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Akwa Ibom State Politics: The Charade Called "LG Election."

By Ikpafak Thompson Essien
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Chairman Etim Bassey (not his real name) just completed casting his voters' card in his Ward at Uyo when another voter stopped him for a conversation. Within minutes, a fleet of buses loaded with people drove into the premises of the voting booth. Chairman Bassey watched keenly as several gun-totting thugs emerged from the buses. He was not surprised because he knew who they were and why they came. They were PDP thugs who came to cart away the ballot boxes at the Local Election which was conducted on Saturday, June 9, 2012. But what was surprising to Chairman Etim Bassey was who led the thugs.

The Mr. Etim Bassey is a Chairman of one of the Electoral Wards in Uyo and a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) party. Retreating to and keeping a safe distance, he watched with interest on how the PDP thugs were terrorizing voters, carting ballot papers and boxes, and shooting carelessly at people and everything else that moved. To his biggest surprise, Etim Bassey found out that these PDP thugs were being led by Godswill Akpabio's Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Enobong Uwah. It took only a few minutes, the thugs were gone with their prizes; voting materials and all.

Mr. Etim Bassey to react in the manner which any Ward Chairman would have done under the circumstance; he drove to the office of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to file a complaint over what he witnessed. What he did not know was that Commissioner Enobong Uwah was there waiting for him. Commissioner Uwah was the first one to slap him and before Mr. Bassey could defend himself, several thugs descended on him. He was beaten mercilessly. His jaw was broken. He lost two of his teeth. And the last time I spoke with him, he was complaining about his left ear, afraid that one of the slaps from Enobong Uwah might have ruptured his eardrum.

The funny thing is that when he went to the hospital for treatment, he was refused service unless and until he could tender a clearance from the Police which would indicate that he did not sustain his wounds during his efforts to commit armed robbery. And when he went to the Police Station to obtain clearance so that he could be treated at the hospital, the police demanded N25,000.00 in bribe, an amount which Chairman Etim Bassey said he could not afford. Luckily, a private clinic decided to admit him.

The Local Government Election occurred on Saturday, June 9th. On Sunday, June 10th, even before INEC was able to tally all the votes, Commissioner Enobong Uwah was quick to announce his own result and he had no reservation to post his own version of the result on the Internet. This is what Enobong Uwah wrote; "My people, The results of the 2012 Local Government Elections have just been released by the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission with PDP winning the Chairmanship in the 31 LGAs and 325 Councillorship positions out of 329 Details later...Enobong Uwah

Uyo, Akwa Ibom State."

What Commissioner Enobong Uwah did not include in his report was how his theft of the voting materials from one Ward to another in Uyo led to injuries, destruction of properties, and deaths of several voters in Uyo alone. What Commissioner Enobong Uwah did not report was the beating of Mr. Etim Bassey. And what Commissioner Enobong Uwah was not man enough to report was how he used his cult thugs to rig the Local Government Election in Akwa Ibom State.

Of course the charade called Local Government Election and the violence that came with the exercise did not happen only in Uyo---it was a statewide nonsense. It also happened in Ibesikpo Local Government Area. I am pasting here and account of an eye witness, who was kind enough to post the incident on my Facebook group---"The Voice of the Poor Masses";

"Dear Mr. Essien.......,
I want you to be aware of some of the crimes that were committed on the 9th of June in Akwa Ibom State during the Local Government Election conducted by AKISIEC."

"In Ibesikpo Asutan where I was a councillorship candidate for Asutan Ward V and indeed the entire Akwa Ibom State, there was nothing like election. Nothing to look like it. What we had was a combined team of Police and the Army carting away materials under the direction of AKISIEC staff to the residence of Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, the immediate past state chairman of PDP and Mrs. Comfort Etuk, Commissioner for Science and Technology."

"All ballot papers for Ibesikpo, which consists of five Wards, were domiciled in these two places under severe security surveillance. That of Asutan, also five Wards, were taken to the residence of Hon Eyakeno Etukudo, a Member representing Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for thumb printing. No voting unit across the entire local government area saw any ballot paper or any AKISIEC official on the 9th of June 2012 in Ibesikpo Asutan.”

“The results being announced are lies and a direct opposite of what would have been the vote if election was conducted. Councillorship candidate for Asutan ward V, Mr. Emmanuel Thomas, was shot by the police at AKISIEC office at Nung Udoe when materials for his Ward was about to be taken away by the police. Being a candidate, and a returning agent for his Ward, a police officer attached to Hon Eyakeudo shot him at the leg when he was seen within the premises of the INEC office. He was not the only person standing. He seems to have been one of the targets by the PDP and the Police.”

“Till now that I am mailing you this, the police have refused to give him any document to allow hospitals to attend to him being a bullet victim. On that Saturday, I managed to give him N2000 to go to Ima Obong Missionary Outreach Medical Centre for treatment. The nurses on duty said he cannot be treated except there is a police permit that he was not an armed robber who escaped from arrest. He went in pains to a clinic along Uyo-Nung-Udoe road and was given treatment on self-recognition by the doctor only after he had to convince him that he was a candidate of a political party and would not have gone to rob on Election day. He was told to come for further treatment upon securing a police testimony in his favor. Twice, Mr. Emmanuel Thomas has been to the Divisional Police Headquarters at Nung Udoe and could not secure a police testimonial to go for treatment. Police at the counter told him he could not see the DPO and would not attend to him any further.”

“Mr. Thomas is just one among hundreds of Akwa Ibom people sympathetic to ACN who were ether shot, brutalized, or manhandled at the various AKISIEC offices in the state.

The problem is not that the PDP carted away election materials to rig themselves in. The problem is the conspiracy of the police and army who are supposed to be independent in politics. The state government, as is currently constituted, is careless about what the public says about her. It has abused her offices with impunity. It spares nothing in securing herself. Even thousands of lives mean nothing to government officials in their quest to grasp power. For me, Godswill Akpabio, as a governor since 2007, was a mistake that has caused Akwa Ibom State so much misery, pain, and money. For Emmanuel Thomas, I don't know what may become of him because in the first instance, he does not have money to take care of his family, not to talk of his treatment. If the police finally clears him to be treated of the gunshot wound he will survive the ordeal. As a Ward Chairman of his party, he was persuaded by the party to contest the election being very popular in the Ward. His story after the election is pathetic, just as many supporters of ACN and their candidates are now in hiding. I shall update you further on this. Thanks a lot.”

Thompson Essien writes from Portland, Oregon,