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Heroes of Democracy: The Rivers Example

By Simeon Nwakaudu

When the story of the 2019 General Elections  is written,  the good people of Rivers State will occupy a pride of place for their role in deepening democracy.  Rivers people all through the electioneering period stood their ground and refused to be cowed by the instrumentality of State Brute Force .

In the respective polling units, Rivers people defied the Intimidation of the Army, F-SARs led by APC leaders to cast their votes. On February 23 and March 9 they voted for PDP candidates. At the risk of their lives, they stood their ground  at the respective  Collation Centres,  insisting  that their votes must count.

The criminal love affair between  the APC, the Army and F-SARs  is known to all. Their desperation  to subvert  the will of Rivers people is now an issue of worry internationally.

Therefore,  I was not surprised when I read online the ranting of the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu. Even though we know that the APC has immeasurable  capacity for lies and illegality,  this press release by the party is the worst form of despicable comedy.

The narrative contained  in the APC Press Release  is not different from the position of the Nigerian Army.  I wonder  who wrote the piece. It is disheartening that the two groups think that they can subvert  the will of Rivers people.

The APC  did not field any Candidate in the Governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State.  What then is the motivation for their reckless criminality and determination  to use the army and F-SARs  to unleash terror on Rivers  people.

It is regrettable  that the National Publicity Secretary of the APC  attempted  in vain to trivialise  the crimes  against Rivers people and democracy by Army  and APC leaders at different Collation Centres.  Luckily for democracy,  majority of these  acts of criminality  were captured on video  by citizen reporters.

Videos of attempts by the Nigerian Army, F-SARs accompanied by APC Chieftains to subvert the will of Rivers people have inundated the internet. These illegal activities  have brought shame to the country.  The feeble efforts at damage control are coming too late. In Khana,  Gokana, Eleme, Ogu/Bolo,  Okrika,  Obio/Akpor,  Port Harcourt City, Akuku-Toru, Ahoada West and Abua/Odual LGAS,  citizen reporters captured on video,  varying degrees of illegal Army activities to subvert the will of Rivers people.  In Ogu/Bolo,  Okrika , Port Harcourt and Eleme, citizens were seen in different videos singing against the illegal activities of soldiers at the Collation Centres.

The most disheartening was the attempted invasion of the Rivers State Governorship Election Collation Centre by soldiers  in broad daylight.  They were resisted by policemen.  This ugly failed attempt was covered on National Television.

“That collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process,” INEC said in her statement on Rivers election.

But the statement  of INEC in Rivers State on Sunday captured the criminal activities of the Nigerian Army in very clear  terms.

Head of Department of Voter Education and Publicity in Rivers State, Edwin Enabo said: “The INEC office is under siege by men in army uniforms, uniforms of the Air Force and police who have taken over.They are stopping and screening people.They are clearing results before they enter the office to the extent that up till now no collation has been done”.

The only reason for the siege by the soldiers  was to alter the will of the people. Had they succeeded,  it would have been a different story. Since then, the Army and the APC have been struggling to outdo themselves in their defence of the absurd. Even leaders of the obscure party they are fronting have nothing to say.

Locally and internationally,  nations and  groups have stated their positions  on the ignoble acts of soldiers and the APC.

“Extremely concerned by reports, including from @UKinnigeria observers, of military interference in the election process in Rivers State.

“Monitoring the situation closely. @inecng staff must be allowed to do their job in safety, without intimidation,” a tweet from @UKinNigeria read.

The United States-Nigeria Law Group, an election observer initiative,  USNLG report stated that:

“The military invasion and rampage in Rivers State is troublesome on several levels not the least of which is: The ruling party APC was not even a candidate in the elections yet the government interfered with military might to rig in the most ignoble and egregious way ever”.

According  to the European Union “Observers, including EU observers, were denied access to collation centres in Rivers”.

The APC and their allies who plotted against Rivers State must learn to accept that their game is over. At this point, framing of allegations and countless press statements are no longer  relevant. All eyes are on Rivers State.  The plot to use agents of State violence to invade Collation Centres may no longer  be realistic.

INEC  has declared that the Collation process for Rivers State will commence and may likely on Wednesday March 20, 2019. From the disposition of the APC as contained in their press statement , they may attempt one more desperate act  to frustrate the process . However,  Rivers people are ever vigilant.

For me, the heroes in all,  are Rivers people  across the 4442 Polling Units.  They refused to be intimidated.  They refused to be cowed and they refused to allow anti-Rivers  elements   rob their mandate.  They insisted  on their right to choose their leaders in the face of gun-wielding soldiers and F-SARs  personnel.  They maintained  their stance that no godfather would be allowed  to manipulate  the Electoral process.

My conclusion is simple.  Rivers people are the heroes  of this dispensation.  They have made the right statement. They have shown that the power of the people supercedes  the power of criminal  elements  and gangsters in law enforcement agencies.

AmarSim Associations Development Consultants

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