that was expected to witness an improvement in the conduct of elections in Nigeria, it definitely means the Ogonis may have a genuine case to seek redress at least so that the true position and aspiration of the people can be captured. According to Abe, How could the election be credible when there were no actual voting anywhere in Ogoniland and the umpire was established to be complicit in the malfeasance? Abe who urged the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega to immediately announce the cancellation of elections in that part of Rivers State with a view to rescheduling a rerun, insisted that Nigerians and the international community should ignore purported election results from the area as there was no election particularly in Rivers South-East district. He stressed that accepting such disposition will further deepen the mockery of our democracy. The case by the Ogonis fully aligns with what the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress had already stated in its petition to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, calling for outright cancellation and rescheduling of the elections. In the petition signed by APC Chairman, Davies Ikanya, the party said the parody of election held in Rivers State on Saturday was characterised by deliberate non release of result sheets to nearly all the centres, active collaboration and collusion of the INEC staff with the People Democratic Party in undermining the credibility of the election. Before the Ogonis commenced their agitation against what transpired in the area on March 28 as Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Rivers state Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Davies Ikanya, in a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) described what happened as on that day as a parody of elections. His words: We want to firmly state that there is nowhere in the world where this sham and debacle that happened in Rivers State can be glorified as an election and allowing this to stand is to posit to the entire World that allocation of votes and massive irregularities and malpractices will be allowed as long as the perpetrators are able to carry same out. No doubt, the Ogonis seem to have a genuine case. However, the caveat is that rather than the call for outright cancellation, as said by the INEC Chairman, Prof Jega, every case or rather allegation is going to be taken by INEC on its individual merit. And this is why the Ogoni case has become very interesting because if the people can provide enough evidence to sufficiently prove the allegations contained in their petition, they may be able to discredit the election results submitted for their area a situation that may lead to cancellation and a rerun. Let watch and see! IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)

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