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.