RIVERS RERUN: Political Insatiability And Crocodile Tears

(Published by THE NATION Newspapers on 30 December, 2016)
By Carl Umegboro
THE Rivers rerun elections held on December 10 for seats into the National Assembly had come and gone. Winners and losers however, emerged. In sync with democratic norms, as results were declared by the returning officers designated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), those aggrieved over the outcomes of the election should maintain decorum and seek for justice at the Election Tribunals. Heating up the polity out of self-aggrandizement and insatiability is unreasonable.  As it stands, Rivers peoples’ votes did count. APC won and lost; PDP won and lost. Democracy demands that peoples votes must count, and winners and losers must emerge. These are the governing elements of democratic processes. For those that won, congratulations.
For those that lost, keep hopes alive, tomorrow is yet another day. Post-election violence and political fanaticism should be left behind. Those that boastfully threatened to pull down the system should sheathe their swords. The preponderance is that the election was largely violent free. To persistently push otherwise is idiosyncratic, myopic, recalcitrant and egocentric. Essentially, the naming of a town, ‘Ogbunabali’ in Port Harcourt which translates as ‘killers at night’ should be considerably rechristened. The appellation invokes and endorses violence and criminalities.

Interestingly, the major contenders; All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) being the ruling parties at the federal and state levels respectively strategically took advantage of their positions. While the state government suddenly inaugurated multiple fresh road projects in some strategic areas a week prior to the election as a political gimmick alongside other coded moves, the federal government intensified on economic empowerment through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) particularly the amnesty programmes. Ultimately, democracy in Rivers won. Furthermore, as a move to thwart any coded deals between the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and politicians from both political parties, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) thoughtfully opted for a Tsunami technique; transferred all serving senior police officers from the areas with immediate effect a week ahead of the elections. By implications, those that selfishly mobilized these officers with funds for coded jobs for the elections certainly lost the money as refund is not permissible on such coded deals. This was followed by the unprecedented invasion of the state by fresh security operatives, which continues to attract unending criticisms from state government, albeit strategically to counter recurrences of violence undeniably dominant in the state over the years. Whatever tears, crocodile or otherwise, election is over, hence, live and let live.
From the hubbub; 28,000 regular policemen, 5,000 Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) personnel, 28,000 soldiers of the Nigerian Army, 5,000 men from the Navy and Airforce, 15,000 from Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and 15,000 other personnel from sundry para-military agencies were lavishly deployed by the federal government during the election. Unfortunately, under the laws, the president committed no offence for dispatching such numbers to ensure a hitch-free election provided the operatives allowed freedom of movement and operated reasonably within their statutory limits. As a matter of fact, such numbers could be tripled if the presidency considers it necessary. The unending hullabaloo over the action is uncalled for, and connotes ulterior motives over the election, and the President owes no explanation on the number of operatives he wishes to use in protecting lives and properties; his primary obligation as provided in Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Interestingly, civilization has made it possible that where intimidations, electoral thefts or other form of drifts occurred, the use of electronic devises and cameras by witnesses could show them clearly as transpired. The Rivers rerun irrespective of few alleged inadequacies was a huge success on account of the minimal casualties recorded during the election. It is aggregately abysmal for political leaders who armed themselves with adequate security to be inciting the public into fomenting troubles. Life is sacred and leaders are under obligation to ensuring that human lives are maximally protected. It is also important to note that under democracy, a governor or president is only allowed to cast a vote in registered polling unit and not to convert to election monitor as witnessed in the election. The election officials including accredited observers are only valid resource persons for an election. Hence, the discipline of a police officer attached to Gov. Nyesom Wike that led him across polling units he wasn’t supposed to appear during the elections was apt.
The best any governor can do ahead of election towards ensuring its free and fair is to supportively provide sufficient electronic gadgets to the accredited observers and his party agents for recordings and instant updates, but to be part of the election that is being conducted by an independent body outside the executive arm is grotesque, and inconsistent with independence of the electoral body. Apparently, civilization has dealt a big blow to election riggers as results are now known prior to the announcements. Hence, as a civic responsibility, record any inconsistent behaviour of candidates, politicians, electoral officers or security operatives at the polling units and forward to the media instantly, and it is settled. Needless taking laws into the hands. But for a political leader who is optimally surrounded alongside family members by combatant personnel to be inciting the vulnerable citizens for violence, anyway, it is condemnable and unfortunate.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and publisher

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