Former governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim has said last weekend’s senate rerun election for Imo East, popular as Okigwe zone, was marred by what he described as @stone-age styled electoral malpractices”.
He said the rerun election conducted in Okigwe zone and that conducted in Oru East to fill vacancy at Imo State House of Assembly, were characterised by “massive manipulation of poll results, snatching of ballot materials at gun point and other crude and stone-age styled electoral malpractices”.
Registering his observations in a press statement titled “The Inconclusive Imo Parliamentary Elections”, which was made available to The UNION via electronic mail, Chief Ohakim, who is being primed to contest the 2019 governorship election in the state on a ‘tenure completion campaign’, said what happened in Imo state last weekend could not have passed for an election.
According to him, “one of the strategies adopted by those who are aware that they cannot win elections except through mindless rigging and subversion of the will of the majority was to, in connivance, with their stooges at INEC cause the disappearance of collation officers deployed and paid with tax payers money to ensure that the votes of the people count and the will of majority of the people prevails”.
He also noted that “security personnel, especially the Police and the Army or those impersonating them, were found to be shamefully involved in the criminal act of snatching electoral materials, stuffing of ballot boxes and intimidating innocent electorates.
“The incumbent Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha did not keep anyone in doubt about his desperation to impose his Party’s candidates on the people during these elections, as he deployed State resources to the areas affected by this rerun election and took steps to stampede ordinary citizens who are perceived not to be supportive of his Party’s candidates. The Executive Governor through his public broadcasts and actions made it clear that he did not bother about the wishes of majority of the voters, but was strictly interested in pursuing an ego battle between him and some perceived and real political rivals in the State.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission deserves commendation for cancelling the results from some wards and polling booths that were clearly rigged in favour of the ruling APC, especially, that of Osuachara ward in Isiala Mbano L.G.A, where attempts were made to subvert the majority wishes of the people through the barrel of a gun.
“The youths and all classes of electorates in the affected areas are getting restive, as they feel slighted by the arrant insult on them through broad daylight robbery of the mandate they had freely given to their preferred candidates in the election under contest.
“The introduction of card readers into our electoral culture has been applauded by various local and international organizations as a powerful tool in checkmating electoral malpractices, it is therefore disturbing that majority of the personnel deployed for the last rerun election deliberately and mischievously failed to put these card readers to use, and in the few places where they were put into use, the results returned did not correspond with the record of the card reading machine.
“Members of the National Youth Service Corps, who are supposed to be torch bearers of patriotism and positive attitudes, have been sadly initiated into the nefarious act of electoral malpractices, hooliganism as some of them or those impersonating them, presented themselves as willing tools in the hands of desperate politicians who used them to subvert the wishes of the majority.
“Generally, the results purportedly endorsed by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the authentic result for the election do not represent the wishes of the people as evidenced in the results announced at polling booth and ward levels”, Ohakim stated.
He however proferred what he believed is solutions to the problem that had denied Okigwe zone of representation at the Senate.
Ohakim said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission must restore its tainted integrity by taking steps to ensure that the figures of voting as declared by its officials at polling booth and ward levels are used in determining who won the elections. The idea of discountenancing the results entered on the relevant forms must be corrected, as it poses the most dangerous threat to our democracy than even Boko Haram or the Niger-Delta Avengers.
“The electoral umpire must fish out and punish its personnel who were in one way or the other involved or suspected to have been involved in the criminal subversion of the peoples’ will as experienced in the last election. Also, the INEC must ensure that it uses another set of personnel to conduct elections in the booths where supplementary election has been ordered.
“We can no longer guarantee that our highly disenchanted youths and other electorates affected by this rape on our democracy will continue to keep quiet as they are taken for granted. It is important that the relevant agencies of government take steps to do the right things and declare the right candidates, winners, to avert the consequences of an angry people.
“The INEC, Police, Army, NYSC, NSCDC, and all other Federal institutions involved in this election should ensure that its personnel involved, directly or indirectly in the deliberate and criminal subversion of the peoples’ will are brought to book and made to face the consequences of their actions.
“INEC must also take steps to ensure that the identity and contacts of its collation officers are made public as was the practice in previous elections. The idea of hoarding these individuals who by the very details of their works are supposed to be servants of the public is unacceptable and is a sure recipe for crisis as the people have become aware that the previous elections were successfully manipulated because some politicians succeeded in keeping these collation officers, incommunicado.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission must adequately deploy card readers to restore the integrity of the electoral process, and where it is suspected that the card readers available may develop some technical faults, backup card readers should be deployed, to ensure that most, if not every electorate is certified by the card reader before voting.
“Parents must warn their children who are serving their Fatherland as youth corps members deployed to Imo State not to allow themselves to be used in perpetrating any form of electoral malpractices, as the consequences will be dire. Also, the National Youth Service Corps should investigate reported incidents of some unscrupulous individuals impersonating as corps members, in order to be deployed to election duties”.