The Save Ijaw Nation Group (SING) observed with dismay happenings in the Port Harcourt 3 State Constituency bye elections, held on Saturday 18th of August, 2018 in Rivers State. The ominous signs, of what is to come that the election showed, should put all well meaning Nigerians on the edge of their seats with worry.
While we had come to believe that the biggest challenge to elections is the phenomenon of vote buying at the voting centres, in the full glare of security personnel, for which we had held several engagements to proffer solutions to. it came as a rude shocker to us that security personnel have sunk to an even newer low, taking us back to the days of snatching ballot boxes in attempt to brazenly rig elections.
The office of the citizen remains the highest in the land and their voice cannot be silenced by institutions that are creations of the laws of the land, institutions that ought to serve their interests, rather than the interests of a cabal of the ruling elite. Never in the chequered history of election malpractices and violence in this country have we had a situation where armed security personnel lead the violence and provide protection for the perpetrators of violence.
This national and international disgrace calls for an urgent reform of the security architecture of Nigeria, beginning with police reforms. While police reform arguments have often tilted too much towards creating state police, the problem as we have seen time and again is much deeper that just decentralizing the current system.
We call on the National Assembly, in furtherance of the bills for police reforms under consideration, to focus more on independent funding and operations of the police to ensure that it is egalitarian in the discharge of its duties of rendering service to the people rather than the whims of the government of the day. The National Assembly should also give more than passing consideration to strengthening the provisions for sanctions in our Electoral Act, to serve as deterrent.
It is rather worrying that President Buhari has vetoed the electoral act as passed by the national assembly, without providing good enough reasons to the people of Nigeria. That Act made provisions for the institutionalization of the use of card readers and we are greatly concerned that there is a deliberate attempt to stifle the voice of the people using armed security men.
We salute the courage of the leadership of INEC in saying it as it is and telling all Nigerians exactly what transpired in Rivers and restoring our confidence in its neutrality and unwillingness to compromise in execution of its mandate. We salute the self sacrificing spirit shown by the staff of INEC who went in to conduct that election and faced the betrayal of those who ought to have protected them. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered injuries and other forms of loss in the process.
We are bothered by the descent into lawlessness across Nigeria in different forms, shapes and shades, and even more worried that rather than strengthen and empowers security agencies to meet with these emerging threats the ruling elite are more concerned with perpetuating themselves and their cronies in power by dating the very people who ought to be their bosses and put them in office. The office of the citizen is the most powerful in a democracy but our ruling elite have weaponized poverty and ignorance along with state apparatus to continue to undermine our people. No institution of the Nigerian state is sacrosanct anymore as all that can be desecrated have been desecrated time and again without consequence for anyone other than the poor suffering masses of Nigeria.
SING will resist any attempt to rob the people of the Niger Delta of the dignity and power by any Peron or group of persons, no matter how powerful and we call on all people of the Niger delta to rise and defend their vote which is their power. We call on the politicians to focus on the emergency of reforming the system to cope with a fast changing world economic balance of power, rather than perpetuating themselves at the helm of a collapsing and slowly failing state. Nigeria needs to rise to the challenges of the day and in line with our mandate we will not let up in demanding the political class wake up to this reality.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!