Okon Bassey in Uyo
Armed with relevant evidence of electoral irregularities, the governorship candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Mr. Iboro Otu has vowed to challenge the result of the election at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Otu made the pledge during a joint press conference with the governorship candidate of the Young Democratic Party (YDP), Architect Nya-Etok Ezekiel held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
While the YDP candidate is from Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, the ANRP candidate, Otu is from Ini local government area both in Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
Otu lamented that the unfair advantage brought about by the vote -buying actions of the two major political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) across the 31 local governments in the state, made it impossible for himself or other candidates to compete fairly.
Based on this, he is seeking the cancellation of the elections result just as he spoke of approaching the International Criminal Court to highlight the effects of the vote buying and voter-intimidation epidemic in the electoral process in the state.
He expressed optimism that going “to court will bring about penalties that will punish individuals, organizations and parties who engage in such act.
“From the data collated so far, it is evident to us that widespread vote-buying and voter intimidation occurred across 75 percent of our polling units.
“The two major political parties employed several schemes to extort votes from helpless electorates either by offering instant financial rewards for votes at the polling units or by taking voters to undisclosed locations to pay for their votes and voter’s cards; the price ranging from N1, 000 to N10, 000, depending on ward and location.
“These political parties permeated not only the electorates but also some electoral staff to play ball and look the other way while these despicable actions took place.
“Some of the parties paid in dollars while others paid in Naira. It is widely known that the PDP, for example, paid N1.1 million in every polling unit.
“We have videos and photographic evidence to this effect and hundreds of individuals to testify and corroborate this.
“At instances where some electorates elected to vote their candidates other than APC and PDP candidates, these electorates were threatened and stopped from voting while others who had it worse were beaten and threatened not to return.
“It got so bad that even some of our agents were barred from carrying out their lawful functions as PDP and APC agents and touts overran the polling units.
“A long list of people was shot, macheted, hospitalized and traumatized as a result of loss of property and belongings in the course of the election.
“We have pictures and videos of individuals who are still holed up in hospitals and unable to get care because the political parties who promised to foot their bills and encouraged them to keep mum so as not to expose their atrocities have abandoned them to their fate.”
They warned that something must be done to arrest the menace of vote buying and voter-intimidation before it takes hold of our fledgling democracy.
According to them, the field reports from their agents, supporters, party members and even members of other parties indicated that the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state was far from free and fair.
The duo said Nigeria democracy has entered another level and is being threatened calling on Nigerians to rise and fight against vote-buying and voter-intimidation in the nation’s general elections.
“We believe if vote-buying continues into the next cycle of elections, it would have institutionalized itself and opened doors for illicit money to make its way into our democratic process.
“The immediate effect would be multi-pronged; mismanagement of our collective commonwealth, alienation of the common man from government or his ascension to any political office, corruption of collective societal conscience, destroying the fabric of culture and society, and destruction of moral values. These basically mean death to society as we know it.”
As an option to check the issue of vote buying and voter-intimidation during elections in the country, they stressed the need for the exploration of the Nigerian legal system, as well as approaching the International Criminal Court for further support.
They however lauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agencies and all national and international observers who diligently did their jobs during the conduct of the elections in the state despite questionable actions of some of their staff.
Meanwhile, the YDP candidate said he would embrace anybody sworn into office as the elected governor of the state from the result of the election.