I had refrained from commenting on the conduct and general outcome of last Saturday’s National Assembly election till the results were confirmed. Today is Tuesday, three days after the election and I believe all the results have been announced.
There are still hot contestations about the authenticity of some of the results and there are bitter bickering over who did what in the said election. I am not surprised at all these and I am beginning to have my fear about this election.
Let us get the facts straight, I have this implicit confidence in Jega’s capacity to deliver a credible election but I am worried that his hands are too frail to hold down some of his staff and the rampaging politicians that desire to subject the process to their selfish interests. I had been praying for him and had been wishing he is a little bit stronger to supervise the process to a credible conclusion. I know that what Jega needed is to get the men with the right attitude and have the will to enforce the wonderful rules he has churned out to give Nigerians a free and fair election.
From what I saw last Saturday, in Imo State, I can state without fear or equivocation that we are still very far from a credible election in this country. I know it was better in some states and I still believe that the South West states remain a credible epitome of good electoral conduct in this country, which should be replicated in other parts of the country. If what happened in Imo State on Saturday, 9th April 2011 in the name of national assembly election is called free and fair election, then I state emphatically that we do not need elections in this country and I have my reasons, which I will state later in this article.
I will attempt to chronicle the debacle that happened in Imo state last Saturday and the following days for my readers to understand why I had passed such a damning verdict on the elections. Before I start reporting, I want to remind Nigerians that the Modified Open Secret Ballot System Prof, Jega is adopting for this election is premised on the following;
· Accreditation starts all over the country by 8.00am and ends by 12.00 noon.
· After accreditation, the accredited voters would be counted for all, voters and the total number of accredited voters announced for all to take note.
· After this, accredited voters queue up for voting, which starts by 12.30 and ends by 4.00pm or after the last accredited voter has voted.
· The votes are counted in the open, before the voters, party agents and observers.
· Results are declared at the polling station, signed by all party agents who would be given their copies of the result while a copy would be pasted at the polling center.
· Collation at the ward, local government, state and federal levels follow, depending on the election in question and here collation is just the tallying of the results gotten from the polling booths. Results will be announced at the various levels and result sheets issued to party agents as they were announced.
The above is the methodologies the election process will follow and most Nigerians banked on it to give them a free and fair process that will
The pertinent question to ask is whether the election followed this rigorous process in most parts of the country. I doubt if it did, given my own experience in Imo State. From what I can gather, it is the same old story in most parts of the country with the possible exception of the South West states where election results were expeditiously released and reflected the voting pattern and electoral wishes of the people of the area.
Here is a chronology of what happened in Imo State on Election Day;
· Election material and INEC were nowhere near the polling as at 12.00 noon when the accreditation was supposed to have started.
· The earliest arrival of men and material to any polling booth was reported at around 1.00pm.
· In some polling units, voting materials and men arrived as late as 7.00pm and voting lasted till about midnight.
· Government officials, with well armed mobile policemen were making rounds in the polling units, harassing and intimidating electoral officers and voters. An example was one William Amadi, a Special Adviser to the Imo State Governor, who went to various polling units and indulged in what was described as indecent acts with some electoral officers. At Ikenegbu Primray School, he and his police orderlies beat up a voter who attempted to record what they were doing, tried to arrest him but for the insistence of the other voters but succeeded in seizing his camera. Also, at Akabo, Ikeduru, the Imo State Commissioner for Finance was reported to have seized voting materials with his armed police men.
· At all the polling units, agents of the PDP came with sacks of money and were openly sharing between N2,000 and N5,000 per voter to lure voters into voting for the party. Azuzu Ward 2, Holy Ghost College Owerri, were few of the polling units where these were reported.
· At various polling units, PDP thugs were reported to have diverted voting materials and prevented people from casting their votes.
· In Mbutu Ward, Aboh Mbaise Local government area, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, the Chief Whip of the Federal House of representatives was reported to used fake policemen to divert electoral materials in his Mbutu Ward to his private residence.
· Voting materials were reported to have been diverted to the private residences of various government officials and crony traditional rulers like Eze Ilomuanya in Orlu.
· Ignatius Umunna was reported to have seized the voting materials in Mgbidi and major parts of Oru West with the aid of armed thugs and policemen.
· There were statewide reports of ballot snatching, ballot stuffing and multiple thumb prin
These are just samples of what we all saw in Imo State last Saturday and thanks for a new and vibrant radio station, Hot FM, people were constantly phoning in from various parts of the state, reporting events in their various areas during election time.
I wonder how a free and fair election could be possible with the kind of scenario painted above. I wonder how a credible election can hold with the background provided above and with the officials of the sitting government running roughshod over the process and over any other person.
But then, I noticed the determination of the Imo people to make the process work. They were eagerly phoning in to Hot FM, giving impeccable reports of events in their areas on Election Day. They were bold. They were fearless. They were intrepid and for once, I hoped they will be able to stand their own against the rampaging desperadoes that took the process hostage. Yes, they did their bit but since the system is programmed to favour these ramparts, their best was not good enough to stop the rigging merchants from having their ways.
With election results coming in from the respective polling booths on election evening, it was not difficult establishing where victory was going to. We should remember that it was at this same stage that winners and losers emerged in the South West but the South East was another ball game entirely. True to the outwardly expressed wishes of the people, the results suggested a straight battle between the APGA and ACN, with the PDP as distant outsiders. The people were happy. They were expecting a great victory, just like their counterparts in the South West. They have known who were leading and who were leading and as at that time, results conformed to the voting pattern and expectations of the people.
But then, all of a sudden, the process was frozen. There was a thick pall of uncertainty as nothing was heard as in official confirmation of the results that were being peddled around. By noon on Sunday, almost all the results from the South West have been released and published but none was yet officially released in Imo. The people suspected that something terrible was happening and it was not easy to forecast where it was coming from. It was later in the day that the result of the Owerri Federal Constituency announced and it went to APGA and the people nodded in affirmation, believing that whatever are the obstacles on the way to free and fair election, the people will surmount them. Tension flared, anger welled and at exactly 6.00pm on Sunday, the result of the senatorial race for Owerri zone was declared and predictably, APGA won. Hopes were reinforced and people expected good reports. Already, the air was rife that Achike Udenwa and Cosmas Iwu of ACN won the Orlu and Okigwe senatorial races respectively and patient expectation mounted as Ndi Imo expected INEC to officially announce the results they already have. Nothing further was released till Imo people went to bed on Sunday.
We were to wake up with the rude shocker that INEC announced the remaining results by God-knows-when and awarded everything to PDP! It was the final knell on the people’s hopes for a credible election and what was on the lips of most Imolites was that we are still straying on the old jaded way, contrary to the feeling that we have succeeded in breaking the bonds of rigged elections. For now and until proved otherwise, Ndi Imo hold that the election of last Saturday was a huge farce. I don’t know what the impression is elsewhere but I know that from reports emanating from the states, from the shocking manner the process went at the result stage, it is only in the South West that an accountable and credible election was held and this was the reason why the results came fast and quick before the doctoring process set in.
After last Saturday’s polls, I know that faith of an average Imo man has tremendously dipped and I know that it is the feeling in many states. What INEC does in subsequent polls may go a long way in proving whether it is ready to match the passion of Nigerians for change and whether this democracy will flounder once again.
Oweri, Imo State.