Military Subvertion Of Rivers Electoral Process


The political abracadabra in Rivers State took another twist and colouration on Saturday, March 9, during the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections as men in military uniforms strongly suspected to be men of the Nigerian Army had a field day, as they reportedly hijacked the entire political process, leaving in their trails tears, blood, anguish and lamentation. The military did not only hold the State hostage going by reports but also laid siege on the State and her people, and in the process turned the State to a battle ground of sorts.
The political conuldrum started way ahead of the March 9 polls as the soldiers had started baring their fangs as far back as last Tuesday when some indigenes and residents of the State were hounded and whisked away to unknown destinations. Several others are said to be cooling their heels in military barracks in Port Harcourt including the State Commissioner for Education, Dr Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja and the Executive Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area, Chief Tom Aliezi, to mention but a few. Ironically, members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the State are prime targets of this military onslaught.
The military operation reached its climax on the election day proper. The men in military uniforms were accused of snatching ballot boxes and perpetrating other sundry electoral infractions in a bid to satiate the voracious political appetite of their pay masters, which at the end of the day, culminated in the indefinite suspension of the electoral processes of the State last Sunday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) .
While putting the electoral process in the State on hold, INEC’s Director of Voter Education, Barrister Festus Okoye said, “Based on reports from our officials in the field, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has determined that there has been widespread disruption of elections conducted on the 9th day of March, 2019 in Rivers State.”
This is even as INEC in the state through its Head of Voter Education and Publicity Department, Mr. Edwin Enabor, accused the military and the police of placing the INEC office in Port Harcourt under siege.
As expected, several reactions had greeted the suspension of the electoral processes in the State by INEC with several keen observers of the political development in the state calling on INEC to do the needful by declaring genuine results collated at the various units during the elections.
While reacting to the development, the Rivers State Government through the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barrister Emma Okah described it as a calculated attempt by INEC, the Army and the Police to subvert the will of Rivers people by declaring concocted results for the governorship election, and accused soldiers and SARS personnel of storming collation centres and hijacking already collated results, alleging that soldiers and SARS personnel, working with APC leaders had mutilated the results to the advantage of a political party.
To this end, the state government urged INEC to insist only on results from card readers, saying that any other action will be at variance with the votes cast by the people.
Several other individuals and organisations including traditional rulers have condemned in strong terms the overt militarisation of the State and involvement of security agencies, particularly the military in the electoral process of the State.
However, the military hierarchy has also dissociated itself from undue interference in the electoral process of the state.
The Tide strongly condemns the circumstances leading to the indefinite suspension of the electoral processes in the State by INEC as well as the subvertion of the electoral process by the military.
We join the state government to call on INEC to go ahead and announce results emanating from duly accredited voters through the card readers in the various polling units of the State. This is moreso when the electoral umpire through its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had made it categorically clear before the March 9 elections that the use of card readers at the polling centres was compulsory. Anything short of this, is unacceptable and anachronistic.
We also make bold to say that any defence being put up by the military hierarchy to exonerate its men from the show of shame that took place in Rivers State under the guise of elections is hog wash and this can hardly hold water. We say so because if the military agrees that it truly deployed its men to provide security and protect the citizens from harm’s way during the elections, it is equally culpable because it failed in its professional duty to checkmate the so-called men in ‘military uniforms’ who brandished all manner of sophisticated weapons in the course of the elections.
Infact, going by what played out during the recent elections, particularly considering the conduct of our soldiers, we doubt if the military is truly capable of protecting the territorial integrity of this nation, the original role assigned to it in the country’s Constitution.
Frankly speaking, there is a serious need for the military to turn over a new leaf, purge itself of this political stigma and redeem its seriously battered image instead of its fruitless struggle to deny the obvious. It should with immediate effect release all those still held hostage at its barracks in Port Harcourt.
Besides, we are at a loss why the police hierarchy is still keeping the FSARS Commander, Mr. Akin Fakorede in the state when he had long been deployed out of the state. His continuous stay in the state casts a huge moral burden on the police, bearing in mind that he was seriously indicted by INEC’s report during the rerun elections in the state in 2016.
Indeed, this is the time for the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the various political gladiators in the State to take stock, have a deep introspection and embrace peace in the collective interest of the State. They should realise that their actions and inactions have ostensibly made the state a laughing stock in the comity of states. Needless to stress that their continuous political bickerings and deep-seated animosity have been an ill wind that has done the state no good.
Two wrongs, they say, can never make a right. It is better to bury the political hatchets now, as no actions of today can justify or ameliorate the wrongs of yesteryears. Politics is not a do or die affair. It is a game and never a warfare. It has its clear-cut rules and winners who enjoy the mandate of the people must emerge at the end of the day. It is only the will of the people that must stand. Nothing else will count.