NOWHERE TO HIDE

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Wednesday comment2

Edem Bassey reveals the ‘truth’ about the 2019 election in Akwa Ibom

The All Progressives Congress (APC) and The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two leading political parties  in Akwa Ibom  State are led by PDP bigwigs who have governed the state for over 18 years.

 When the present state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) was deployed to the state, the current leaders of both political groups were in one political camp. They all did everything to him win over. But, when they separated into two political camps, efforts were made (using all contacts that were close to the REC) to reach out to him from both political divide.The contacts both home and abroad failed to get him to favour either party.

Given this scenario, the current PDP leaders in the state accepted this development and quickly swung into action. They went back to the people to canvass for votes and public support. But, the APC and its imposed current leadership, resolved to use “federal might” and blackmail to get the state REC out of the office nay the state since he was seen as the main obstacle to the party’s victory in the 2019 elections. This marked the beginning of the ‘fables’ and false stories against the REC. On close observation, it was discovered that most of the false tales were traceable to party supporters in the social and mainstream media. This had the backing of the party’s leadership.

In a normal electoral envoronment, a political party will appeal to voters by presenting to the electorate development programmes it intends to embark on or if it the party is in the saddle, showcase its development efforts while in office. But this was not the case with the APC as it chose to tread a different route. The part chose as its only option for winning the election, the protection by an INEC that it expected to be pliant and biased in its favour. This expected bias of INEC and the assurance that security agencies would provide the party and its officials immunity and impunity to manipulate the elections, irrespective of the voters’ mandate in the state, became its undoing.

Unfortunately for the Akwa Ibom branch of the APC, the state is blessed with a straight forward REC who publicly declared when he arrived in the state in 2017 that only  candidates duly elected by voters through properly conducted free, fair and credible  elections, would be declared winners in the state and not by any other means.

The only reason the party in the state relied on such larceny and mendacity to win elections is because the state branch of the party that was looking good, relied on the leadership of a former governor who had defected from the PDP for guidance. On his part, the former governor had indeed promised party members in the state that the INEC REC in the state would be redeployed even if it has to be done 20 hours to the commencement of the general elections.

To be fair to him, he did all he could to make good this promise. He actually put everything into the project of getting the REC out of the state, moving from one court to another seeking ex parte orders, addressing a press conferences in Abuja in which he maligned the REC, then  mobilizing the party’s chairman who addressed press conferences calling for the REC’s removal in addition to sponsored demonstration to INEC’s office in Uyo.

As far as the former governor was concerned, winning the election in the state was a done deal. And why not? Having served as a two-term governor, he knew the ropes and understood the electioneering process in the country. But what he did not bargain for is a REC who was out to do things differently albeit properly.

As far as this new REC was concerned, votes cast must not only seem to count, they must count.  This was how the REC became the ‘clog’ in the APC’s leadership ‘wheel of progress’.

Take for example the former governor’s home constituency of Essien Udim LGA.  He would not even dignify his people with the trust that they will vote for a famous and powerful political son by allowing them vote according to their conscience and for these votes to count; no! Rather, every means possible to buy or seize the ballot papers and result sheets and thereafter allocate all the votes in the LGA to an individual was the game plan.

This became the pattern in several LGA polling units using the protection and impunity of the Police, Army, Civil Defence and whatsover security agencies under the control of the party at federal or state level. If the truth be told, it was the need for this electoral impunity that he defected to APC. All other reasons adduced paled into insignificance in comparison to this authority to manipulate elections. After his defection, he gained this authority and used it so shamelessly that the security agencies in the state especially the police lost all its dignity and respect. For instance, before the election, as many as seven Police Commissioners were deployed and redeployed at the instance of this “uncommon defector”.  Unfortunately for the party, it was not so easy to wag the state’s INEC like a dog’s tail when a REC has unimpeachable integrity.

Having met unflinching resistance by a REC unwilling to be bought or shoved around to undermine the integrity of elections, the former governor resorted to blackmail and mendacity using everyone he could control.

It would be recalled that it is this same REC in 2015 who despite the PDP being the party in power, ensured votes counted in the Edo State elections and the APC a beneficiary.   For Adams Oshiomole, the APC chairman, to believe all the falsehood told him by the party leadership in the state simply beats the imagination.

But there are living witnesses to how the election in the state was conducted. NYSC Ad-hoc staff and university  lecturers who worked in areas dominated by the former governor and his followers told tales of woes about how they were held at gun point, beaten or held hostage and forced to write results that had no bearing whatsoever with what transpired  in any of polling units. The account of some youth corps members who worked in Essien Udim for example had it that as early as 1a.m before election commenced, the former governor and his boys had held men and materials hostage until repeated calls to the area by the State REC forced them to release the corps members and INEC staff. Not satisfied, he instructed that all results be written to suit his purpose, forcing the electoral officer and collating officers to either do his bidding or face the harm that came their way.

Some of his boys actually beat up officials while the police looked on helplessly because they knew that the regional and state police leadership had been instructed to obey whatever he commanded. Any story coming out of Akwa Ibom on election matters particularly the on-going tribunal must therefore be seen from this backdrop.

 Bassey wrote from Uyo