PDP Rejoices, APC Groans In Rivers
THE landslide victory for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the April 12, 2015 Governorship and House of Assembly election in Rivers State came as a rude shock to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The APC, which blamed its crushing defeat in the state during the Presidential and National Assembly elections on PDP’s “rigging” and “connivance” with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials and security agencies, was optimistic that it would retain the governorship position and a sizeable number of seats in the state legislature.
PDP’s governorship candidate and governor elect, Mr. Nyesom Wike, whose ambition had been an intensely divisive issue in Rivers State, in the result declared by INEC Returning Officer, Professor Friday Orumwense, polled a total of 1,029,102 votes to defeat the APC candidate, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, who got a total of 124,896. In the same vein, in the 32-member Rivers State House of Assembly polls, the APC, which currently has 26 members, barely managed to win a seat, as the PDP won 25! Elections in six constituents were declared inconclusive by INEC. The APC, meanwhile, dismissed the polls as a sham and a tragedy.
Picking up the pieces after APC’s defeat in the state during the March 28 elections, Governor Chibuike Amaechi had noted that security agents abdicated their responsibility by allowing PDP chieftains and thugs, in connivance with some INEC officials, to overwhelm his party members and supporters during the polls.
But emboldened by the electoral fortune of General Mohammadu Buhari, in the March 28 polls, the governor had erroneously anticipated that the security agencies would ensure a level playing field for all the parties.
Amaechi had told APC supporters during his campaign in Emohua and Ikwerre local government areas that the police and other security agencies were disposed to providing adequate security and safeguarding the electoral process.
“There will be no army harassment again. Any police that molests you must be preparing to retire. And this time, it will not be retirement; it will be punishment for retirement. So, come out to vote,” he had said.
Prior to the polls, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, was deployed to the state for the election. This was followed by a clampdown on suspected criminal hideouts in Rivers State by security agents. Concerned that the security agents were tilting towards the state government, Wike had, during a peace parley for the political parties organised by the Commissioner of Police, a few days to the polls, disclosed that he had been reliably informed that the security agencies wanted to conspire with the APC to postpone the governorship election till when the president-elect, General Buhari, is sworn into office.
Petrified when it realized that AIG Ogunsakin had taken firm charge of security in the state ahead of the polls, the PDP felt it was swimming against the tide. Worst still for it was the directive by Ogunsakin that the Divisional Police Officer in Abonnema, accused of participating in the distribution of electoral materials, should be replaced. At this point, the PDP leadership in the state alerted the Inspector General of Police, according to Wike, who then ordered Ogunsakin to leave Rivers State and return to Calabar. This directive by the Inspector General of Police completely altered the security architecture put in place by the state government for the election. And it is believed that this paved way for the PDP’s contentious victory.
The collapse of the security arrangement put in place prior to the election prevented security agents from checkmating the many problems that characterized the polls, like the shocking incidents of cold blooded killing, beheading of a PDP member at Buguma, obstruction of electoral materials, wanton arson, brazen voter intimidation, ballot snatching, missing result sheets, fake ballot papers and multiple thumb printing.
The APC has blamed its electoral setback on refusal by the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to redeploy the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ms. Gesila Khan, whom it accused of working for the PDP.
It will be recalled that Governor Amaechi had accused the wife of the President of exerting pressure on Ms. Khan to ensure that PDP wins the polls. He told Rivers elder statesmen, monarchs and others at a town hall meeting held at the Dr. Obi Wali International Conference Centre, in Port Harcourt, that Mrs. Jonathan who hails from Okrika had arrived the state capital penultimate Wednesday, and held series of meetings with senior officers in the security agencies including the Resident Electoral Commissioner.
Another issue, which the APC has fingered for its defeat, is refusal of INEC to reshuffle the ad-hoc staff used for the general elections. NYSC Director in Rivers State, Mrs. Ngonzi Nwatarali, had prior to the governorship election, disclosed that only 4,500 corps members were part of the 26,000 ad-hoc staff recruited by INEC for the polls.
The candidates of APC, Dakuku Peterside; All People’s Grand Alliance, APGA, Charles Harry; and Social Democratic Party, SDP, Rev Minaibim Harry, have said the election was fraught with violence, unbridled manipulation and intimidation by PDP, INEC and security agencies.
“We insist that the purported Governorship and House of Assembly elections that held in Rivers today be cancelled in their totality and a new date set for us. We hope that INEC will enforce the rights of Rivers People to free, fair and credible elections by heeding to this clarion call,” they said.
The aggrieved candidates said the disenfranchisement of voters, intimidation, harassment and outright manipulation of already announced results at the various units were the order of the day in all parts of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local Government Area, all wards in Okrika, parts of Andoni such as Ikuru Town, Isiodum, Ward 8 in Tai LGA, Ogbakiri in Emuohua local Government Area and even in Akuku-toru and Asari Toru Local Government Areas and other parts of the state.
Similarly, the Labour Party governorship candidate, Tonye Princewill, observed that with hindsight, the outcome of the election could have been predicted long ago, but many people were fooled into thinking that things would be different, as card readers would prove to be invaluable and elections, no longer business as usual.
“It is no doubt understandable that some will celebrate this exercise, while my party and others will condemn it. But I prefer to bring to our attention the lives that were lost in this orgy of violence that was occasionally interrupted by voting. Door-to-door campaigning became door-to-door shooting. And everything, from dynamite to beheadings, became the order of the day. The number of bullets expended exceeded the number of voters. If we seek to govern in peace, we really must sanitise and demilitarise our political process. This message applies to both parties and to INEC. As I said after the presidential elections, ‘What goes around comes around.’ The person beheaded in my community was a well known member of the PDP,” said Princewill.
However, on its part, the PDP has faulted the allegation that it colluded with the Independent National Electoral Commission to rig the election in Rivers State.
PDP campaign organisation chairman, Emma Okah, said that rather than fan the embers of disunity and peddle falsehood, the All Progressives Congress should congratulate its governorship candidate who won the polls, Mr. Nyesom Wike.
Okah said it is paradoxical that whenever the PDP loses, it is all right and the process is adjudged free and fair. He said it is disheartening that PDP’s victory should be followed by spurious allegations of irregularities, fraud and calls for cancellations.
“We urge the losers to be courageous and honourable, if truly they are democrats, they should emulate our beloved President Goodluck Jonathan, who as a true statesman, has shown the way forward in sportsmanship, rather than fan the embers of disunity,” he said.
The PDP said allegations that it manipulated the electoral process in connivance with INEC are untrue and are the handiwork of losers. The party insisted that it convincingly won all the elections in Rivers State after rigorous work, campaign and manifestos acceptable to the electorate.
“The party condemns in totality these allegations intended to smear our sweet victory. We reiterate that our victory is reward for hard work. We assure our opponents that the people of Rivers State are the victors and there will be no victims, nor witch-hunting of anyone for that matter,” he said.
The conduct of the polls has elicited divergent views even among INEC accredited electoral observers. While the Independent Election Monitoring Group (IEMG) said it has documented reports of violence, intimidation of voters, disruption and carting away of voting materials; observers under the aegis of Pan African Women Project (South Africa) and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, claimed the polls was free, fair and credible.
Both PDP and APC are getting prepared for epic legal contestation of the outcome of the elections. The APC firmly believes it was robbed and vows to reclaim the peoples mandate through the court.