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Still On The Shambolic And Bloody Elections In Rivers State By Uche Igwe

April 15, 2015

A tumultuous celebration erupted in the Mile 1, Mile 4 and town areas of Port Harcourt on Monday. It later extended to the Ogbunabali and UTC areas.

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Young men in their numbers were on rampage on the streets. You will not need anyone to tell you who they are. They were chanting songs, carrying sticks, cutlasses cudgels and half full bottles of  alcoholic drinks while some were shooting intermittently into the air. Some sat on top of fast moving vehicles, some on their bonnets, others were hanging by their doors as they drove round about town. Many vehicles were searched and probably looted. It was like a celebration by warriors who are returning from a war front where they defeated an enemy. Flags of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were  hanging on their cars as the dancing drinking, singing, smoking and merry making continued. The merriment led to one of the worst traffic gridlock that I have ever experienced in my entire life. I was literally in one place for two hours without moving an inch. The crowd was drawn from a mixture of ex-militants and stern looking gangsters in the city who were joyful with the announcement of the PDP gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State, Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike as the winner of the April 11th gubernatorial elections.

As expected a shoot out later erupted and a few persons were gunned down. As soon as the news filtered around town, scared residents started diverting away from major roads and scampering for safety. In the process, all the roads that led to the airport was blocked and I was literally trapped. I could not catch my flight to honour an invitation to appear at the Aljazeera Head to Head program in the United Kingdom. I will take time before I forgive these rampaging hoodlums who robbed me of an opportunity to share a platform with the  former Vice President of the World Bank, my boss, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili.

It is these same characters that were the principal actors that robbed the people of Rivers state their voice during the elections last weekend. They were the ones who held the state hostage and subverted the popular will of the people.  It was a full scale war that spread all through the 23 local Government Areas in the state. It was as if the state was divided into territories and one ‘general’ took charge of his or her own territory. The worst hit were the Okrika areas allegedly supervised by the wife of the President Dame Patience Jonathan. The Obio Akpor and Ikwere areas supervised by Mr. Wike himself, the Kalabari areas were supervised by Sports Minister, Dr. Tammy Danagogo and the Ogoni areas supervised by the Minister of State for Trade, Mr Kenneth Kobani while the Oyigbo area was under the control of the Nigerian ambassador to South Korea, Mr. David Akawor.  

To say it was a sham will be charitable. It was simply one party election. The kind of election that will hold in Uganda under Yoweri Museveni or in Kenya in the early days of Daniel Arap Moi. More than seventeen persons have so far been reportedly killed and five other remain unaccounted four. In a very pathetic situation in Buguma in the Kalabari area, one person was shot and later beheaded like a goat for resisting the election riggers. There were widespread attacks on electoral officers, arson, snatching of electoral materials, killings, voter intimidation. Interestingly all these happened in the full glare of security agencies. At some point on the Election Day, more than three hundred hoodlums blocked the only bridge leading from Degema to Abonnema in Akoku Toru Local Government Area.  Only members of the People’s Democratic Party were allowed to cross the bridge into Abonnema to vote.

At the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the state, the same infrastructure that was used to manufacture more than a million votes during the Presidential election was deployed. Against the directive issued by INEC, the card readers were abandoned for manual accreditation. A majority of the adhoc staff that worked for INEC at various levels were said to be card carrying members of a political party. In a few places where the people managed to muscle the elections through at the polling units, the results were completely altered at the collation centres. Both the Resident Electoral Commissioner Ghesila Khan and the National Commissioner in charge of Rivers and Akwa Ibom Mrs Thelma Iremiren tried endlessly to excuse and cover up for all the killings that took place and went ahead to announce the results. Their conduct has been widely condemned by both domestic and international observers who visited the state.

In Emohua Local Government, you could hear deafening bangs coming from explosions in the Kalabari areas of the state. It was a terrifying experience for me as I drove on the lonely road back to the city. I learnt that election held in a few polling units after I left the area. However one of the voters who phoned me later told me that all the collation officers in the LGA mysteriously disappeared making it impossible for the votes to be collated.  Later the Presiding officer showed up with results which showed incredibly higher figures different from happened at the polling units.

The mind boggling irregularities that happened once again in Rivers states casts a lot of doubt on the Nigerian electoral process. Almost every person who saw the elections agree that it is a far cry from what an election should be yet everyone is helpless. That the outgoing President transferred the Deputy Inspector General Police Tunde Ogunsakin out of Rivers state at the eve of the election means that he was aware of the plan to unleash mayhem. Even the outgoing First Lady was said to have convened all the security chiefs and sought their ‘cooperation’. The Rivers State Police Commissioner submitted fully to assist her actualize her plan and allegedly knelt down before her.

The question is whether and when the perpetrators of the mayhem that took place in Rivers State will be punished? Who will account for all the lives wasted last Saturday? Do we hold President Jonathan, his Patience Jonathan, the chief beneficiary Nyesom Wike, CP Karma, Mrs Ghesila Khan, Mrs Thelma Iremiren responsibility for all the killings and electoral malpractices?  Will they answer any questions about these crimes that shock human conscience? Is a judicial inquiry in sight? How soon could that happen? Will it be fair to leave the oil capital of Nigeria in the hands of these hoodlums? These are important questions that only the President Elect General Mohammadu Buhari(rtd) and his incoming administration can answer. Nigerians and our international friends who saw what happened in Rivers State last week are waiting and watching.