Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a discussion with Emma Okah, Rivers State Commissioner for Information on the enduring negative image conferred on the state by repeated incidence of election related violence
Rivers State is the only outstanding state where results from the March 9 governorship and state assembly elections are being expected, how would you address this negative image?
It is truly a negative narrative in Rivers State. Unfortunately this has been so for sometime now especially since the reruns of 2016. Rivers people know where the problem is but many appear helpless because they are pitted against state operatives who are supposed to be neutral but were taking sides and supporting one party against the wish of the people. Those who are legitimately armed to protect them as Nigerian citizens turn against them by snatching ballot boxes, stealing collation result sheets and generally disrupting election processes. The consequence is that in many of the cases, the people resisted such robbery and the result was crisis. So the negative image must be well situated. Who is causing the crisis? Is it the people who are protecting their rights to free and fair elections or the security agencies who are pleasing their paymaster by rigging elections for unpopular candidates against the wishes of the people? So the bad image must stop and people should take responsibility for their actions and inactions.
Is your party excited about the resumption of collation of results of the governorship and state house of assembly elections by INEC?
Rivers people are excited, of course. The PDP is more elated. A good student who prepares and enters for an examination expects to have a good result on merit. It is only a poor student who is afraid to see the result of the examination he wrote. In Rivers State, it is practically impossible for the PDP to lose election, for now. The PDP is afraid of failure and that is why we work extremely hard. We campaigned, mobilised, reached out and selected formidable candidates to bear the tickets.
It became a sad development that the successful student is denied opportunity to have his result and celebrate his success. So, we are happy that the right thing is being done.
What if the final results does not favour your party?
Thank God you said “if”. PDP can accept a defeat in a free and fair election because you reap what you sow. If the people say, ‘no’ to us, we accept it and prepare for another election. However, we work hard to be great and win elections. We invest in the people, we led well and developed the state well. We do not have the centre, we have no soldiers to rely on, no FSARS to fight for us and so we have only God and the people to lean on. One with God and the people cannot lose in a credible, free and fair election.
There has been protests on the streets of Port Harcourt in the past few days by different groups demanding total cancellation of the electoral process in Rivers State, are you concerned this may lead to further disruption of public peace?
The protests for cancellation of the elections were stage managed and sponsored by those who knew they could not pass the examination and indeed did not pass. So it was a case of “if I can’t have it, nobody would.” Counter demonstrations were by those patriotic persons who felt the need for sanity in the state to be upheld at all times.
Of course the State Government sensed security threats and possible breakdown of law and order at some point. Consequently, it placed a temporary ban, rightly, of course, against public protests to avoid a breakdown of peace and order in the state.