By Emma Okah
As Nigerians continue to live with the bitter pill of an incompetent but deeply partisan electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, it has become necessary again to predict the colour of the 2019 elections and the dangers that litter the landscape. Violence is central and so much of it is being cooked to be unleashed in Rivers State. Many Nigerians are satisfied with branding Rivers State a turbulent election area but only a few are asking the pertinent questions to understand the causes and the assailants.
A by-election was conducted in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on August 18, 2018 for a seat in the State House of Assembly with just 8 wards and 142 polling units. But this was disrupted due to heavy violence leading to suspension or cancellation by the (INEC). The disturbing observation seems to be that most persons reveled in the fact of violence, especially those who started it or felt the violence favoured them. They prided themselves as testing the microphone of violence. The violence resulted in disenfranchisement of voters and bad taste to voting. Worse, there seems to be much joy now in denying people their much-given rights to freely choose who should govern them. Unfortunately, there is no other place this is more celebrated than Rivers State, as it were.
This threatening scenario is being dismissed by people who simply say it has been like that since 1999. The danger that it poses today and what the APC is telling us today by justifying today's violence is that they have the apparatus of violence and that they are going to maximize it against their opponents, against the PDP, during the forthcoming elections.
The meaning of that is that everybody will have to be a victim of attack unless you allowed them to win. Also, the level that the APC is taking election violence in Rivers State has reached a very disturbing crescendo. It does not matter who is the perpetrator. No normal person can fail to see it so; that wrong remains wrong. Every well-meaning person should seek an end to what is not right and rebuild our society for the better.
It does not matter to me that something was wrong yesterday. If somebody was a victim yesterday, so, everybody must perish today, just for you to win an election? So, because things have changed, the victims of yesterday must visit wrong on the people? If that is allowed to stay, then we mean evil should have no end?
The police are constitutionally empowered to bear arms but it is not to maul over the populace. Violence, apart from discouraging people from voting, puts voters and electoral officers in danger. Imagine members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) being harmed. Nigerians must wake up to that reality. The same evil that is being perpetrated in Rivers State is now being exported to other states like in Ekiti when the police was used to intimidate a sitting governor. At the end of the day, you wrestle him down and arm-twist him until he is unable to defend himself properly, taking advantage of the coercive power of the state.
So, it looks easy to interpret that all you need to do to win election now is to spend all the money on the security, raise thugs, and the police will give the thugs covering power, cart away sensitive materials, snatch ballot boxes, and take away card reader machines. With that, you have paralyzed the voting process and you now come out with a result you have pre-written. Printing of INEC results is no longer a big deal. We saw it in Port Harcourt here and we shouted and arrests were made, but no person was punished. It is such impunity. The alert was not proved to be a lie, either. Instead, the case was transferred to police Zone 6, and the young man who was caught with the printed materials at 12, Isiokpo Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt Mr Atonye Peterside and his accomplices are walking the streets freely. They were all APC members.
When the re-run election involving Rivers East was held, the court relied on the result given to them by the police and rejected the one from INEC. So, where did the police get their own result? These came from the alternative results the APC printed. Nobody has been punished to this day. We are showing this example to Nigerians and that is why I am saying, there is a limit to how you can wrestle a man and bring him down in his house. A day comes when he can tell you, you cannot do that. Nigerians must look at this matter seriously.
To me, instead of wasting your resources to think you must win everywhere to retain your seat, you can still win without winning everywhere. A senator must not win everywhere to be senator. What is happening in Rivers State is the desire and wish of one man that wants to be seen as a pampered child; that wants to say he contributed so much to making somebody what he is today and must be so regarded and rewarded with a state. That is why they deploy SARS to obstruct elections in Rivers State and make it impossible for free and fair election to hold so they can declare for APC and claim that they won.
The Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and its State commander are the major problems in election rigging and violence in Rivers State. The Acting President (when the president was away) had said that SARS was going to be restructured. While we were still talking about that, the same SARS has come to demonstrate again that it truly is a satanic organization by disrupting by-elections in Rivers State. So, where so we go from there? What it means is that anywhere you discover that elections are not going in their favour, SARS will surface with thugs, giving thugs cover to go and disrupt it, leaving even unarmed security men at the polling units running for safety.
Many people feel that if this is how it will go, why are they going to be bothered breaking their neck when the centre will not allow the elections to hold and when all you will do is to risk the lives of those who came to do elections. The people of Rivers State should be allowed to vote people of their choice and not be intimidated with the police just to do the bidding of the APC because the FG has control of the security agencies, and is in control of officers who have the power to bear arms. This will not solve Nigeria's problem. This short cut to victory is slowly spreading to other parts of Nigeria because it met success in Rivers State. Despite that, the Rivers State Governor has continued to complain that the SARS we have in Rivers State and their Commander have remained in the state to do the things the Commander wants to do and the way he wants to do them as instructed, all to the detriment of the PDP.
Election violence does not just happen. The major cause is simple. Once you have this mindset and you set the stage where you will not allow people to vote freely to exercise their rights, people will resist you and there will be crisis. If they don't, then thank your stars, but in 99.9% of the cases, the people will resist you. What will make a man do this is because he is not going to win election under fair conditions. If you knew you were going to win, why would you disrupt elections? It is like trying to enter into a house through the window when the door is open. It is very important to bring these things to the attention of Nigerians before it is too late. Nigerians need to know that we are heading towards the path of perdition.
Many people have asked what should be done about this. It is the centre that has to act because Nigeria is represented by the FG. The National Assembly must do something about it and find a mechanism that can stop this. They must come up with a mechanism that would make this kind of action unattractive. Laws are made to address the problems of man. The statutes must make it impossible for anybody to tow this line of ignominy and stand laughing. That is why the present amendment to the Electoral Act is overdue.
The way elections are conducted in Rivers State portends danger to our people. Deriving joy from election violence is going to bring bitterness in this country especially Rivers State because the consequences will surely be huge, for everybody. Violence can only beget more violence.
Emma Okah is the Rivers State Commissioner for Information & Communications
It's barely two months to the twenty third memorial of nine Ogons killed for Shell by the Nigerian authorities on November 10, 1995. This evil Enterprise we call Shell has stopped at nothing to push forward it's brutally against the Ogoni people.
Few weeks ago, we - the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) called for investigations into the cases of harrassment against Ogoni women in Gokana by soldiers attached to Shell workers currently laying pipelines in Ogoniland. And more recently, the cases of Doodealo and Dr Nwosu, both researchers who were brutally manhandled by the same soldiers while they attempted to take samples for soil tests in Ogoniland.
At this moment, the Nigerian authorities have not acted in any way to protect our women from further abuses nor have they commissioned any probe into these cases.
In their response to the harassment of women, Shell claimed that the soldiers do not take instructions from them. But the fact remains that Shell invited the soldiers in their desperation to return to oil production in Ogoniland without any broad-based discussions with the people and therefore cannot deny responsibility for the crimes.
Shell in Nigeria is inhuman and a Shame. Its conduct in Nigeria is despicable and an urgly representation of today's business Community. With her overwhelming influence on the Nigerian government, Shell has taken advantage of our country to inflict monumental pain on our people, abusing citizen's rights and has also devised a way of evading justice for the people.
In Ogoniland, Shell has polluted the land, turning it into a wasteland, destroying the people's livelihoods and insisting on not compensating the people for the losses. Fully aware of the discriminatory laws under which Nigeria operates, the very laws that threaten the existence of resource-based communities like the Ogoni, Shell has completely abandoned their social responsibilities and has instead divided the people against each other just to maintain it's dominance and deprive the people of every voice that can announce their oppression to the knowledge of the world.
Shell has prosecuted the war on Ogoni with every resource available to it, exploiting the people's weaknesses especially the discriminatory laws that has deprived the Ogoni people their rightful place in our country. Rather than helping to build a progressive and prosperous host Community, Shell is comfortable with the current system that allows the company do what it dares not do in Europe. After taking over 100 billion dollars worth of oil from Ogoni, a company like shell which doesn't use her conscience continues to act indifferently even as it's Pollutions in Ogoni sadly and currently kills over 200 Ogonis every week.
Shell does not feel bothered that people's livelihoods have been destroyed and they deserve to be compensated. Shell cannot claim to be ignorant about the fact that their cannot be remediation without compensation for damages.
But Shell must pay for her crimes in Ogoniland. It does not matter the strength of the Nigerian armies, Ogoni will not surrender to murderers like Shell nor shall we surrender to the discriminatory laws of Nigeria which threaten our survival.
We demand justice for the Ogoni people of Nigeria. We demand political rights to self determination, we demand the rights to a respectable and dignified living. These rights are currently enjoyed by other groups in Nigeria who take away Ogoni resources and share among themselves leaving Ogoni with nothing but the pains and sad consequences of revenue generation, we demand the review of the death sentences passed on nine innocent Ogonis during the regime of General Sani Abacha in 1995, we demand the payment of compensation by Shell for the destruction of livelihoods by oil spills from the company's reckless oil mining business in Ogoniland since 1958, and an adequate funding for the cleanup and restoration of Ogoniland.
These demands are justifiable, legitimate and do conform with the ideals of the founding fathers of our country. We state categorically that as a people, we shall not compromise on our rights nor shall we relent on our demands for fairness and justice as contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights.
This post is written by Fegalo Nsuke, publicly secretary of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He wrote from Bori, Ogoniland.
By: Dr Mike A. A. Ozekhome
I humbly disagree with President Muhammadu Buhari on his assertion that security and national interest should be elevated above the rule of law. He said this in his opening remarks during the 2018 NBA Annual General Conference currently going on in Abuja. Mr. President, with all due respect, is definitely wrong on this score.
By Simeon Nwakaudu
Don't be deceived by the antics of the fallen political godfather, 2019 in Rivers State will not be determined by the "follow-follow" use of ill-gotten state funds to coerce a few lieutenants into accepting a pliant godson.
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Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has stated that the entire leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP ) in the state will decide on the PDP Presidential Aspirant to support ahead of the party's Presidential Primary.