TWO years later, the long arm of the law caught up with a professor of soil science at the University of Calabar, Peter Ogban, when a High Court in Akwa Ibom presided over by Justice Augustine Odokwo, found him guilty of electoral fraud and sentenced him to three years in prison with a N100,000 fine.
The lecturer had pleaded in vain for mercy from the Judge.
Ogban was one of the so-called “ivory tower” elements deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the 2019 general elections.
He was found guilty of falsifying election results in favour of the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate for the senatorial election, Godswill Akpabio, who is now Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
This stands as a landmark case because it is almost unheard of for perpetrators of election malfeasance to be made to face the wrath of the law in Nigeria.
It comes as a pleasant surprise, particularly as yet another professor of human kinetics, Ignatius Uduk, is also standing trial for allegedly rigging in favour of the PDP in the Essien Udim State Constituency of Akwa Ibom State.
We hope that these sample cases are signs that the INEC is finally ready to go after election fraudsters and not just one-offs. Our elections are routinely undermined by all the participants in it – the political parties, election officials (including INEC permanent and ad-hoc staff), the electorate, hoodlums, security agents, the candidates and government leaders at all levels.
It has been a do-or-die affair. The situation has worsened progressively since 1999 because election fraud and violence are hardly punished.
A former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had introduced the innovation of deploying professors from our universities hoping to elevate the quality of election management. They have since proved that they are also part of our rotten society.
We commend Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC and the Resident Electoral commissioner, REC, in Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, for the diligent prosecution of this case and urge them to wage a wider war on other categories of offenders to sanitise our elections.
Crime without deterrence breeds more crime.