By Simeon NwakauduThe story of the victory of Rivers people against the forces of darkness, despair and criminality during the 2019 Governorship Election is known to the entire world. It was a victory that has since received the approval stamp of the international community, the independent press, telection monitors and the good people of Rivers State.It was a classical case of Rivers people insisting on their preferred choice and resisting the imposition of a stooge by APC elements backed by the Nigerian Army under the unfortunate control of one Major General Jamil Sarhem.On Saturday, 5th October, 2019, the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal gave its verdict. It confirmed the re-election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. This confirmation , which was expected, serves as a judicial approval to the votes of Rivers people, in the face of bloody plots by the Nigerian Army and Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARs).The Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by APC backed African Action Congress ( AAC) Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara. It also dismissed the petition filed by the defeated Action Democratic Party (ADP) , Mr Victor Fingesi. The route to this confirmation was long. Rivers people knew all along that there would be a Judicial confirmation.From the very day the suits were filed, it was clear that the Judicial process will confirm the re-election of Governor Wike. The reason was simple. Rivers people in their numbers trooped out to vote for Governor Wike. All through the electioneering process, the Rivers State Governor interfaced with them and assured them of his commitment to the greater good of the state.INEC on April 3, 2019 declared Governor Wike re-elected after he polled 886,264 votes, while his closest challenger of African Alliance Congress (AAC) Biokpomabo Awara, scored 173,859 votes.
The defeated APC backed AAC Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara did not campaign. He was not known to Rivers people. The APC/AAC/ARMY Alliance simply relied on a rigging plan that failed them in the face of the vigilance of Rivers people.Therefore, at the Rivers State Governorship Election, the AAC/APC/ARMY alliance had nothing to present in defence of their petition. They called no polling agents to prove their case. The party’s State Collation Agent testifying at the Tribunal confirmed that Governor Wike won.For the AAC/APC/ARMY alliance, there were key factors that destroyed their sponsored challenge. Some of the factors will be highlighted thus:AAC State Governorship Collation Agent’s TestimonyThe African Action Congress ( AAC) State Collation Agent for the 2019 Rivers State Governorship Election , Mr Nenye Kocha at the Tribunal that Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike emerged victorious on the strength of the Governorship Collation between April 2 and 3, 2019.Kocha who appeared as Star Witness of AAC at the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal said all through the Collation of results, there was no time that the defeated AAC Governorship Candidate led in the race.Kocha who is also the Secretary of AAC said that he is registered member with party card registration number: AAC8016ONL . He joined the AAC in August 2018.The AAC State collation agent, told the tribunal that the party only had only 418 agents across the 4442 units in the state. He said as a new party, they were able to clear only four House of Assembly candidates and one Governorship candidate for the March 9, 2019 election.He revealed during cross examination by counsel for 2nd respondent (Wike), Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) that one Donatus Barikor from Gokana LGA and Henry Iyala from Degema LGA who testified for Awara as the party collation agents were imposters and not AAC members.He further declared that there were no results collated for Gokana and Abua/Odual Local Government Areas during the State Collation of the Rivers State Governorship Election.The AAC Star Witness said: “We had just four house of Assembly candidates and one Governorship candidate. Out of the 32 Seats in the Assembly, we only had four candidates. No candidate for National Assembly. We had collation agents in only 418 polling units across the 4442 polling units in the state.“No result was declared for Abua/Odual and Gokana LGAs as at the time of collation. INEC conducted the election in strict compliance of the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines”.The Rivers AAC Governorship Election Collation Agent declared that he will not dent his integrity because of mere politics, emphasising that he was at the Tribunal to declare the truth.He said: “Donatus Barikor for Gokana and Henry Iyala for Degema were not AAC party agents.“This is the first time I am in politics, coming from industry I am in politics for integrity. APC adopted our Governorship candidate two days to the election”.Kocha admitted at the Tribunal that at the Party no longer has a Deputy Governorship Candidate following the withdrawal of Chief Akpo Bomba Yeeh from the ticket.He said that the AAC won in only two Local Government Areas, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area and Oyigbo LGA as clearly declared by INEC during the Collation of results.Nenye added that most of the witnesses presented in court by Biokpomabo Awara initially were not members of AAC . He stated the AAC started in August 2018 and only prepared for the election two days to the polls after it was adopted by the leadership of the APC.The Tribunal found him to be a credible witness and relied on his truthful evidence. According to the Tribunal, he was consistent from the Collation Centre through to the witness box at the Tribunal.AIT’S VIDEO EVIDENCE OF THE COLLATION PROCESSIt was the second petitioner, the AAC that subpoenaed AIT to tender the comprehensive video evidence of the April 3, 2019 Collation of the Governorship Election.A certified video clip presented by the African Action Congress through its subpoenaed witness, an African Independent Television (AIT) staff, Osademe Joseph, proved Governor Nyesom Wike as the winner of the 2019 Governorship election in Rivers State after the Collation of Results between April 2 and 3 of 2019.Mr Osademe told the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal that he was one of the producers of the live broadcast of the Rivers State Governorship election results collation held between April 2 and 3, 2019, at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Port Harcourt.In the video clip played in court, INEC declared Governor Wike winner of the poll with 888, 264 votes ahead of the AAC Gubernatorial candidate, Biokpomabo Festus Awara who came second in the list with total of 173, 859 votes.The video also confirmed the collation and declaration of Obio Akpor LGA election results and non declaration of Gokana and Abua/Odual LGAs by INEC.The Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal declared that the clip was a clear proof that the Collation of results took place.Police Official Report Confirming Governor Wike’s Re-electionA serving Assistant Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, ACP Victor Onugbo, tendered a document before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, authenticating the electoral victory of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike during the March 9, 2019 election. He was also a subpoenaed witness of the AAC.Onugbo who serves at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Port Harcourt, appeared before the tribunal based on the court subpoena on the State Commissioner of Police.Responding to questions from counsel to African Action Congress ( AAC), Henry Bello, ACP Onugbo told the Tribunal that the document he presented was the incident reports of all that occurred during election. He added that the report was sealed by the Rivers State police command.The Tribunal found the Assistant Commissioner of Police a credible witness. He also tendered certified copies of results given to the Police after the Collation Process.Awara formally abandoned concocted Police results/documents brought by Former Rivers SARs Second-in-commandThe Governorship Candidate of the African Action Congress ( AAC), Biokpomabo Awara formally abandoned the concocted results brought in by Superintendent of Police, Solomon Egba, Former Second-in-command to Akin Fakorede to the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal.Awara had brought in Solomon Egba, Former Second-in-command to Akin Fakorede to the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal as a subpoenaed witness to tender concocted results/documents, but counsels to the defendants opposed their admissibility because they were part of paragraphs already struck out by the Tribunal.Counsel to Biokpomabo Awara, Mr Emenike Ebete said the AAC Governorship Candidate decided to abandon the Police documents because they are of no value because they were dumped on the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal .“.Emmanuel Ukala, Counsel to the Rivers State Governor told the Governorship Candidate of the AAC that no subpoena was served on the office of the Inspector General of Police as the Tribunal registry indicates.
Failed Request To Reconstitute Election Tribunal
Realising that it has no evidence to prosecute its case, the defeated Rivers State AAC Governorship Candidate wrote to the President Court of Appeal to constitute a new panel.
This request was countered by his party, AAC, which approached the Federal High Court to stop this manipulation of the Judicial System.
The desperation to act illegally was obvious. No attempt was made to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
Failure to Adduce Credible Evidence and Impostors at Witnesses
Awara called only 20 witnesses to prove a petition that alleged that he won election in 15 Local Government Areas of Rivers State. Of these 20 witnesses, none was a polling unit agent.
The Tribunal ruled that the results tendered by the petitioner, Awara Biokpomabo while giving evidence were inadmissible and therefore expunged from the records.
According to the Tribunal, the defeated AAC Governorship Candidate, Biokpomabo Awara tendered certified true copy of the State Governorship Election result and the declaration of results by INEC. The Tribunal noted that neither Awara Biokpomabo nor any of his witnesses tendered any results different from that of INEC .
The Tribunal said Awara Biokpomabo failed to call his polling unit agents to testify, even though he admitted that they were all alive. The court held that PW3 to 19 who testified were alleged ward or Local Government agents, whose testimonies were found not to be credible .
The Tribunal added that even the results tendered by Awara had no names of polling unit agents, no signatures of polling units agents and had no INEC stamp . The Tribunal therefore declared the said results inadmissible and of no value.
ADP’S ADVENTURE TO THE NON-EXISTENT
For the ADP, it was an adventure to the Non-Existent. This was the final position of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal. The party rigmaroled all through and called no witnesses to prove its case.
Even where witnesses were called, they were nowhere close to the polling units. Therefore, the evidence they adduced, amounted to mere hearsay.
Most significantly, the petitioner wrote a petition against himself. The preliminary objection by the counsel to the Rivers State Governor succeeded because it was impossible for the petitioner to challenge himself at the Tribunal.
Determining the petition of the ADP Governorship Candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi on its merit, the Tribunal declared that the petitioner failed woefully to prove that Governor Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9, 2019 Governorship election.
Justice Orjiako declared that the petitioner’s complaint is vague and merely speculative.
The Tribunal stated that the first petitioner did not know the number of registered voters in the state. The Tribunal further noted that the Petitioner under cross examination said he had no knowledge of the number of registered voters in his own polling unit in Okrika LGA.
The Tribunal declared an allegation that the winner did not score the highest number of votes is an invitation to compare figures. The Tribunal held that the petitioner ought to plead his own results and that of the winner for the court to cross check.
INEC’S POWER TO SUSPEND ELECTION
The Tribunal stated that INEC has the power to suspend or postpone election in line with the Electoral Act as long as there was cogent and verifiable reason. According to the Tribunal, there was a cogent and verifiable reason for the suspension of the Collation of results during the Rivers State Governorship.
The Tribunal said that INEC acted pursuant to Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act when it shifted Collation to April 3, 2019.
The Tribunal held that there is no evidence that after the suspension of the Collation, the petitioners pulled out of the process. It was on record that they participated till the end of Collation and declaration of results.
Furthermore, the petitioners adduced no evidence to prove impugn the election of Governor Wike. They also failed woefully to prove any of their allegations.
DANCING TO A NEGATIVE ANTI-RIVERS DRUMBEAT
The defeated AAC Governorship Candidate of Rivers State, Biokpomabo Awara is merely dancing to the negative anti-Rivers drumbeat being played by his sponsor, the immediate past Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who funded his election, after the unpatriotic adoption at Eleme, two days to the election.
He printed no posters, never campaigned and was not physically known to the electorate. By allowing himself to be used as an agent of ungodly manipulation, Biokpomabo Awara sought to ridicule Rivers people by robbing them of their mandate. By this unholy alliance with the APC and the Nigerian Army, the defeated AAC Governorship Candidate thought that Rivers mandate was a “one chance” gift from a 419 Retail Shop. Rivers people played their part on March 9, INEC declared the collated result on April 3 and the Rivers State Governorship Election gave the judicial confirmation on October 5, 2019.
The ugly architects of the AAC/APC/ARMY alliance who attempted to rob the Rivers mandate, should be brought to justice. These are persons who used state resources and institutions to threaten the mandate of Rivers people. In all, the Judgment of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal was a confirmation of the mandate of Rivers people, freely extended to Governor Wike to consolidate on the successes of his glorious first