Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has kicked against alleged plan by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to favour Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Collation of results of the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections are resuming tomorrow in the Southsouth state.
Ahead of the resumption, the party’s Publicity Secretary Chris Finebone, yesterday in Port Harcourt, accused Wike of desperation to be re-elected, thereby depriving the state’s governorship candidate of African Action Congress (AAC), Biokpomabo Awara, of his mandate.
The APC, which was stopped by the Supreme Court from fielding candidates in the state elections following internal dispute over party primaries, is backing the 40-year-old AAC standard bearer.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo states, May Agbamuche-Mbu, a lawyer, stated in Port Harcourt at the weekend during a stakeholders’ meeting that the commission was not taking sides with any political party or candidate.
Governor Wike and his AAC challenger Awara were among the stakeholders at the meeting.
Agbamuche-Mbu also insisted that the results of the elections were not tampered with, but kept in INEC’s strong room, calling on Rivers residents to allow peace to reign in the state before, during and after the activities outlined for the conclusion of the controversial elections.
Rivers APC, however, said: “We condemn in strong terms, the so-called timeline and activities to conclude the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State, as announced at the stakeholders meeting. It is a mere charade, well-organised and choreographed by INEC, in its bid to work from answer to question.
“The ultimate result can only be to announce their (INEC’s) preferred partner and collaborator (Wike) as the winner, against the AAC’s governorship candidate (Awara), who was clearly in the lead before collation was aborted (on March 10). Whether INEC will succeed in its machinations will be seen in the days to come.
“Several actions of INEC had prepared the minds of many that the entire exercise was skewed to favour Wike and the PDP, leaving in the process, several questions without answers.
“How come that Wike knew about the 17 local government areas, which results had been allegedly collated and had posted same on his (Wike’s) official Twitter handle, long before INEC made the announcement? Answers to this and other questions will continue to hang on the neck of INEC like an albatross.”
The APC blamed the logjam in the Rivers electoral process on what it called a tripartite collaboration between Wike and the INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Obo Effanga, ably assisted by the Administrative Secretary of the commission in Rivers, Elder Etim Umoh.
But Wike, through his Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, declared that APC’s accusation against him was meaningless and senseless.
The Rivers commissioner, who doubles as PDP Campaign Council’s Information and Communications Director, said: “The APC’s accusation that INEC is favouring Governor Wike does not hold water. It is the same old song; empty, meaningless and senseless. Majority of Rivers people do not take the APC in the state seriously.
“They (APC members in Rivers State) blame everybody, apart from themselves, for every problem. When they had internal problems that cost them their place in the ballot, they blamed others. When their adopted puppet in AAC could not win one unit in the state, because he was unknown and never campaigned, the APC blamed others.”
Okah also stated that like a bad workman, who would always quarrel with his tools, leaders of the APC in Rivers would attempt to teach INEC, soldiers, police etc., how to do their job, accusing them of resorting to blackmail whenever they meet a brick wall.
In his remarks at the stakeholders’ meeting on Saturday, the INEC administrative secretary said: “We have the results for these seventeen LGAs: Ahoada East, Akuku-Toru, Andoni, Bonny, Eleme, Emohua, Etche, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, Omuma, Opobo/Nkoro, Oyigbo, Port Harcourt and Tai. Their (17 LGAs) collation was at the local government level. Collation was not completed in the remaining six LGAs: Abua/Odual, Ahoada West, Asari-Toru, Degema, Gokana and Khana.
“In Abua/Odual LGA, the materials and men did not even go out to the field. They were frustrated from going out and elections did not take place there. In Gokana LGA, materials and men went out to the field, but none came back, because there was outright violence and everything was destroyed. So, we do not have any result from there.
“In Ahoada West LGA, out of about 100 polling units, we have results in only 24 and that is not good enough. Asari-Toru LGA was not concluded, but we have the polling units’ results available, but they were not collated. Degema LGA has 17 registration areas, which we call wards in INEC’s context, and collation took place in ten, remaining seven.
“The seven wards, their results are in INEC’s strong room. In Khana LGA, there was no collation at the local government level, but we have results from the polling units and the collation from some wards available.”
Umoh also disclosed that the collation, scheduled for between April 2 and 5, would hold at the INEC’s office on Aba Road, Port Harcourt.
The Rivers Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, also assured during the stakeholders’ meeting that there would be adequate security of lives and property of residents of the state before, during and after the collation of results.
Belel, who is also the Chairman of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in the state, expressed optimism that the collation would be hitch-free, in view of the stakeholders’ synergy.
The Police chief said: “As it is usual in every contest, winners and losers must emerge, but the maturity with which the contest’s results is accepted, determines how peaceful the society can be.
“I wish to appeal to all stakeholders to give peace a chance (in Rivers State) and be magnanimous, either in victory or in defeat, as there will still be Rivers State beyond these elections.”