By Nwangwu Uba
Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and his National Electoral Commissioners, have questions to answer why it is taking them too long to conclude the final Collation and announcement of the governorship and state Assembly election conducted in the oil rich Rivers state on Saturday , March 9, 2019.
Virtually all the states of the Federation, including Bauchi, Benue, Plateau , Kano and Sokoto states , where Supplementary elections were held on Saturday, March 23, 2019 and Adamawa, which had its Supplementary on Thursday, March 28, 2019, had already known their governor elects but Rivers state case was still hanging.
Yakubu, the INEC Chairman and his officials have been going front and back , setting unrealisable targets for final Collation and announcement of the result. From Suspension of the announcement of the result on Sunday, March 10, 2019, suspension of the announcement on the excuse of disruption of the process by Security operatives who had plotted to hijack the ballot boxes to Monday, March 11, 2019, it has turned to a waiting game
The question on the lips of people is: What is so special about the Rivers state election that a new timetable has to be released for the Collation and announcement of the result to be finalised?. Another question begging the question is: what is the guarantee that the Commission, would stick to the time table without cooking up another excuse of the matter being in Court to extend the timetable to a future date? .
Political watchers believe that there are people beating the drum in Abuja for INEC and the security agencies operatives to follow. Accusing fingers are being pointed at President Muhammadu Buhari, of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, who won his re-election bid and Adadams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state and National Chairman of the party. The duo refusal to speak out on the Rivers state election controversy had given people the impression that they supported what is happening in the state to forestal Nyesom Wike, the People’s Democratic governor of the state from being re0elected to occupy the Brick House. government House in the state.
The arrowhead of the plot, Felix Obuah, the Chairman of PDP in the state had said was Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and minister of Transportation, who served as APC, Presidential Council Campaign Council, PCO.
Amaechi may have given room for people to believe that that APC , are behind the crisis in the state with the alleged tacit support given to Awara Biokpomabo , governorship Candidate of African Action Congress, AAC, which be treated as a case of ant-party activities but it was over looked by the party leadership , an indication that they support his actions in Rivers state to ensure that Wike did not return to Brick House, on May 29, 2019.
Biokpomabo, may have been emboldened to challenge the Rivers state gubernatorial election in Court with the backing of Amaechi who has the ear of the party leadership and the Presidency inAbuja.Oshiomhole may have issued a disclaimer, when he said, the ”APC, IS NOT supporting any political party in Rivers state”. An angry APC Chairman said, he was not ”aware of the endorsement of any governorship Candidate in the state since party did not participate in the eercise. Tonye Ole, a lagos basedmulti-millionaire oil Petroleum Products dealer, who owns two major tank farms in Lagos, was supposed to be the governorship Candidate of the party but was stopped by the Supreme Court, which gave gave judgment in a case brought against his emergence as the party Candidate by Magnus Abe, a former political ally of Amaechi and a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many believe that he may not be giving the correct information, as Biokpomabo, the AAC, Candidate, still see himself as governor in waiting in the state.
Given the apprehension of people of the state over the continued delay in the release of the remaining governorship election result and the fear that it may be manipulated, , INEC, may have been forced to come out with a timetable that that would facilitate the release.
As part of the timetable, the Commission Chairman and his key officials had earlier met on with Ibrahim Abubakar Adamu, acting Inspector General of Police, IGP, Magaji Binchi, Director General, Department of State Secuty, DSS, Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, CAS, and the leadership of other security Agencies to seek their support for the smooth conclusion of the electoral process in the state at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Going by the time table released by INEC, for the conclusion of the electoral process , in the Niger Delta state, it also met with the stakeholders in the state to solicit their support to accept the outcome of the election without fomenting trouble in the state.
The Value News learnt that the decisions reached at the meetings with the Head of the various security Agencies and the stakeholders would guide the Electoral Umpire on the next step to take to facilitate the release of the result. A s a prelude to the coverage of the collation and announcement of the result , the Commission has set Sunday, March 31, 2019, for revalidation of party Agents , local and international observers. This is to avoid rushing on the day of collation and announcement of the result.
It was gathered that Yakubu, the INEC Chairman and his National Commissioners ha d set Monday, April 1, 2019, for the issuance of new guidelines for resumption for collation of the governorship and state Assembly election results in the state.
Prior to the suspension of the Collation and announcement of the results on Sunday, March 10, 2019, due to the apparent confusion created by the soldiers and policemen deployed to guard the Collation centre sevix local governt Areas result had been announced , with Nyesom Wike , of the ruling PDP, in the state leading the park.
The Commission is optimistic that the timetable released for the conclusion of the electoral process in state would be religiously followed to facilitate the resumption of the exercise at the Collation centre in PortHarcourt, the venue that was said to have been unanimously agreed with the stakeholders at their March 30th meeting in the oil city between Tuesday, April 2 and Friday, April 5th, 2019.
The perpetrators of the electoral crisis in the state may have won the heart of INEC officials, with their complaints that there was massive rigging during the conduct of the elections in some locations that that the Commission has set April 13th, 2019, for Supplementary election where necessary Political Observers believe that INEC and DSS, officials are working closely together to frustrate the will of the people.
The Commission may have known the implication of manipulating the will of the people that after reviewing the situation that led to the suspension of the Collation and announcement of the result in the state had said there was ”no basis for the action taken and thus shifted the announcement to Wednesday March, 20th, 2019. That was how far it could go.
The DSS, may not want to be linked to the crisis in Rivers state which had delayed the announcement of the state governorship result. In apparent reaction to the allegations being leveled against the Agency by critics of having a hand to the crisis, Peter Afunanya, the DSS , Public Relations Officer , on Friday, March 28, 2019, issued a Statement, exonerating the Service from the problem in the state. Afunanya disclosed that the” service was working according to the” law and will” never worked against INEC as it has be alleged” He insists that ”as a professional agency , it will continue to adhere to the principles of Justice and fairness”. The DSS Spokesperson may have assured the people of the state that they have no cause to worry as the service would continue to partner with other security agencies and stakeholders to ensure a level playing ground for all the contestants.
The DSS Image maker could beat his chest that there would been any problem that would forestall the Collation and announcement of the result this time around because of the assurance by the Heads of the various security agencies at the Tuesday, March 19, 2019, meeting that officers who would be deployed to the state to oversee the final Collation and announcement of the result would be ”apolitical ”. They were said to have assured the INEC officials that they would conduct themselves as true professionals to facilitate the conclusion of the electoral process.
Note that the Commission had earlier promised that between April 2nd and 5th, 2019, everything concerning the governorship and state Assembly election in Rivers state would be a foregone conclusion. Again, Yakubu and his National Commissioners, based on security reports, may have realised that this is not feasible as it was extended to another date . Yakubu, the INEC, Chairman , who is taking the heat, has said that latest by April, 19, 2019, the governorship and State Constituencies result would be announced .
Many believe that that if the Commission could be to the April 13th and 15th, 2019, for the final Collation of Constituency results in various locations, there would never be any obstacle in releasing the governorship result, which Wike, PDP, governorship Candidate believes , he will win, because of the widespread support of the party in the state.