By Onye Imman
THE evidence of participation in a process, school, election or professional course is often a certificate. In the specific case of an election, the proof of victory is the certificate of return issued to the winner of an election.
So, for those who watched the recent high political contest in Rivers State which supposedly ended on April 3, 2019, with the declaration of Nyesom Wike as the winner, nothing demonstrates what happened as a drama more than the certificate. The certificate issued to Wike and others so declared as winners of the controversial election was dated March 14, 2019!
The election which started on March 9 was deferred the following day, March 10 after it appeared that the candidate of the African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara, was in the lead in several state constituencies.
On March 27, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced a new timetable for the conclusion of the election, saying it would be concluded between April 3 and 5. So, how the commission predated the certificates of return on March 14 is certainly not a puzzle to many stakeholders and observers who wondered at the efforts by the commission to work towards the answer of its original plot.
Some may have wondered at the fixation of the commission in ensuring the return of Wike as governor of Rivers State and the effrontery in pre-dating a certificate of return to award him even before the conclusion of the election! Some have actually asked whether the chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was aware of this duplicitous act that tended to summarise the serial partisanship of the commission and its officials operating in Rivers State.
Indeed, word has been made of the close relationship between Wike and Yakubu when the governor was supervising minister of education when he had oversight over Yakubu who at that time was also the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Fund, TETFUND. If the two of them worked well together, even as buddies, the expectation was not that they would take their relationship to sabotage the collective interest of the people of Rivers State as was clearly manifested during the last general election in the state.
Of course, the gaffe over the certificate of return may have opened the eyes of sceptics to the dishonesty that characterized the general election, but it may have been the simplest of the brutal attacks on the people of Rivers State during the election.
The foolishness of predating the Certificates of Return may have only been unwittingly done to expose the fraud that occurred. There were far more surreptitious incidents that occurred before and during the election.
Many will recall the threats against Atiku Abubakar and the distress that permeated through the PDP after Wike and his aides stormed out of the convention ground when it emerged that his choice for the presidential ticket did not win.
That behaviour goes to underscore the willingness and capacity of the governor to undercut any political process that does not favour him. That behaviour was first seen in 2015 when he allegely sabotaged the established zoning pattern for the governorship of Rivers State. Pray, at what cost would a man put his political goals.
The governorship election in Rivers State and the other elections that took place in the state were characterised by some of the most bizarre manipulations that occurred in the country with officials of INEC at the state and federal levels clearly acting as collaborators with Wike. The recruitment of card-carrying PDP members as election officers was about another clearly shown act of partisanship. When this was revealed to the embarrassment of INEC, a promise was made to replace the PDP chieftains with non-partisan persons.
However, despite entreaties the Resident Electoral Officer for whatever reasons failed to act on the issue after initially promising to do so. Even more bizarrely, he went on to accept outrageous results returned by the PDP election officers.
If the State INEC was partisan, the clear lead of the national officers was undoubtedly an encouragement to them. How did the commission at the federal level show bias? INEC in Abuja removed the APC candidates’ names from their list even before they were required to do so. The commission obeyed orders they were not party to and ignored the ones they were party to in anticipation of a Supreme Court order that would finally nail APC.
The commission also ignored numerous complaints and petitions by the opposition and carried out the collation of the governorship and state constituency elections in secret and announced bogus results contrary to already announced results without a care in the world. Where did they get the new result sheets, one may ask? They even disregarded obvious violence and announced results wherever it suited them.
The actions of INEC in the last general election in Rivers State may have appeared as a horror movie to stakeholders who had watched the governor from afar, but as they went away, it came as stranger than fiction.
What is of concern to several other stakeholders was the desperation of INEC in Abuja and Port-Harcourt to partner with Wike in denying the people of the state their right to choose who should govern them.
Many stakeholders, of course, know that the conspiracy was more than the eye can behold, the permutations for 2023 within and outside the APC being a crucial matter, but the truth shall always vindicate the just. Rivers shall survive the present tyranny.