By Emmanuel Umohinyang

THOUGH the 2019 general elections may have come and gone, history would no doubt record the exercise as a peculiar one. This may not be unconnected with the negatives that overshadowed the intent of the elections nationwide. Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had given the world assurances that the election would be free, fair and credible.

Obong Victor Attah (Author) , and Udom Emmanuel Governor Akwa Ibom State ( (right), during the presentation of Obong Victor Attah’s book ‘It Is Well with my Soul’ at Shehu Musa Yar ‘ dua Centre Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 20/11/2018

This was aside from the chest-thumping by the electoral body that it was ready for the elections as scheduled. Indeed, nobody had cause to doubt INEC in view of the fact that the nation was conducting its most expensive election in history. Even INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, told the world that the commission had enough funds to undertake the poll.

Alas, the world was taken by surprise when INEC announced that it had postponed the presidential election scheduled to hold February 16 to February 23. Curiously, the announcement was made long after Nigerians had gone to bed with the hope of exercising their franchise the next day. This was no doubt due to the fact that Nigerians had put their hope in an electoral umpire in dire need of help. Even President Muhammadu Buhari who had landed in his home town of Daura to vote was peeved by the development, as he assured the nation that a probe would be launched into the incident after the polls.

Two weeks after, when the presidential election held, INEC’s inefficiency was again laid bare before the world. From Lagos to Kano, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ondo and many more, it was complaints galore over different impediments arising from faulty card reader machines to poor voters turnout, the late arrival of materials and many more.

When the governorship election eventually held, things went from bad to worse across the states. On the said date, INEC ad-hoc staff staged an early morning strike to protest non-payment of their allowances among others, leading to late take off of the polls. In Akwa Ibom State, apathy was a major tool deployed by the people to express a vote of no confidence on the electoral body. It was also their way of protesting the perceived partiality of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr Mike Igini, in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state.

In fact, the All Progressives Congress, APC, had months before told the world that it was uncomfortable with Igini superintending over elections in the state. This was to no avail as the electoral body’s hierarchy in Abuja looked the other way despite this glaring injustice.

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Even when the APC chairman in the state, Mr Ini Okopido, raised a weighty allegation in a petition that Igini told him in a telephone conversation that his party will never win in the state, this was never investigated. In other climes, a thorough investigation of such petition would have been carried out, but mum was the word from the Mahmud Yakubu-led INEC.

Even when other political parties under the aegis of the forum all registered political parties in Akwa Ibom State through their chairman, Kingsley Akaiso, corroborated the APC chairman’s claims, INEC refused to budge. Akaiso, who is also the chairman of Fresh Party, said: “In the political process in the state, INEC has portrayed unbridled partisanship through the selection of its ad-hoc staff, some of whom are drawn from the employees of the commission, contrary to extant practices and institutions requirement.

“Through connivance with the state government, all the ad-hoc staff of the commission is made up of loyal members and supporters of PDP. In addition, the commission has acted as though it were part of the Government House, Uyo. In spite of our representations to the head office of the commission in Abuja, nothing has been done to allay our concern that INEC office in Akwa Ibom State is not a fair umpire and cannot deliver a free, fair and transparent election because it is partisan and in bed with the ruling PDP government in the state. This anarchy must be looked into”.

With the pictures painted it was, therefore, unsurprising that Akwa Ibom state recorded the least voter turnout in her recent history as only about 600,000 turned out to vote despite the fact that no fewer than two million PVCs were collected. Worse perhaps was the fact that despite widespread cases of faulty card reader machines in the state, manual voting was the order of the day. This was contrary to assurances by INEC that nobody would be allowed to vote if not captured by the card reader.

No doubt, this gave INEC in the state a window to partner with its allies in the PDP to seize the moment by using the opportunity to their advantage. Even after the election, there are panicky measures being employed to cover the tracks in order not to further expose the charade that played out during the elections in the state.

This is the least anyone would expect in view of the fact that APC was declared a winner at several collation centres, with such eventually changing in favour of PDP, even as electoral officers of such places were suspended, including that of Ikot Abasi, for no just cause.

Even in Obot Akara, the homestead of former Akwa Ibom deputy governor, Chris Ekpeyong, where elections could not hold, results of a non-existent election were declared.

Most annoying was the vituperation of former Prelate of the Methodist Church, Nigeria, Rev. Sunday Mbang, who used to stand up for what is right and just in the past, but is now uttering the unexpected in the circumstance.

However, the beauty of it all is that the APC in the state has not embraced violence in any form as a way of fighting the carefully scripted fraud in the name of election. That it has toed the constitutional option in its attempts to right the wrongs as provided for in our Constitution is a welcome development. This it must continue to do since whatever has been stolen from the people by the way of their mandate can still be retrieved using the instrumentality of the law.

The APC, nay the people of Akwa Ibom State must, therefore, rise to the occasion by seizing the opportunity to retrieve their mandate through legal means instead of resorting to any form of violence. Like the famous Poet, Ngugi Wa Thiongo wrote in one of his poems, “the raving clouds shall not belong. They shall not belong victorious”.

Umohinyang, a social commentator and political analyst, wrote in from Lagos.


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