Rivers Governorship Election: INEC In a Horn Of Dilemma

By Stephen Ubanna

The last may not  have been heard about the March 9, 2019, , governorship and states House of Assembly election conducted in the oil rich Rivers sate by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

This is because the Commission which had earlier promised to complete the electoral process in the state on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, appear to be in a horn of dilemma  to continue the collation process  that would facilitate the announcement of the  result   to know the next occupant of the Brick House  which is the name the government House, in  Port Harcourt, the state Capital is known.

2. Rotimi Amaechi: Dragging the Hand Of The Clock Back In Rivers State

 Political watchers fear that Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and National Chairman, of the Commission and his National Commissioners  including the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state may be acting out a script to frustrate Nyesom Wike, the incumbent governor of the state who had contested the election  on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from being announced the winner of the election despite clear indications  to that effect.

Recall that  security operatives had provided the enabling environment for  INEC, to suspend the collation and announcement of the results on the eve of  Sunday, March 10, 2019, with a promise to resume on Monday, March 11, 2019. It turned out to be an empty promise that was not meant to be fulfilled.

 The leadership of the PDP in the state , according to party sources are not sitting by to  watch Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and minister of Transportation  and other  Chieftains of the state who are out to  manipulate the election to have their way. The party had accused the APC Chieftains in state of  ”spreading false hood regarding  the conduct of the election in the state, to force INEC , to declare it as inconclusive in order to give room for the conduct of a supplementary election  alongside Adamawa, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

.An aggrieved Felix Obuah, the PDP , Chairman, in the state, who is not happy  that   Amaechi , the minister of Transportation and President Muhammadu Buhari , political ally,  is using some APC Chieftains in the state  to ”work against  the will of the people” with his cohorts at Abuja and thus,  has vowed to resist their plot.

Appealing to the minister’s hangers on  who had thrown away  the ”overriding  interest of the  Rivers people   just to line their pockets with free cash” to have a rethink, and side with  the people of the state,  he insists that the people will resist any attempt to manipulate  the mandate freely given to Wike, for another 4-year term in office.

 Obuah disclosed  that the six elders of the  state who signed  the” bribe -induced Statement against the governor  to scuttle the will of the people of the state  on March 9, 2019, are known ”card carrying members of the APC”. He disclosed that they are  confirmed members  of the  minister’s anti-Rivers team in Abuja.

According  to him, the petitioners were politicians   who are on the  payroll of the minister , described as the godfather of the APC, in the state engaged by him    to spread falsehood  on the electoral process  in the state.  The  Rivers state born politician  may have   chosen to sabotage Wike’s re-election bid as his initial plan to impose Tonye Cole , a Lagos based businessman, as the governorship Candidate , of the APC , in the state failed to materialise   as the Supreme Court ruled against it in an ex parte motion brought against it by Magnus Abe, and 22 other aggrieved members of the party in the state.

It was gathered that as part of the minister’s spoilers role, he had mobilised the party members at the first instance to support  Awara  Biokpmabo,   the governorship Candidate  of the African Action Congress,  AAC, floated by  Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters Online based in NewYork, United States, US, in the March 9,  2019, election in the state.

Given the fact  that  the  AAC Candidate, may not have made any appreciable impact in the  election, Amaechi,  may have resorted to plan B, to create  total confusion  to force INEC to suspend the  collation and announcement of the result. He got it right and the Commission bowed to his antics. The Commission discovered after reviewing  the situation found there was no basis for  the suspension of the collation and announcement of the result  that it shifted it to Wednesday, March 20, 2019. The Commission may have known that the electoral process would   be disrupted again if there is no proper security arrangement. This is because of the minister’s strong connection to the  various security Agencies in the country.

Perhaps, to cover  all loopholes that might be exploited by the trouble shooters in the state, to disrupt  the collation and announcement of the result this time around, Yakubu, the INEC boss , had extracted a promise from the Heads of the various Security Agencies at their  inter-agency security meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 to ensure that their officers  who would be deployed to the state for the exercise remain  neutral  and conduct themselves as professionals.

 Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner and the Commission Spokes person , also disclosed   that in the search  for a lasting peace in the collation and announcement of the governorship and the remaining six Constituencies  state Assembly results, the Commission met with the stakeholders  , where they  had agreed that Port Harcourt , the state capital should be used as the Collation centre and announcement of the results.   Based on the assurance from the respective Heads of the Security Agencies  and the Stakeholders,  the Commission  had said that between April 2nd and 5th, 2019, everything about the governorship and state Assembly  election  in the Rivers state  should be concluded.

 Prior to the  soldiers intervention to disrupt the Collation and announcement of the result in the state, Wike, the PDP, Candidate was already leading in the 17 local Areas , which  result has been released. There are indications that he will  also win the remaining six local government Areas , yet to  be declared because of the believe in political circles that there is only one party in Rivers state: PDP, as the other parties were described as” birds of passage” including the  Amaechi  controlled APC ,  in the state.

There are fears that what is laying out at Bauchi state may repeat itself  in the state. In Bauchi state,  Mohammed Abubakar, the incumbent  governor who has the mandate of the Katsina state born Nigerian President had gone to Court to stop the Commission from going ahead with the conduct of the Supplementary election in the Tafawa Balewa  local government  and other affected  areas  in the state on Saturday, March 23, 2019. The governor may have gone to Court   to forestall  the Collation and the announcement of the result which may likely produce Bala Mohammed, the PDP  Candidate and  a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, as the next governor of the state. The Commission had used the lead margin principle to declare the election in the state inconclusive.  The signal from the state shows that the Amaechi, the arrowhead of the plot to torpedo  the governorship and state Assembly  election in the state and his team are not yet done with  Wike and PDP in the state..    

 Already,  there are fears of a prolonged legal battle that may delay the Collation and announcement of the result going by the ruling on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, on the ex parte  motion filed  by the Counsel to the Aggrieved AAC , Candidate, at the instance of Amaechi, the minister of Transportation asking the Court  to prevent INEC , from resuming  collation and announcement of the results.

The good news was that  Justice Inyang Ekwo, was said to have refused  to grant the  order . The AAC, governorship Candidate ,  however, have heaved a sigh of relief when he was  asked   by the Court  to put  the Commission on notice to show why  the order should be granted.

This may have forced  Biokpmabo, the AAC , governorship Candidate, and his legal team  including his undercover supporters in APC, both at the state and Federal  level to go back to the drawing board to fine-tune  their  legal document to put INEC on notice on notice on why the INEC, should stop the collation and announcement of the Rivers result. do as directed by the Court.

Indeed, not many people are surprised at what is playing out in the state.  Note that Amaechi, started playing the drum of war in the state during the electioneering Campaign  when Buhari,  was in the state to canvas for votes and the present the party Candidates for the National Assembly to the electorate.  He had watched him  but that was how far he could. It is not surprising why people are not moved that he has not said anything about what is happening  in Rivers state, barely two weeks after the conduct of the governorship and states Assembly election.

Many believe that he kept away from the conflict in the state being roped in the  crisis but allow INEC and the Court to do their job. The question on the lips of most people is: Why do Amaechi and his cohorts in APC want to take over control of Rivers state from PDP by force?.  They  believe  that the huge budgetary allocations and share of the 13 percent derivation coming to the state as an oil producing state may be the bone of contention as the minister is desperate to install a stooge as governor of the state.

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