By Nelson Ekujumi
On Saturday 12th October 2013, Nigerians in Delta State Central senatorial zone went to the polls in an election that INEC was expected at least for once prove that it is capable of conducting a free, fair and credible election in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians.
However, while one was not a voter nor an accredited observer, but as a concerned Nigeria who was eager to see things done efficiently, I monitored the election through the media and I must confess that the reports of the conduct of the election by INEC and the security agencies leaves much to be desired and were very inimical to the progress of democracy in our country.
Days before the election, our media space was awash with reports about a calculated official manipulation system to award victory via landslide jargon in favour of the ruling PDP senatorial candidate and the result as released by INEC yesterday Sunday 13th October, 2013 confirmed it to be nothing but the shame that has become a way of life in our country.
From reports monitored, INEC as usual exhibited gross incompetence by deploying electoral materials very late around 2-3pm instead of the usual 8-9am to most of the polling centres all over the senatorial zone.
The conduct of INEC in violating the Electoral rules which stipulates a time frame for accreditation and voting calls to question the conduct and result of the election. Another worrisome dimension to the election conduct was the refusal of INEC (NYSC) ad hoc staffs that protested over unpaid allowances by refusing to go to their centres at the stipulated time and thus jeopardized the credible conduct of the polls, so one wonders, if this was not a calculated attempt to undermine the election.
The election was characterized by widespread reports of assaults, molestations, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing, massive thumb printing, violence and breach of the franchise of voters by security agencies and party thugs who contributed in no small way to the misconduct of the election.
Another sad commentary to the violence that characterized the election was that it was not limited to only voters and party agents as the media also suffered similar fate when the crew of a TV station was attacked and brutalized by some party chieftains and thugs.
Also, there were allegations that the security agencies displayed unpatriotic partisanship in violation of their constitutional oath by allowing elected office holders and party chieftains of a particular party and serving officials of the government of Delta state to move freely in violation of the Electoral Act and even turned blind eyes and ears to reports of allegations of electoral malpractice in some locations.
The collation of results were also alleged to have been fraught with irregularities through the connivance of the security agencies who chased away other party agents except those of the PDP if the reports from the media are anything to go by.
The truth of the matter is that the result declared by INEC as at Sunday 13th October, 2013 in declaring Chief Emmanuel Agwariavwodo the winner as having polled over 263, 024 votes as against the runners up who polled about 29,075 votes and 29,055 respectively is scandalous and not a true reflection of the democratic votes of Delta Central Senatorial zone if we go by media reports and independent observers that the turn out of the election were very low in view of the militarization of the zone by the security agencies and party thugs.
One is hereby calling for a reappraisal of the role of the military and the police in future elections as a result of this show of shame called election in Delta state. One would also like to use this medium to call on the inspector General of Police, alhaji M. D. Abubakar to immediately order for investigation and prosecution of those involved in assaulting the fundamental rights of the media house so as to serve as a deterrent to others and put a stop to this wrong culture of attacking media personnel and preventing them from carrying out their constitutional duties on election days, the apology of Governor Uduaghan without prosecution of this law violators is not acceptable.
It is in the light of these allegations and others that one is afraid that if this is the way and manner that INEC and the security agents wants to be abusing our democratic rights to freely choose those to govern us by abusing the process, then it is high time for all men and women of conscience to come out now to save our democracy by condemning the conduct of the Delta Central Senatorial Bye election and calling for a cancellation so that this show of shame will not stand.
In the interim, we urge other parties to the election not to take the law into their hands but as democrats, to gather their facts and figures and approach the courts for adjudication so that justice will prevail.
(Ekujumi is Executive Director,
Centre for Rights and Grassroots Initiative (CRGI)
1a Fadeyi Street, Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja,
Lagos. Tel: 08023172694, 07033853232)