Election: INEC Throws PDP In Disarray In Rivers state

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

Barely 36 hours after the close of the March 9, 2019,  governorship and states Assembly election in 29 states of the Federation, Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has suspended the electoral process in Rivers state.  Nyesom Wike, the People’s Democratic  governor of the state who is seeking re-election and the party leadership may have played into the hand of  the leadership of the Commission.

Unknown to them the Commission officials and the security operatives deployed to monitor the election may have watched what was going on  in the state without challenging anybody to avoid disrupting the electoral process. They were said to sent their reports to INEC. Note that Wike, had described the election in the state as very peaceful . He was said to have told those that cares to listen that PDP will” win the election very well” .

Signs that there was problem with the conduct of the election in the state emerged  when the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in the state suspended the Collation of results from the local government Areas in the state. The INEC REC, had given the impression that that they would reopen the Collation centre by 9 a.m on Monday, March 11, 2019.  The  REC, may taken the decision to douse tension in the state.  closure of the collation centre was at the instance of Yakubu, the INEC, Chairman, because of reports of widespread allegations of disruption of the elections , which Wike the state governor had described as very peaceful.

Given an insider information, Festus Okoye, a Lawyer and National Commissioner  disclosed that the decision was taken because there has been reports of widespread disruption of the governorship and states Assembly election conducted in the state on March9, 2019.

In a Statement released by Okoye, the Commission Spokesperson, the initial  reports had suggested  that ”violence occurred  occurred  in a substantial  number of polling units  and Collation centres  in the state”. According to him, a number of the Commission Staff were taken hostage and electoral materials including result sheets  were either seized  or destroyed by hoodlums. He disclosed that the electoral umpire has  no option but to suspend the electoral process in the state because the life of the Staff were in danger.

Nyesom Wike: Governor Of Rivers state, On A High Jump

In taking the decision , INEC officials at the instance of Yakubu, the Chairman, were said to have an emergency meeting on the conduct of the Rivers state election  on Saturday, March 10, 2019, where they decided to suspend   to suspend  all electoral processes in the state until further notice. Okoye, the Commission Spokes person said the decision was in line  with section 26 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended and Clause 47 of the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission.

Aware that the decision may trigger off a major crisis in the state,  Yakubu, the INEC  boss was said to have set up a fact finding Committee to assess the situation the state and report back to the Commission within 48 hours. The report of the Committee, according to sources may determine whether the governorship and state Assembly election would be cancelled or only the affected local governments would be cancelled. and the election rescheduled. Appealing to the people of the state to be calm and for their understanding, the tough talking Yakubu, assured that the Commission will surely look into  the ”circumstances  of the alleged disruptions  of the election and what further action to be taken.

Efforts to speak to speak to Felix Obuah, the PDP Chairman in the state and Emma Okah, the state Commissioner of Information did not materialise. It was learnt that the Wike, the state governor and the party officials quickly went into closed door meeting when the INEC made the decision public.

While PDP  supporters in the state wore gloomy look on hearing the news,  Supporters of Lulu Briggs, the Social Democratic Party, SDP, governorship Candidate and those of his counterpart in the Labour party are jubilating over the INEC decision. The APC Camp in the state  were not left out  in celebrating the INEC decision. They have every reason to mock Wike, the PDP Candidate, who be coasting home victory in the governorship because he had mocked the party for not fielding a governorship Candidate during the election.

Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and minister of Transportation had backed Tonye Cole, a  Lagos based oil magnate  to be the party governorship Candidate bu Magnus Abe, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, who many believes won the party primaries rejected the Amaechi, the APC leader in the state. The case was dragged on to the Supreme Court and the duo were stopped from contesting the election, forcing INEC , to remove Cole, which was originally on its list from contesting the election.

There are fears that President Muhammadu Buhari might be forced to declare a state of Emergency in the state which  may force him to appoint a Military Administrator to  take over control of the state on the expiration of the current governor of the state until INEC was ready to organise a fresh  election to elect a substantive governor and members of the state House of Assembly

Recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had declared a state of emergency in Plateau and Ekiti states during his tenure where he appointed Military Administrators to oversee the two state.

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