By Ebere Wabara, [email protected]/
08055001948 GUEST COLUMNIST
THE Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, had last year quashed the outcome of the Abia North Senatorial District election on grounds of unprecedented mutilation of the poll result and ordered a rerun, a repeat, of the exercise that took place on March 5, 2016. Immediately after the judicial pronouncement, a group petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, demanding, among other things, that the perpetrators, who are at large and the beneficiary, Mr. Mao Ohuabunwa, of that sordid act should be investigated and prosecuted for the electoral criminality that enveloped the worst electoral malpractice in the country’s history. The worst in the sense that this is the first time that an appellate court of this land will make such a damning declaration. The group’s complaint was published as an advertorial in major national newspapers.
As at now, there has been no response to the advertised and couriered communication to the IGP. It is unfortunate that the office of the IGP could ignore such a weighty complaint with its grave concomitance on our political evolution. Even if the IGP or his subordinates on delegation were not going to do anything, unsurprisingly, simple courtesy and official decorum expect a reply, which is basic in bureaucracy. It is this kind of levity and inexplicable nonchalance to critical issues of our nationhood that emboldens fraudsters in our midst when they realise that law enforcement is compromiseable and negligible here.
Beyond the IGP, I had equally thought that the Federal Government should have shown interest in the theatre of electoral absurdities in Abia State, especially after the Appeal Court intervention. Alas, government looked the other way as if it was not its kettle of fish – without knowing that such manifestations and tendencies are what define a nation, positively or negatively. We do not have to wait untill it becomes a national challenge before taking appropriate steps. If government had shown interest in what goes on in Abia State, particularly after our Lordships’ ruling, the banditry that characterised the rerun would not have taken place at all. This kind of governmental turning of a blind eye is what will spell doom for this country.
Of course, if the police and the government could not basically function effectively and efficiently, it would be foolhardiness to expect the lethargic Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to get its act together. Last year’s mutilation could not have been possible without INEC officials, who must have had their hands soiled with filthy lucre. The INEC never issued a word in response to the Appeal Court’s expose. In fact, the minimal expectation would have been that the electoral officials involved in the robbery in Abia North should have been dismissed and dragged to court to face the full wrath of the law.
In the absence of the foregoing, the civil society and other allied groups could not do anything but toe the sleepy and tragic line of docility and utter indifference. Today, it is Abia North and Abia State, generally. Tomorrow, it would be elsewhere with this kind of antecedent. We cannot deepen our democracy in a situation where a cabalistic and cliquish band of anti-democrats, comprising immediate-past and present governors of states, stay in their cocoons and determine who gets what political office with official endorsement by the central authority and its corrupt ministries, departments and agencies. At this rate, all the talk about anti-corruption will be balderdash, ultimately. There cannot be a worse fiasco than the current cosmetic crusade about corruption mitigation.
Now, let us return to what transpired last Saturday in the Abia North senatorial rerun. It is certain that if the police had interrogated all those who committed the initial electoral scam of last year, we would not have had a repeat of the same thievishness that stalked everyone in the face last weekend. The least anticipation from the police end was that by now the culprit and suspects in that sham election result would still be answering questions about their heinous and despicable roles in the unparalleled roguishness of last year. Similarly, I had also believed that the INEC would clean the Augean stables and deploy men and women of integrity to conduct the rerun poll, considering the scandal of 2015 in this same election. But what did we get? A perfection of the electoral robbery profile using figures, which were marginal and inconsequential, to stupidly foreclose any possible suspicion. Such statistical manipulation to pull the wool over people’s eyes cannot hoodwink victims of the brazen and official banditry or other right-thinking members of our society. This serial subversion of people’s will in Abia State must end.
After the rerun on that fateful Saturday, the INEC all through Sunday morning declared the voting process as inconclusive. Then from the blues, that same afternoon, at 1.45 p.m., without any plausible justification or catalytic development, reversed itself and announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mao Ohuabunwa, as the winner, to the greatest befuddlement of electors! Can the INEC leadership tell Nigerians what happened between that Sunday morning and early afternoon when the ignominable and suspicious self-reversal took place? Why did the PDP stalwarts and other like-minds storm the INEC office and, thereafter, electoral officials began to sing a new swan song? Was it not the same thing that took place last year when the government, the PDP leadership and other vicious and jobless hangers-on in the state invaded the INEC office and the aftermath was the grand and irresponsible mutilation of the senatorial result and decimation of the people’s will? The governorship election had similar foundations.
How I wish that Abia State was in any part of the South West and let me see how these robberies would be going on without the perpetrators facing the consequences! This type of daylight electoral banditry cannot take place in that part of the country two times or even less without something happening. And to worsen our case in God’s Own State, our people are so docile, timid and selfish. Most of the so-called elders of inequity and the wretched elite are so famished that pots of porridge and mess of peanuts are all that are needed to sway them irredeemably. Even a Toyota Prado Greek gift from Government House, Umuahia, makes them lose their heads, dignity and self-respect, if any, when their peers elsewhere have since conquered that level of need.
Ohuabunwa and his PDP government backers – in and out of power in Abia State – know that there is no way that he (Ohuabunwa) can defeat the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) candidate and two-time governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, in any free and fair election anywhere in the state and the country as a whole. Otherwise, these incidents of criminal mutilation of the zone’s polling results and inconclusive electoral vicissitudes will not arise. As long as the leadership of INEC remains aloof to the PDP bovine comicals and juvenile theatricals gaining maturity in Abia State electoral processes so will the party’s candidates – even if dark horses or persons of questionable pedigree or legislative statistic in the past four years or thereabouts – so will the person(s) continue to win. With the systemic rot in our electoral processes and structural carelessness, reruns will continue to produce the same predictable manipulated results. The antidote is for government and its agencies to wake up and pigeonhole the elements of darkness aborting the people’s will. Otherwise, mutilation of results and idiotic reversals on inconclusive polling will persist till Armageddon.
The point is not about Dr. Kalu deservedly winning, but the institutionalisation of a credible electoral regime that will outlive us. We cannot bequeath the current charlatanism and mockery of democracy to our children. Whether Dr. Kalu is politically robbed 100 times or not, it will not affect his popularity, fame, attitudinal inclination to overall sportsmanship in life, opulence, philanthropic disposition of superfluity, economic ambassadorship, revolutionary human capital development, humaneness, multifarious contributions to existential exigencies and global reckoning. Rather, he will continue to diminish his vicious and amnesic individual/group antagonists. Apart from their predatory success in electoral banditry in 2011 and 2015/2016, all attempts in the past nine years to criminalise, humiliate, virulently calumniate and demonise Dr. Kalu, their incontrovertibly acclaimed benefactor, have always hit the rocks to their disgrace and chargrin and perpetual fiasco.
With the controversial circumstances surrounding the conflicting release of results despite cancellation of the outcome of eight wards, constitutional/legal/lawful supplementary elections in some parts of the constituency, declaration of inconclusive polling and the volte-face in the announcement of disputable figures, it is a puzzle that the INEC Returning Officer, Prof. Nwankwo Ojike, could not stick to his guns in this volatile matter, no matter the empty threats and intimidation by obvious losers who, incidentally, had excess instruments of official terror, unlike his counterpart in last year’s futility and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, who remained unshaken till the end of time.
When one looks at the figure purportedly garnered by Ohuabunwa (26,009) and the popular datum by Dr. Kalu (25, 814), it is compelling to smell a rat and the need for caution by the intimidated INEC staff on ground. This is where I blame the Federal Government for not being proactive by ensuring massive security for the INEC staff on duty. These figures cannot be a reflection of reality because everything pointed to a landslide victory for Dr. Kalu. In fact, the only contentious issue was the margin he would use to beat his main opponent in the rerun. I reaffirm it without any equivocation, irresponsibility, fear, favour, or any extraneous consideration that it is impossible for Ohuabunwa to beat an independent Dr. Kalu without political godfather instrumentality and subsequence of electoral banditry known to everyone.
It is astounding that these things are happening in our beloved Abia State and everyone keeps quiet in acquiescence. Nobody calls a spade a spade. It is as if credible elders, genuine patriots and defenders of democracy have been compromised beyond redemption. Those that are supposed to raise the alarm are the ones leading the gangsterism in curious advocacy of purported equity that is anything other than inequity. If we must build sustainable democracy in Nigeria and Abia State, the time has come for all of us to take interest in what is going on in the state lest there will be a karmic implosion presently.
According to media reports, there were heavy indiscriminate shootings that Saturday, snatching of ballot boxes and other malpractices in parts of the district involved in the rerun. Expectedly, the state government said the rerun was peaceful and hitch-free. No government will give a contrary report in this kind of do-or-die combat by the eclipsing protagonists of “never-must-it-be- Kalu-at all-costs” in a terrain that oppositional elements are ready to sacrifice their vanishing lives, if it becomes necessary and a last resort, to ensure that Dr. Kalu does not succeed! And fortunately for them, Dr. Kalu just takes these matters in his stride without making any effort to counter the ingrates through a balance of terror and power, which they know he has the quintessential capacity, competency, illimitable resources and national/supranational clout/contact/ network to beat them in their market-dance game if he decides to condescend to their devilish, kamikaze and idiotic level!
The blanket electoral provision that rerun elections must be concluded and results announced willy-nilly is not just specious but also irrational and stupefactious. So, irrespective of the outcome of polling or sharp practices during the process or cases of disenfranchisement in eight wards, the result must be announced. Such flagrant violation of the law should be for lower animals! It is in abuse of this section of the Electoral Act that desperate and irresponsible political godfathers get away with their mutilation of results and other imbecilic improprieties.
The time has come for the Federal Government to take a special interest in what the PDP is doing in Abia State with regard to elections. If the party’s leadership is allowed to continue the way it did in the 2015 and 2016 polls and rerun, there will be a conflagration soon that will engulf not just the state but also neighbouring PDP states, which may cultivate the same subversive tendencies.
For anyone to attribute the abuse of electoral process in the rerun as divine revalidation of earlier mutilation of the senatorial result is demonstrative of asininity and blasphemy of incomparable magnitude. Without being judgmental, most vicious and querulous politicians from Abia State are certified candidates for hell.
If the Federal Government continues to handle electoral banditry with levity and inexplicable indifference, especially in Abia State, I have the conviction that the fight against other forms of corruption will not succeed, as other spheres of life inevitably depend on the enthronement of good governance!
• Wabara ([email protected] om/08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.