RSG Protests Postponement …Polls Shift Confirms Wike’s Alarm

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike (middle), his Deputy, Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo and Representative of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Inyang Okoro (left), during the 26th Biennial National Convention of Magistrates Association of Nigeria in Port Harcourt on Monday.

In fulfillment of fears earlier expressed by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has again postponed the conduct of the legislative rerun elections in the State which were initially slated for Saturday,  July 30, this year.
Governor Wike had raised the alarm that INEC may be planning to postpone the elections because it was clear that the APC was ill-prepared and could not win.
Following the cancellation of the initial legislative elections in the state due to violence, INEC had on June 20, after a meeting with relevant stakeholders, fixed July 30, as new date for the conclusion of the polls.
However, the commission in a statement signed by its Secretary, Mrs Augusta Ogakwu, yesterday, said the rerun polls were postponed for the second time due to reports of violence, maiming and fatalities.
The commission cited last Saturday’s attack on its office in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area of the state as a sign of prevailing danger.
The Tide recalls that the same reasons were adduced for the initial cancellation and or suspension of the rerun polls on March 19.
The commission, however, did not announce any new date for the conclusion of the rerun polls.
The commission, according to the statement, said that, “as a responsible organisation and conscious of the violence, maiming and fatalities which accompanied the previous elections in March as well as developments in the state since then, the commission cannot ignore such credible reports.
In the circumstances, therefore, it is compelled to further postpone the rerun legislative elections in Rivers State as one of the principal conditions earlier stipulated for the return to the state for the conclusion of the election has, regrettably, not been met.
This, the commission is also a collective responsibility to be borne by all political actors, irrespective of political positions and affiliations. “If the goal of political contests is to serve the people, then there is no greater service than ensuring, at all costs, the preservation of the lives of the people whom such services would be rendered.”
INEC further justified the cancellation of the rerun polls, saying it has a responsibility to ensure that voters, electoral personnel, observers and other stakeholders are protected during the fresh elections.
Meanwhile, the government and people of Rivers State said they are shocked by what they called the bare-faced collusion between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert democracy in the state.
In a statement in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Dr Austin Tam-George said it is completely unacceptable that Rivers State will continue to be denied full representation in the National Assembly due to the incompetence and malpractices perpetrated by the INEC.
The State government called on the Presidency and National Assembly to act urgently in the national interest to disband INEC as presently constituted for its incompetence and open partnership.
The statement called on the international community to initiate and maintain diplomatic pressure on the federal government which continues to frustrate the independence of INEC and the evolution of democratic diversity in Nigeria.
In a related development, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo, has said that the indefinite postponement of the State and National Assembly re-run elections in the state by the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC), is a confirmation of the alarm raised by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike during his campaign rally in Okehi that neither the commission nor APC were ready for the conduct of the re-run elections in the State.
Reacting to the news of the postponement in a statement through her Press Secretary, Paul Damgbor, the Deputy Governor wondered why the electoral body would rather than assert itself to the smooth conduct of elections in the State resort to frivolous and imaginary excuses in a bid to satisfy the whims and interest of the APC.
Banigo regretted that INEC under the watch of Professor Mahmud Yakubu has not been transparent and sincere concerning Rivers State elections especially the alarm raised by the Governor over the frequent visits of APC chieftains to the INEC headquarters in Abuja.
She stressed that the refusal of the Commission to address these issues suggests complicity and a deliberate ploy to deny Rivers state adequate representation in both the National and State assemblies.
She warned that the law-abiding disposition of Rivers people should not be taken for granted and reminded politicians whose stock-in-trade is to undermine the administration of Governor Wike and destroy the state through fictitious security media reports to have a rethink as Rivers state is bigger than any individual’s selfish agenda.