- All eyes are on Rivers State ahead of tomorrow’s elections
Tomorrow, the Rivers State electorate will vote to fill three senatorial seats, eight in the House of Representatives and 10 in the House of Assembly. Against the background of tension in the state, about 20,000 personnel, 20 gunboats and three helicopters have been deployed by the Police to the combustible state. The electoral commission also has mobilised 10,294 staff for the crucial election.
On two previous occasions, owing to political rascality and allegations of collusion by the electoral and security officials, it was impossible to come up with acceptable results. The last legislative election in March saw a number of polling officials and innocent citizens needlessly killed or maimed. And, when another attempt was to be made to conclude the process in July, the pervading atmosphere suggested that there could be mayhem and general breakdown of law and order. Consequently, as a responsible agency, after due consultation with all stakeholders, the electoral commission postponed the election.
But we are concerned about the inflammable speeches by political leaders in the state. The state governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, and other leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have been quick to launch attacks at the federal government and the federal agencies involved in conducting the election. They have been charged with all manner of crimes, including plans to assassinate the governor, aid the leading opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in snatching ballot boxes and in printing fake sensitive materials. As expected, these have been denied.
The APC, too, has kept shouting that youths have been trained to attack leading party officials and candidates as well as instigate chaos and anarchy with a view to sustaining the status quo. It is disturbing to hear the chief security officer of a state instruct the people to take the law into their own hands. Wike said: Nobody should intimidate you with security agents. Resist any arrest. You must move round in groups to promote resistance to the robbers of mandates.” In an apparent response, a candidate for the Ikwerre state constituency, Azubuike Wajoku, alleged: “The Rivers State government under the PDP has planned to kill me. But they will not succeed. They shot at me during the 2015 election and thought I was dead, but God revived me…this is a show of the criminal mind that governs the state today.”
In this picture, no one is talking about the interests of the electorate. The basic underpinning of the democratic system is the General Will. This is what has suffered in Rivers State since May 29, 2015. As the National Assembly pointed out last month, the state is unrepresented in the upper legislative chamber. Since 2015, screenings of nominees for federal appointments have been held without input from the state. At the moment, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is being debated and processed without the voice of Rivers State, which is at the heart of the Niger Delta, being heard.
This supports the claim by INEC that politicians should be blamed for the spate of inconclusive elections recorded in the past one year. We call on all officials concerned to discharge their duties impartially and firmly. Whoever infringes the law should be apprehended and tried under the law. Impunity has traversed the land for too long and it is time to show that the law enforcement agencies can bark and bite in the interest of the people.
The Rivers State Supplementary Rerun National and State Legislative Elections is another opportunity to show that Nigeria can manage elections. It is time to build on the successes achieved in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.