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Revisiting Issues In Rivers Gov’ship Poll

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The Rivers governorship election has come and gone but inherent issues will remain for some time to come, BODE GBADEBO writes.

The March 9 governorship election in Rivers State took more time to be concluded than any other state where the exercise took place in the country.

In Rivers, the governorship poll was characterised by irregularities, voters’ intimidation, killings and violence.

In fact, only six out of the 31 states where the governorship election took place resulted into an inconclusive election while the exercise in Rivers was suspended over violence.

Interestingly, the exercise in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states, where the election was declared inconclusive, was concluded ahead of Rivers even though the governorship election wasn’t inconclusive but for the ochestrated violence and other vested interests.

Despite the above bizarre scenario, Rivers governorship election was eventually decided on April 3 after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came out with a new schedule on March 27 to conlcude the lingering election but the dust or questions raised are yet to settle or answered as the case may be and the questions are now begging for answers.

The evidence of participation in a process, school, election or professional course is often a certificate. In the specific case of an election, the proof of victory is the Certificate of Return issued to the winner of the election.

So, for those who watched the high political melodrama that recently happened in the state, that was claimed to have ended on April 3, 2019, with the declaration of incumbent Governor Wike as the winner, nothing underscores what happened as a drama and premeditated scheme more than the Certificate of Return issued to the governor and others.

Stakeholders in the state have expressed worry over the certificates issued to Wike and others declared winners of the elections, as they were dated March 14, 2019, more than two weeks before the completion of the exercise.

Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and candidate of the African Action Congres (AAC), Biokpomabo Awara were the front-runners in the race.

So, how could the electoral commission predate the Certificates of Return as March 14 is certainly not a puzzle to many stakeholders and observers, who wondered at the efforts by INEC to work towards the answer of its original plot.

Some may have wondered at the fixation of the commission in ensuring the return of Wike as governor of Rivers State and the effrontery in pre-dating a certificate of return to award him even before the conclusion of the election!

Some have actually asked whether the chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was aware of this duplicitous act that tended to summarise the serial partisanship of the commission and its officials operating in Rivers state.

Of course, the gaffe over the certificate of return may have opened the eyes of sceptics to the dishonesty that characterised the elections, but it may have been the simplest of the attacks on the people of Rivers State during the election.

The singular act of predating the Certificates of Return may have only been unwittingly done to expose the fraud that occurred.There were far more surreptitious incidents that occurred before and during the election.

AAC and All Progressives Congress (APC) members are of the opinion that the governorship election in Rivers and the other elections that took place in the state were characterised by some of the most bizarre manipulations that occurred in the country with officials of INEC at the state and federal levels clearly allegedly acting as collaborators with the governors.

The alleged recruitment of card-carrying members of the PDP as electoral officers was about another clearly shown act of partisanship. When this was revealed to the embarrassment of INEC, a promise was made to replace the PDP members with non-partisan officials.

APC members also wondered how INEC in Abuja allegedlyremoved the APC candidates’ names from their list even before they were required to do so. The commission, they alleged obeyed orders they were not party to and ignored the ones they were party to in anticipation of a Supreme Court order that would finally nail APC.

“The commission also ignored numerous complaints and petitions by the opposition and carried out the collation of the governorship and state constituency elections in secret and announced bogus results contrary to already announced results without a care in the world.

“Where did they get the new result sheets one may ask? They even disregarded obvious violence and announced results wherever it suited them,” APC member, Dagogo Aruma said.

Meanwhile, the state chapter of the PDP has dismissed all alegations with the wave of a hand, describing them as ranting of a bad loser.

For whatever it is worth, INEC also needs to come clean on the allegation of predating the Certificate of Return issued to Governor Wike and other winners in the state in order to set the record straight and avoid a dangerous perception capable of eroding the integrity of the commision in future exercise.

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