IMO NORTH SENATE RE-RUN ELECTION – THE HAND OF ESSAU

Your Excellency Sir,

When Nigerians desperately fought for your election, we had a lot of hope and belief that your emergence will signal a new way of doing things in our body polity. We dreamt and fought for change. Many Nigerians have also stood by you as the difficult process of change has continued painstakingly but steadily and we are confident that a new Nigeria will arise from the ruins of yesterday.  However, our faith is shaken all too often by certain happenings especially in the electoral process. Below is one instance.

Saturday 20th February was a day scheduled for the Re-run election into the vacant Senate Seat of Imo North (Okigwe) Senatorial District. However that was not to be as the election was postponed less than 24 hours to the election. However, the news is not that the election was postponed but rather the reasons (immediate and remote) that ultimately culminated in the postponement. These are why it is worrying enough to warrant this open letter to the President and Commander in Chief.

The official reason advanced for the postponement in a Press Release issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stated the reason to be a protest by Okigwe youths which prevented the Commission from being able to conduct the election. While it is true that there was a protest by APC Youths from Okigwe Zone in front of INEC Office in owerri, that release does not in any way begin to tell the story of the complexity of factors that culminated in that inevitable decision.

To better understand the scenario, it is pertinent to present certain facts here:

1. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in this re-run, wrote a petition to INEC objecting to certain Individuals acting as EOs in three local Governments (Ihitte Uboma, Ehime Mbano and Isiala) citing bias. These individuals were promptly replaced by the Commission without any reference to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
2. On the other hand a similar petition from the All Progressives Congress (APC) alleging bias on the part of Four officials penciled down for the election was not treated. Those officials were not replaced as was done in the case with the PDP petition and no explanation was given.
3. Barely Twenty-Four (24) hours to the re-run election, the HOD Operations in INEC was replaced with one Benjamin Bello Igwe (whose record with elections is anything but credible).
4. Prof Lawrence Nwuruku – a PDP Governorship Aspirant in Ebonyi state in 2011 was one of the RECs drafted to conduct this re-run election.
5. Curiously, the Deputy Senate President – Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu has maintained an increased presence and prominence in Imo State and Okigwe Zone in the run up to this re-run election.
6. In like manner Governor Nyeson Wike of River’s state has been seriously tied to this re-run election.
7. The Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations used what was clearly a high handed approach in response to what was largely a peaceful and contained protest by Okigwe youths.

Mr President Sir, another salient point that was conspicuously missing in the Press Release by INEC was the uncomfortable level of violence and the precarious security situation which was clearly captured by the Inspector General of Police who was on ground in the state on that day. Within 48 hours to the election, even before the first ballot in the election had been cast, at least Three (3) supporters of the APC had been killed. A fourth individual narrowly escaped death but his house was badly vandalized. Another individual was abducted and his whereabouts remain unknown just as no credible arrests have been made in these incidents.

One may be tempted to ask what the connection with all these but they do raise a number of questions that are crying for answer. The answers to these questions will be fundamental;

a. Why did the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), play down the serious allegations raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) (which actually led to the protests) and didn’t reflect any of those in their reason for postponing the election?
b. Why would a sensitive transfer such as that of the HOD OPERATIONS be effected less than 24 hours to a very crucial election?
c. Why was a petition written by the PDP and its Candidate expressly granted but a similar petition by the APC was not granted?
d. Whose interest is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) serving in the Imo North Senate re-run election in the light of boasts by the PDP candidate that he had spent N300M on INEC?
e. Who was responsible for these suspicious activities that were taking place in the Commission which were obviously aimed at manipulating the ultimate outcome of the ru-run election?
f. What is the role of the National Secretary of INEC – Mrs Augustina Agakwa (who for the records was a nominee of Senator Ike Ekweremadu – the Deputy senate President) in these manipulations at the Commission at the time of this re-run election.
g. What exactly are the roles being played by Hajia Amina Zakari (INEC National Commissioner) and Mr Bawa (National Legal Adviser) who are both acquaintances of the PDP candidate in this Imo North re-run election?
h. What is the exact role of Prof Maurice Iwu in these obvious manipulations going on at INEC Owerri?
It is on record that Professor Maurice Iwu conducted one of the least credible general elections in the nation’s history in 2011 and has failed to appropriately account for the Billions of Naira appropriated to him. The question here is why has Prof Maurice Iwu remained a Consultant to INEC in spite of this abysmal record especially as he also consults for the People Democratic Party (PDP)?
Prof Maurice Iwu is an open supporter of the PDP Candidate and has severally campaigned openly for him when he ought to be non-partisan. They equally hail from the same Ehime Mbano Local Governement Area of Imo state. Therefore what moral standing does he have to continue as a consultant to the Commission? It is worthy of note that Prof Maurice Iwu was lodged at the same Immaculate Hotel Owerri with some INEC personnel as well as some PDP stalwarts.
i. Why is Imo state INEC largely populated by indigenes of Enugu State? Is that a mere coincidence or is it deliberate?
j. What is the exact interest of Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu in a Senate re-run election holding in Imo State that has warranted his meddling in the electoral process and heating up the polity here even as it is common knowledge that a daughter of Prof Maurice Iwu is in his employment.
j. Finally what is the interest of Governor Nyesom Wike in the Senate re-run election in Okigwe Zone?
While we may not know, it is curious that Governor Nyesom Wike was the Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) at the time when the PDP candidate in this re-run election Chief Athan Achonu secured the dubious contract to build 774 health Centres across the federation. That contract largely remains un-executed even though the sum of N50M was contributed by every local government in Nigeria.

Mr President, we may not have answers to these questions but it is certain that this election is of immense significance considering the fact that it is an election that will probably possibly produce the first ever elected Senator from the South East elected on the Platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). That in itself has massive connotations for the power equation in the National Assembly and the Nation in general. Hence it is not surprising the interests this election is attracting and the tension and desperation in some quarters.

The Federal government has a duty to ensure that elections are freely and fairly conducted and that a level playing field is created for all players. The state also has a duty to ensure the safety of lives and properties of its citizens.
It is a fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an independent body. However it is our collective duty and that of the Government to ensure that it acts without bias and in a corruption-free manner. Manipulation of the electoral process and subverting the will of the people is the worst form of indiscipline and corruption.

Considering all the above, we humbly call on you sir, to use your good offices to;

A. Urge the INEC National Chairman to as a matter of urgency;
i. investigate the activities of the individuals mentioned above,
ii. Effect an urgent and holistic overhaul of the INEC in Imo before the rescheduled election to ensure a level playing field suitable for a credible election as the electorate has lost considerable trust and faith in the commission as presently constituted.

B. Direct the relevant security agencies to pay extra and maximum attention to this election and Okigwe zone before, during and after this re-run election to proactively deal with the security risks posed by the vested interests in this particular election.

Thank you.

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