By Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Desperation to win elections in Nigeria is not in decline one bit. After the gracefulness of accepting defeat without a whimper by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan last year, one thought that politicians would take a cue and begin to take it easy with trying to win elections by all means, the do or die syndrome.

My hope was buoyed by the ANTI-CORRUPTION credentials of President Muhammadu Buhari, his personal experience of the malady and the belief that electoral malpractice would decline in a regime that preaches discipline and anti corruption. But as can be seen, old habits die hard.

Last December at the governorship elections held in Bayelsa, South-South Nigeria, the desperation to win was evident. Governor Seriake Dickson of Peoples Democratic Party had won in Six out of the seven local government Areas of the State. He won in Yenagoa, Sagbama, Ekremor,Brass, Ogbia and Nembe. Then Southern Ijaw Local Government Area became the epicenter as elections were held in the middle of the night with candles.

Ballot boxes were snatched and delivered by militants to the collating centre. There was violence resulting in injuries and death. With a voter register containing over 120, 000 voters, the oppositionparty in the state, All Progressives Congress, was hoping to upset the cat. They hoped to use the votes from one local government to offset their losses in six other local government areas. It was preposterous.

But thanks be to God that good sense eventually prevailed. While the Returning officer wanted to go ahead to announce the results from Southern Ijaw, the Resident electoral Commissioner refused and decided to cancel the election in Southern Ijaw. That saved what would have been a major calamity in Bayelsa State with Southern Ijaw as the epicenter . When the rerun was held on January 9, this year in the day time and with everybody watching, APC pooled 10216 votes as against PDP’s 23081, giving Seriake Dickson overal scores of 134,998 votes to beat Timipre Sylva who had a total of 86857 with a margin of over 48000 votes.

I believe we need to commend INEC for doing its overall best to be an impartial judge in that election, despite the apparent compromise of some its staff. Had they succumbed to the partisan pressures, the story would have been a bad one to tell.

This past weekend another electoral abracadabra took place in the Bende local Government area, in Abia State in the South East Region of Nigeria. The PDP’s candidate for the Abia North senatorial district won the election held in March last year beating the APGA and PPA candidates to the 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. The losers were not satisfied and so they went to the Tribunal. The Tribunal confirmed the INEC’s result, affirming Senator Mao of PDP as duly elected. Still dissatisfied, APGA and PPA went to the Appeal Court.

The court in its wisdom decided to cancel the entire election, notwithstanding that the litigants were actually only disputing the elections in two local government areas, and asked for a rerun. The PPA candidate who is a past Governor of Abia State, and one time aspirant to the Presidency of FIFA and who owns two newspapers raised the ante on the election.

He raised a senatorial election in only one district in only one State of Nigeria to an international event. All the Igbo in the United States and UK, including those in China were said to have endorsed him for the elections. He claimed that Ohaneze Ndigbo endorsed him and indeed all the political parties in Abia and many more had chosen him as their candidate.

Every day, he had a page in his newspapers to attack and impugn his opponents. One day one of his newspapers reported that the APGA candidate had been disqualified by INEC from participating in the rerun. It took a vigorous appearance of the APGA candidate – Bourdex on several TV stations to debunk the false stories, just as Ohaneze Ndigbo and some other respectable organizations whose names had been dragged into this desperate bid to return to Political relevance, did, distancing themselves.

What desperation! On Saturday, 5th March, the electorate in Abia North went to re elect their Senator. As at the close of voting, results from the primary results from pooling booths showed that the PDP candidate had won in all the five local government Areas that make up the senatorial district. Indeed the report indicated that PDP won even in the two wards in Igbere, the hometown of the PPA candidate- Chief Orji Kalu.

Apparently Orji and his party sensed danger and saw defeat facing them in the face, despite all that they had done and the desperation increased.

As the results were being collated in the district headquarters – Ohafia, everybody was surprised when the INEC LGA collation officer who had disappeared for over five hours arrived with a bloated result sheet from Orji’s Local government Area- Bende. PPA was said to have won 14300 votes!

Unlike in Bayelsa,the INEC officials accepted this bloated figure that did not match the primary figures gladly. Thus PPA was said to have scored very high votes in only one local Government area- Bende with intent to offset all their losses in the other four local Government areas- Arochukwu, Ohafia, Isuikwuato and Ummunneochi. 14300 votes in Bende alone while they had 3599 in Arochukwu, 3733 votes in Ohafia, 2304 votes in Isiukwuato, and 1878 votes in Umunneochi.

The claimed votes in Bende was not only out of sync but was higher that the total of their votes from the other four LGAs. Preposterous!

With no INEC official apparently ready to act to stop the injustice from Bende, our Almighty God stepped in, disappointing PPA and its candidate. So despite the manifest over loading of the Bende votes, PDP still won with overall 26009 votes and Senator Mao is on his way back to the Senate as the popular and authentic choice of the electorate in Abia North. To God be all the glory!!

Sam writes from Abia


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