The re-run National Assembly and House of Assembly elections held on December 10, 2016 in Rivers State have come and gone but the impact and the outcome on the Nigerian political landscape will linger for a very long time. Indeed, the elections will continue to dominate political discourse within and outside the State. This is because never in the history of the country had Nigerians witnessed the brazen display of raw power by security forces as they did during the elections.
While elections worldwide are generally seen as an opportunity for contestants for various political offices to market the manifestoes of their political parties, the policies and programmes that they would pursue if elected, outside their individual vision and mission, unfortunately, the case of Rivers State during the last elections was a different ball game, as the political landscape was literally subdued and turned to a theatre of war, in which the State ostensibly became a battle ground, where the political gladiators, particularly those of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and their security collaborators unleashed mayhem on Rivers people and the residents.
Indeed, the atmosphere during the December 10, 2016 re-run polls was tense, occasioned by the huge deployment of over 28,000 security personnel drawn from the Army, Airforce, Police, Navy, Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Security Defence Corps, in addition to the armoured tanks, gunboats and military helicopters deployed ahead of a mere rerun legislative poll, involving just a few legislative seats. The pertinent question to ask in the circumstance is: if the APC-led Federal Government could do this, what would it then, do during the general elections in 2019?
There is no gainsaying that there was unprecedented display of federal might during the elections, which invariably influenced the outcome of the polls in several parts of the State and in most of the Wards and polling units. The aftermaths were violence, intimidation, arson, killings and unprecedented ballot box snatching allegedly masterminded by security agencies. Indeed, it is no longer a hidden fact that electoral officers, PDP agents and supporters were brutalised, beaten up and some even killed in the process. Sadly, a senior police officer and his orderly also lost their lives in a most bizarre manner. Incidentally, gory scenes of what transpired during the elections were captured by cameras.
Unfortunately, despite this show of shame in Rivers State, even when all the facts are very glaring, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, in a twist, ordered and commissioned a phony probe panel into the violence that virtually marred the rerun polls in the State. Without sounding alarmist and even pre-emptive, going by what actually happened in the State on December 10, 2016, with the APC–led government apparently an accomplice, the outcome of such a probe can easily be deciphered, the police itself being a federal agency. To buttress this point, imaginary video clips are already being circulated and bandied around, with the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike as a target.
While The Tide does not see anything wrong with a probe panel to unravel the circumstances surrounding the violence and other sundry crimes committed during the rerun polls, it however, sees everything wrong with the police probe panel, because as it were, the police cannot be a judge in a case in which they were grossly partisan. A situation where the police worked assiduously hard, in a perfidious manner, to please their pay masters, the federal authorities and the APC, during the re-run polls, is not only condemnable but also unacceptable.
This explains why the probe panel instituted by the Inspector General of Police would remain a hollow ritual, and self-serving, and only intended to serve the interest of the Federal Government and the APC. The police, a major actor in the political macabre dance in Rivers State on December 10, 2016, we believe cannot at the same time be an investigator, a prosecutor,, a witness, a defender and a judge in their own case.
We strongly believe that the police probe panel is equally aimed at exonerating the actual culprits of the mayhem that took place in the State and ultimately put to the sword some innocent persons who were even at the receiving end during the polls. It is against this backdrop that we demand the immediate disbandment of the phony probe panel. Alternatively, the National Assembly or even the National Human Rights Commission are more appropriate, credible, unbiased and independent bodies capable of carrying out such a probe, to actually look into the critical issues surrounding the elections, particularly the violence and mayhem perpetrated during the polls, including the unprofessional roles played by the police and other security agencies in a purely civil matter. It is only by so doing that there would not be a reoccurrence of this show of shame in any part of the country in the future.
What is urgently needed now is for the Federal Government and the APC to give peace a chance in Rivers State and desist from overheating the polity.