There is no doubt that so much has been written on the “troubled” Rivers State rerun election of March 19, 2016, in which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won most of the declared results against the poor showing of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The fact of the matter is that the APC lost the election and the reason why it lost is quite clear and obvious to its members and most Nigerians.
Much has also been written on the exaggerated scale of violence that trailed the Rivers rerun poll and other electoral infractions that took place during the poll as well as the killings that were part of the poll.
It is, therefore, not wrong for one to postulate that those electoral oddities also characterize elections in other parts of the country as well. The case of Rivers State is not in any way isolated. In fact, it was based on such observations that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancelled the exercise in eight local government areas even though the PDP was reportedly leading in those councils. Much has also been written on why the PDP won most of the released polls and why the APC lost. Nigerians now know which party is popular and the one that is not popular in the state. The people of Rivers State do not need the services of a prophet to tell them their political party.
Much has equally been written on the poor manner the present electoral umpire has handled elections and rerun polls in most states in Nigeria and the general conclusion is that the electoral agency has not demonstrated enough capacity to handle such polls. It is either it is not sufficiently prepared for the job at hand or it is overwhelmed by logistic problems including security and manpower. I think the umpire is guilty of both charges. We witnessed it in Kogi State, Bayelsa State and now the entire scenario has played out in Rivers rerun and still playing out since the poll was unceremoniously put on hold until “normalcy” returns.
Kogi and Bayelsa states rerun polls were timely concluded despite the acknowledged hiccups, so why is Rivers State rerun proving to be different or is being made to be different? The natural law demands that like terms should be treated the same way and unlike terms handled the same way.
It is clear that not much has been written about the unnecessary delay tactic and piecemeal release of results adopted by INEC in Rivers rerun, something never seen in the history of elections in the country. What is so special about Rivers rerun that has not been seen in elections in others states in Nigeria?
It bears repeating that the Kogi State rerun witnessed equal amount of violence and even killings comparable to Rivers State yet the heavens did not fall. The one in Bayelsa State witnessed high level of violence and killings as well, yet it was concluded without undue delay. Those elections have been concluded after all said and done. So, why is INEC still holding on the Rivers rerun poll? Why is the poll proving so difficult for INEC to conclude? Is there any “magomago” and “wuruwuru” going on that Nigerians are not aware about the poll?
Why is INEC still delaying the conclusion of the Rivers rerun poll after calm has returned to the oil-rich state? What kind of normalcy does INEC require before it can conclude the Rivers rerun poll? The delay tactic of the electoral umpire in the Rivers rerun is indeed a novelty in the history of elections and rerun polls in Nigeria. The INEC delay is very disturbing and distressing.
The tragedy of the Rivers rerun poll is that both the PDP and APC have condemned the electoral umpire’s seeming unpreparedness for the violence and infractions that characterized the poll. That the two leading contending political parties can in unison pass such bad judgement on the electoral umpire is bad enough. Many Nigerians are doubtful on the capability of the present INEC to conduct the 2019 general elections in the country judging by its below par performance in the rerun polls it has conducted so far, especially the one in Rivers State.
The electoral umpire should come out of its cocoon and tell Nigerians exactly when it is going to release the remaining results in Rivers rerun poll. It should state unambiguously when it is going to conduct the poll in the areas that it cancelled the exercise. Hiding on the alibi that it will only do so when “normalcy” returns is quite deceitful and nebulous. By the way, who determines when normalcy returns?
In case INEC does not know or pretends not to know, the Rivers rerun poll has been lost and won. And Nigerians know the winner and the loser. The general outcome of the election, no matter what INEC is trying to do now, is surely in favour of the PDP. Nothing can be further from the truth. And nothing can change the situation. The bitter truth is that the oil-rich state belongs to the PDP. The INEC delay tactic cannot change the situation.
Must a rerun poll drag so long before it is concluded? Must the poll be suspended indefinitely? Is INEC position in Rivers rerun in line with the provisions of the constitution and the current Electoral Act? I want lawyers to answer the above posers and advise the electoral umpire accordingly with regards to the Rivers rerun poll. Without preempting what the learned gentlemen would say, I implore the electoral umpire to do the needful and curb the mounting tension and anxiety in Rivers State over the poll.
The electoral agency should be part of the solution to the Rivers electoral problem; it should not constitute the problem as its stance may appear to be interpreted. In case the electoral body is not aware, it is not in doubt that sufficient peace and normalcy had returned to Rivers that it is now ripe for the umpire to conclude the poll and allow Rivers State to move on. That is exactly what INEC should do now to save itself the shame of conducting many inconclusive polls in the country. And it should do so without further delay. I say this because Nigerians are already tired of myriad of inconclusive elections in the country under the watch of the “change” regime.
They want a departure from such drab and colourless electoral outings and outcomes under the current umpire. The people of Rivers State will be glad if INEC concludes the Rivers rerun poll. Doing so will enable the state to move on. I think that such expectation from the umpire by the people is modest enough. Let INEC do the right thing by concluding the rerun poll forthwith.