By Tonye Princewill
It is better to be quiet and let people suspect you may have something in your mouth, than to open your mouth and confirm that you actually do. What the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown in its attitude towards members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State (and the people of Rivers State in general) through the statement on March 15 was that the commission may not have been able to resist the allure of big money. Many of us said as much, but our allegation was dismissed. Now that people have heard from an institution with even more integrity, the biases of INEC and its underhand tactics have been laid bare for everyone to see. INEC is not the first to succumb and will not be the last, but thanks to the current anti-corruption trend in the Buhari administration, the world is watching them dance naked in the market square.
The recent terse statement made by the Nigerian Army exposed a wide gap in the relationship between the “independent” umpire and the security agencies. Coming from the same institution that supposedly provides a conducive environment to INEC, this is interesting. What is striking in the statement released by the Army is not that they simply dented INEC’s credibility, but that they called them out in a key aspect of their qualification that leaves them in tatters – their expected independence. How INEC recovers from this remains to be seen, but suffice to say that they can no longer speak with the freedom of the benefit of doubt they have been enjoying, from not only Nigerians but from the international community as well.
Thanks to the Nigerian Army, some elements in the judiciary and also the Inspector General of Police, not everybody is for sale. There is still hope for justice and the illegal suspension of an exercise that was inching Governor Nyesom Wike towards defeat will not save him from an inevitable rendezvous. We conducted a congress, they complained. We repeated it again, they sued. Judges excluded us from the ballot, we went for Option B. Rivers people still humiliated Wike, they suspended his defeat. What more do we need to do? What else do they need to see, to know that this is not about one man, one party or even any individual ambition? It is a movement, united for the recovery of our state, our economy and our collective peace of mind.
We in Rivers state know that there was no widespread violence that called for the total suspension of the entire electoral process in the whole state. If there was, how did INEC get results in 17 out of 23 LGAs? We know that widespread violence leaves a trail of death and destruction, if that was the case, how come INEC was able to declare results for Presidential elections when death and destruction was validated, but not for the governorship election when death and destruction was unconfirmed?
If INEC wants to be a responsible umpire, beyond obeying the courts, they will now need to do the following:
Apologize to Rivers people and the security agencies, especially the army, to rebuild the sense of joint duty needed to move forward.
Issue a statement condemning the violence meted out to all sides with specific reference to the governor’s illegal storming of a collation centre.
Cancel the entire process and start again or pending the resolution of all legal matters, announce the results per LGA, up to the point of “suspension”.
Change the REC and principal officers to conduct the election whenever the opportunity so provides, as there is no confidence in their neutrality and/or competence to conduct a free and fair election.
Anything short of the above is business as usual and an exercise in futility. We are resolute against all odds in the goal of rescuing our state from the shackles of wickedness. We thank all the patriots that have remained committed to justice in spite of the twists and turns of corrupt institutions.
Princewill is the Director, Strategic Communications, Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation