By Hugo Odiogor
When the returning Officer for Ika Federal constituency Dr. Godwin Awvioro, who lectures Anatomy at Delta State University Abraka ,refused to announce a false election result at gun point and went ahead to cancel the result of the April 9,2011, election into the National Assembly in Delta North, the political atmosphere became an instant target of politicians, security agencies, and the mass media which wanted to know how fake National Youth Service Corp members were used to provoke violence and massive rigging in the various polling units.
Dr. Awvioro who found himself in protective custody in Agbor became the star attraction when he surfaced at the Police Headquarters in Asaba to recount his ordeal on the election day and thereafter, in this interview.
What led to your cancelling the election?
Yes, on the day of the election, my attention was drawn to the fact that some youth corps members were protesting against the removal of their names from list of the those to take part in the conduct of the election.
They said that people who are identified as indigenes and friends of those contesting the elections were performing electoral duties.
They complained that nobody informed them that they were no longer going to take part in the election otherwise they woFake nysc members were used to rig delta north election — returning officeruld not have bothered themselves coming to the polling stations. I met the man in charge of posting the corps members, he is a man called F.I. He told me that all the people that they are using for the elections were youth corp members and no indigene was being used to conduct the election.
I went back to the office and went to contact the mobile police and I came back with four mobile police men. We met with the electoral officer for the LGA and moved round and were able to identify nine of them in a particular ward.
We took them to the police station the DPO identified them where they gave their names and telephone numbers. The Youth Corp members that were protesting were taken away, I do not know where they took them to.
At that point I thought that asking them to leave the polling stations at that time would affect the conduct of the election because it would mean having one youth corp member attending to so many people at the same time.
I then went round the various polling stations in the different wards, to conduct identity checks. We would question them, say: who are you? What are you doing here? They would not say anything.
In the process I discovered that the people who were posted to conduct the elections were friends and relations of those contesting the elections. At that point I discovered that the election was not going to be free and fair.
It was in the course of monitoring what was going on that I was told of the incident of the Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone who had challenged those fake youth corp members that he saw thumb printing the ballot papers.
He was mercilessly beaten up and seriously injured and was hospitalised. I was told that the ambassador was trying to stop them from thumb printing for a particular contestant and he was mercilessly beaten up.
Are you talking of Ambassador Godson Echiegile?
Yes, that is the man. At another point one Honourable member was at the polling booth assisting the youth corp members to do their job. I accosted him and he wanted to beat me when I told them that I had received a text message from the Chairman of INEC Professor Jega, that the the time of accreditation should be extended by one hour because of the late take off owing to delays in arrival of voting materials.
The boy didn’t agree, despite the fact that I am a returning officer until the UNDP Monitors called him to be reasonable. In fact, in the course of the argument he phoned some people who arrived in three buses, they came to attack me.
They became violent, but they noticed that I was there with the four mobile police men with me that stopped them. When it was time to announce the result the agents for the other parties objected to the result, because they said they discovered that wrong people were used to conduct the election.
Which particular political party was involved bringing in these fake corps members.
What they said at that time was that somebody called simply F.I . i don’t know the meaning of F.I was the one bringing the corps members. When we tried to contact this F.I the Police and I looked for him everywhere, but we could not find him. I met the Electoral Officer in the area who told me that she resumed work three days before the election hence she did not know anybody by that name.
Could this the same person identified by Ambassador Echiegile as Ifeanyi Eboigbe, and one of those that attacked him at Owa Oyibu?
I don’t know but some people pulled a gun at me when they said I should sign the result they had prepared, I refused but the result was not on INEC paper anyway, it was on a piece of paper. They brought cameras and handsets to record what I would announce.
Coincidentally, this afternoon (Wednesday), he came to the police station for a different crime, and as I was passing through the corridor, I saw him, I looked at him very well to be sure that he was the one, he wanted to hid his face but I was able to recognise him and I pointed him out to the officer in charge of Anti Kidnap, who picked him up.
Perhaps he was also mentioned in the statement made by Ambassador Echiegile, as one of those who beat him up and inflicted serious injuries on him.
Where is he now?
He is at the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police in fact I saw him there.
When you refused to announce the result what followed?
Initially I refused, one of them came and said they had taken my mother hostage. I asked what my mother had got to do with elections.
Then when I looked behind I saw that someone was pointing a gun at me, I said that since we were at the Police station , they would not shoot but when I looked round I noticed that the Mobile police men near us were not even aware of what was going on, at that point the most reasonable thing to do was to grant their request to read what they had written on a piece of paper, but before then I had announced that the result for Ika Federal constituency lacked credibility and that still stands because I quickly informed the Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Gabriel Ada and the INCE Chairman, Professor Jega and that decision still stands because there is no official result from Ika Federal Constituency.
Under the 2010 electoral Act are you supposed to announce the election result at the police station?
What I did there was to save my life. At that point I had to comply with what they wanted
Why did the Police detain you?
No, I was not detained by the Police. What happened was when I ran to the police station, the parties called their members to tell them that I was going to make the announcement about the result. So, many of them came; when I entered the police station they followed me; and insisted that I must come out. One of them insisted that the INEC papers with me should be brought out, but I said the papers were not with me.
Actually, the papers were kept officially with the police for security reasons, I pretended that I did not have the papers. What the DPO did was to keep me in the cell because that was the safest place for me at that time, so I wasn’t detained.
How come that the returning officer for the Senate Prof Ebele Egunyenga did not observe all these malpractices you have mentioned? Does it mean that the senate election was not affect?
Certainly, it will affect the Senate election because it was the same accreditation process and once something goes wrong at one point it is bound to go through the whole hog.
The same thumb printing was being done to favour a particular candidate and political party. As for the returning officer she may not have had the same privilege of seeing for herself what was happening at the police stations, but she might have been told and she did not want to take the risk of trying to endanger her life, secondly she has the whole of the nine local government to cover while I covered only two of the nine local government: Ika North East and Ika south.
We are in a difficult position now because PDP has been declared to have won the Senate election where does your testimony come in?
I don’t know, I only want to world to know want transpired on the election day, somebody may decide to go to court, I don’t know
Have you reported your experience to INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner of to Prof. Jega?
Yes, I reported to the REC, Dr. Gabriel Ada on why I did not announce the result of the Ika Federal Constituency and said the election should be cancelled for a fresh one to be conducted. He was not happy with my decision to call for a fresh election but I was convinced that the elections were not free fair and credible. I will be in Abuja on Wednesday to see the INEC chairman and I know that Members of local chapter of ASUU in Abraka want to know what happened.
Some people will say you are not happy because the party you favoured did not win.
I am not a card carrying member of any of the political parties, I only know the parties and read about their candidates on the pages of newspapers. When I was selected for this assignment, I told myself that the most I could offer this country was to uphold integrity, I was offered five million by one of the political parties which I turned down because when I was nominated for this assignment I said to myself that the best I could give to the country was to do the job with sincerity and integrity.