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Don’t Deltan’s Deserve Democracy Too? We Are Not terrorists-Who is LiBERATE?

November 10, 2011

Dr. Emmanuel E Uduaghan held a meeting with the leaders of the Occupy-Warri demonstrations at the end of October 2011. In this meeting he made mention of a group I lead, The LiBERATE DELTA PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT. He said we were terrorists, and that his eye was on members of our group. He mentioned specifically myself, Mr. Cadre Drake, Jude Kakpovia, and Stephen Dieseruvwe in his diatribe. And in a statement that was both careless and callous, he was reported to have boasted that no court in Delta State would unseat him

Dr. Emmanuel E Uduaghan held a meeting with the leaders of the Occupy-Warri demonstrations at the end of October 2011. In this meeting he made mention of a group I lead, The LiBERATE DELTA PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT. He said we were terrorists, and that his eye was on members of our group. He mentioned specifically myself, Mr. Cadre Drake, Jude Kakpovia, and Stephen Dieseruvwe in his diatribe. And in a statement that was both careless and callous, he was reported to have boasted that no court in Delta State would unseat him

. This zero-sum claim--first accusing people (who know that he is a usurper) of terrorism and of trying to use unconstitutional means to unseat him, and then, in the same breath, claiming that all avenues for proper and legal recourse to reclaiming the mandate he has stolen are closed so long as the courts are in Delta State--is typical of the style of governance that Deltans have suffered for the last five years, nay, since 1999.

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But we are not terrorists. We reject that appellation, so commonly used by thieves and despots nowadays to give dogs bad names in order to hang them. We are Deltans, and we love our state. We formed this group, the LiBERATE DELTA PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT, in early 2011 after the heartbreaking experience that was the January 6th re-run election in Delta State. We formed this group to name and shame those who had co-opted the gatekeepers of our democracy. We formed this group because we realised that, while it seemed that our democracy had spent more than a decade in existence, it was becoming glaringly obvious that it was a lot easier to fight the gun, like NADECO did in the nineties, than it was to fight a new and more insidious enemy, the brown envelope.

2011, a year that could live in infamy in the history of this great nation, Nigeria.

In January of this year two events occured. On the 6th of that month, Deltans went to the polls to correct an anomaly that was discovered three-and-a-half years too late: the fact that Emmanuel Uduaghan was never governor of Delta State. There was widespread celebration on the streets. But when thoughtful people heard of the date chosen for the elections and the fact that the new INEC chairman refused to allow for a new registration of voters, using the convoluted logic that the elections, in law, held in 2007, and thus only those registered 4 years ago would be allowed to vote in them, there was consternation.

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The date of January 6th was also important for another reason. The PDP primaries would hold a few days later, on the 10th of Janaury. Those amongst the Delta population who were jaded, present writer included, counselled that our freedom would be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. That this president, chosen by providence, would use us to prove to his party’s delegates that he was capable of “delivering” Delta State, by any and all means necessary. And the pessimists were proven right. January 6th 2011 was a tragic day. And when the history of this country is written, we hope that the men who would force us to look at our past would remember this day. On that day the entire machinery of government was stacked against the population of Delta State. Army men rode in trucks escorted by Uduaghan’s boys, pointing out opposition party agents, who were then descended upon and beaten up. Phantom votes from the riverine areas appeared in the dead of the night at the collation centre in Asaba: a running joke that crocodiles and hippos and salamanders had suddenly sprouted human thumbprints is a sad and tragic commentary on this democracy, not to be laughed at, to be sad for.

Despite all of this, we the people were calmed by the focus of the opposition in Delta State. He would seek recourse to the courts. Justice would be served. We were to wait. Since 2007, the judiciary had shown itself ready to free the voice of the people.

But no tribunal was set up. For months, January, February, March, and April, no tribunal was set up. And in a tasteless and thoughtless move, this usurper, Dr. Uduaghan actually went to court to try to extend the “new tenure” to 2015. This attempt failed.

The April elections had come, and we went to the polls again. The federal legislative elections came, and we voted. The presidential elections came, and despite some reservations of the way the people of Delta State were treated like chattel animals in January, to be horse-traded for delegate votes, we voted. Then the governorship elections came. The soldiers came to town again. The police vanished from our streets, odd given that the AIG Zone 5 left his office in Benin City and was lodged in a suite at the Protea Hotel, Warri. And that he was having meetings with the governor late into the night preceding the elections. But we hoped. Despite reports that two federal ministers were in  town, with a self-proclaimed mandate to “deliver” Delta State for the PDP, we hoped. Delta State was a not a foetus, it was not a message, or a Christmas present. Our voice would prevail. We had a quiet humble man in the presidency, an educated man who would understand the meaning of democracy, the power of the people; of course, he had sent no one to steal our mandate.

The governorship elections turned Delta State into a warzone. From Agbor to Asaba, from Warri to Burutu, from Ndokwa to Isoko. And in the euphoria of the faux-elections, we were drowned out by the many voices claiming that this farce was a free and fair election. Afterall, we were from the president’s region. Of course anyone, even usurpers and unpopular candidates, flying the PDP flag should win. Would the president lose in his own region?

But the focus of the people’s movement in Delta State told us: be still, be peaceful, no one bleeds, no one dies. We will go to the courts.

At this point we find it pertinent to clarify the relationship between Great Ogboru and LiBERATE. Our movement is not affiliated with any political party or person. We are in now any way connected with Great Ovedje Ogboru or his party, the DPP. Granted we acknowledge that his mandate has been stolen and that he is the rightful governor of Delta State. All comers should be warned that whoever occupies the government house, whoever is properly chosen by the people, will have our watchdog duties to contend it. LiBERATE is here to stay. We owe allegiance to only these entities: the people of Delta State, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and our consciences.

The Tribunals: a Study in the Rape of a People

The rest has played out on the inside pages of your newspapers, fellow Nigerians. You have seen the news and ignored it. You have applauded elections in which the people were raped. I am forced to paraphrase a Hollywood film, Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith, an odd source for such pithy truth: “So this is how Liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” First the rerun tribunal was set up 4 months late, and in its judgement the presiding judge, Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike (Mrs.) overturned 12 years of legal precedents by placing the burden of proving that an umpired election was rigged solely on the petitioners and not on the umpire, INEC.

(We will take an aside here, a small paragraph to explain how dangerous this challenge of precedence is: An election is an umpired event. To make an accusation of bias, or incompetence, a petitioner should only have to show certain instances where this occurred. These accusations having called the entire result into doubt, it is then the job of the umpire to prove that they held the elections according to the rules. An unbiased and dispassionate umpire should not be seen to be actively protecting any side in an election case. In the January rerun case, INEC could not even place the ballot papers in their respective boxes, could not show where ballots papers have been used, and could not explain how papers still attached to their sheaves had been fully thumb printed. Even the resident electoral commissioner, Gabriel Ada, fled the courtroom during recess so he would not be cross-examined. Are all these the responsibilities of the petitioners?)
In this same judgement, which should rival those of the June 12th annulment, and of the Saro Wiwa judicial murder, and of the very worst of the infamous Egbo Egbo, the presiding judge threw out the entire forensic report as requested by the tribunal itself. She said that all the experts did was try to discredit themselves. She did not say that she refused to accept one report from the foreign expert. Her reason for refusing this report: the gentleman had placed his name above the title of his report, instead of placing his name below the title. Yes folks, as absurd as it sounds, it is the truth. But who heard? It was in the bottom of those newspaper pages. It was not reported in any of the news channels. This tribunal president for the January rerun also used false logic. Because opposite sides in a matter shout and rave equally does not by default make their positions equal in merit. Solomon proved this 2500 years ago. In a case where one side provided a detailed report with comparative photos of walnut-shell and rumpled condom-produced “thumbprints”, and the other produced a shameless professor of anatomy affiliated to the Delta State University, who claimed under oath that there was a difference between “fingermarks” and fingerprints, how could this judge be so disingenuous. Does Justice Ogwurike not read her bible, even if she has forgotten where she kept her copies of the Nigerian Law Reports? Was she compromised with a gun or with a brown envelope?

And the people of Delta State lost again. And the state was quiet again. And the one who was robbed went to the court of appeal wherein in October of this year, the judges ran away from their responsibilities and threw the case out saying that treating it would be an academic exercise.
Parallel to all this, the April election tribunal has been ongoing, and we expect the judgment on the eleventh of November 2011, a day before Uduaghan’s daughter’s wedding. Our hearts have been warmed by the news that has filtered out of this tribunal, of INEC officials unable to substantiate their claims, of ballots papers still attached and fully thumbprinted, of the forensic reports that prove that majority of the votes from the creeks were not fingerprints. But we remember the shamelessness of the January 6th rerun tribunal’s judgement. We want to use this medium to warn anyone who would kick us to the ground, sit astride our supine form, and pack sand and grass into our mouths; there is limit to where you can push the people. Even a ruminant will fight if his back is to the wall. Think of your people, of your children. Just last week we woke up to news that the erstwhile presiding judge, Justice Ayo Abisoye (Mrs.) of the April guber election tribunal had abdicated her position and had fled to the UK citing health reasons. The world will forgive us if we think that this is balderdash. Please judges, you do not live in a vacuum: Nigeria calls on you to do your duty. Stand up for history, for providence, for your children. Please provide substantive justice.

An Appeal to Mr. President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Sir, most of us voted for you in the April elections, and have watched in shock as you have condoned the actions of these people who would rape and pillage your homeland, you fellow people of the delta. We voted for you because we saw a man humbled by his experience and by the burden of history. Delta State was not “delivered” on the Presidential Election Day, no, you were voted for by the people. Why then would you ignore the wishes of the same people a week later? You must have sources of news beyond our capabilities as a noise-making and whistle-blowing movement. What do your state security officials tell you? What does EK Clark tell you?

This is beyond party politics. Please, sir, do not sacrifice your mandate on an altar built by stolen mandates of unpopular governors. Every step that has been taken to perpetuate this man, Uduaghan, in power has been unpopular. Let us stand at this point in history, let us move forward knowing that on looking back we can say, with pride, that this year was Nigeria’s finest hour, and not her worst. November 2001 is not too late to act. Do this now.

Cadre Drake