Revelations at Rivers election petitions tribunal

By Afiesimama daminabo

Many Nigerians are actually not surprised at the astonishing revelations from the Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in  Abuja.
Those who followed  from the build-up, to the elections proper and the announcement of results which would actually not be shocked at the awful disclosures from witnesses at the tribunal.
Apart from the endless complaints by members of other political parties  before the election and after, the over 80 election observers as a matter of fact, sounded the alarm bells with their reports, especially with regard to widespread violence, killings, intimidation, harassment, ballot-snatching and stuffing, subversion of the will of Rivers people and other forms of impunity.
What may have come as a surprise are the revelations by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, army officers, the police, agents of the Department of State Security, DSS members of the All Progressives Congress, APC and those of other political parties.

To those who perpetrated these horrifying violence and  crises that marred the governorship election in Rivers State, a day of reckoning was definitely not in their calculations.
Like before, they had unleashed terror on people with the hope that the familiar path of impunity and lawlessness that had become common place feature in our state, particularly during the last administration would go unchecked.

For me, the revelations at Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal are not only absurd but also unprecedented. This is arguably the first time in Nigeria’s history that we are witnessing this level of violence and  bloodbath in one single election in one state. Nothing would have been more starting than the disclosures of serving security operatives on election duty in the state. They captured in very graphic details, the violence, the intimidation, deaths and ballot-snatching and stuffing that characterised the exercise in almost all parts of the state.

I was particularly jolted by the testimonies of two soldiers, who were posted to Ikwerre and Gokana Local Government Areas respectively. The soldiers were emphatic with their submissions which they hinged on the fact that an election could not have taken place in a state of chaos.
Indeed, what happened in Rivers State during the elections, especially on April 11 is only comparable to war. The tragic part however is that many innocent sons and daughters of Rivers State suffered great harm, for aligning ‘wrongly’, politically. That is apart from those who lost their lives.

There is also the heartbreaking account by  an officer of the Department of State Security Service, DSS who revealed how cult groups and thugs worked for the PDP in Andoni Local Government Area.
A representative of the Director-General, also in a similar account in Ogo Bolo, equally told the tribunal about the anticipated violence which was all too evident because of the tension and security reports. A Superintendent of Police who was posted to Tai Local Government Area said he actually caught agents  thumb-printing at a house opposite the PDP secretariat at Tai.
He said he arrested over 70 people on that day alone.Another oddity in the alarming revelations came from a member  of Police Mobile Squadron, Ogoni who revealed how an Assistant Commissioner of Police, (name with held) supervised the rigging of the April 11 election in Khana Local Government Area.
These are in addition to other accounts of compromise and complicity by the electoral umpire, a position that the head of INEC’s Department of Elections and Party Monitoring, a body established by the electoral body to monitor elections emphasised in his presentation. In fact, he described the April 11 election as a mockery of democracy. What a verdict!
At some point during cross examination,  INEC’s Electoral Officer for Obio/Akpor told the tribunal that he was not aware if card readers were used in the April 11 election. This left many wondering how an electoral officer would be so ignorant of INEC’s policy on card readers which was a well known decision even among politically naive voters.

When asked to comment on the damning report of Elections Operations Support Centre, another body INEC established to monitor elections, he said after prolonged hesitation that the body only worked partially.
These are indeed terrible times, a reminder that our march to nationhood is still a long journey ahead. For all these to have happened, not in the North-East where there is insurgency, shows that there is serious work for this present administration.

But when justice eventually comes to candidates who took part in that sham of an election, what happens to the wounded and the dead? I must state here, and unequivocally too, that those who visited violence and mayhem on people and homes for their political beliefs must as a matter of fairness, be brought to book. That, for me is the only the souls of those who were killed can rest.
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