Tony Ita Etim in Port Harcourt captures the mixed reactions and uneasy calm in the state following the weekend annulment of Governor Nyesom Wike’s election
Governor, Nyesom Wike whose election was at the weekend annulled by the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal yesterday appealed for calm in the state and assured the people, mostly his supporters and members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state that he would retain his mandate.
Wike who spoke in a state-wide broadcast yesterday, however faulted the decision of the tribunal and said would appeal the verdict in the higher courts where he thinks he would still carry the day. He said: “We all know that on April 11, 2015, Rivers people in their millions joined the rest of the country and enthusiastically participated in electing their governor and members of the State House of Assembly.
“Apart from the reported malfunctioning of the card readers supplied by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which placed no advantage on any of the contestants, the election took place throughout the state and was adjudged both by local and international observers to be largely peaceful, transparent, free, fair and credible.
He had hardly finished his broadcast when the national headquarters of the party added its voice to the debacle by cautioning the All Progressives Congress-led administration against what it considers a plan to instigate political crisis that may threaten the soul of the country’s democracy through undue interferences in the adjudication of election cases.
Party National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh calmed for calm among its members nationwide and appealed to lovers of democracy to get ready to resist what it deems the looming pace of fascism masquerading as democracy using the judiciary and security agencies in their desperate scheme to subvert the will of the people and destroy the nation’s democracy.
He alleged there were looming attempt to rob the party of its hard won victories in many part of the country, particularly in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Abia, Taraba and other states which he said the party was not ready to surrender without legitimate and legal means.
He said:“Let it be known, and clearly too, that no matter the strongarming, threats and manipulations by the APC government, the PDP is not willing to, and will never surrender the mandate freely given to us by the people in states where we won in the last general elections, neither are the people of those states willing to allow sectional invaders to exert influence on those to be in charge of their affairs”
But for the APC the verdict has sounded a death knell to to impunity and hooliganism.
National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the only way for elections to have legitimacy is for them to be free, fair and credible.
He said: ‘’What has come across from this judgement is that there is no shortcut to free, fair and credible elections. This is part of the wind of change that is blowing across the land and touching all arms of government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari”, the statement said.
‘’Elections are about the expression of the will of the people, and they must always be free to express themselves, irrespective of what some desperate politicians may feel’’.
Meanwhile a cross section of Rivers people on Sunday expressed mixed feelings concerning the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal’s nullification of Gov. Nyesom Wike’s election.
While some see the judgement as a welcome development, others view it as a bad omen.
Mr Ben Orlu, a resident of Port Harcourt, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the judgement was fair and unbiased.
He said that the tribunal’s judgement was an indication of a future with credible elections in the state.
He, however, said that honest residents of the state did not see the judgement of the tribunal as an unexpected one in view of what transpired during the governorship election.
Another resident, Mr Lawrence Chinda, described the judgement as biased and unfair.
He said that his opinion was based on his conviction that the governorship election in the state actually held.
Chinda described Wike’s victory in the governorship election as a demonstration of Rivers state’s support for PDP.
He expressed confidence that Wike would win the fresh governorship election that would be organised within the next 90 days as ordered by the tribunal.
According to him, Wike’s achievements in less than 100 days of his being in office, is a clear indication that he is the man of th peeople.
In her reaction, Mrs Joy Terry, another resident of Port Harcourt, said that the judgment would offer some of the voters who missed out in the last election the opportunity to exercise their voting rights.
Terry, therefore, advised Rivers people to decide their future wisely by voting the right candidate in the fresh election. She, however, acknowledged that Wike had the right to seek redress in the appeal court and the Supreme Court.
A schoolteacher, Mrs Comfort Brown, said that the nullification of Wike’s election by the tribunal was not in the interest of the state because “Wike has started on a positive note.
“We believe he should be given the chance to develop the state and move it forward.
“The judgement will certainly distract his administration because he will spend time and energy fighting to reverse it at higher courts.
“ The former Deputy National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists and one time Commissioner for Information and State Orientation in Ebonyi state, Chief Abia Onyike, has added his voice by appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure fairness and justice attend to the the nullification of the Rivers state governorship election so that undemocratic forces do not capitalize of the tense situation to cause mayhem and possibly threaten democracy .
He said that the action was the same mistakes of past Northern leaders that made them never run the country peacefully and handed over successfully to another administration.
Onyike alleged that the relocation of the Governorship Election Petituona Tribunals for for Rivers and Akwa Ibom states in Abuja for no clear reasons other than politics was rightly suspected by discerning Nigerians “as part of the President’s inordinate ambition to infiltrate or possibly decimate and take over the stronghold of rival political parties by all means.
” It will be recalled that the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for Rivers on Saturday nullified the election of the Rivers governor for non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The tribunal, sitting in Abuja, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct fresh governorship election in the state within 90 days.
The three-member tribunal, presided over by Justice Suleiman Ambursa, gave the orders in its judgment following a petition filed against the election of Wike by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the April 11 election in the state, Dr Dakuku Peterside.
According to the final ruling: “We are further convinced that the election was characterised by corrupt practices. Consequently, we hold that the second respondent (Wike) was not validly elected. We hereby order the first respondent (INEC) to conduct a fresh election in Rivers State”.
“Guidelines that were issued by INEC for the conduct of the election were clear and unambiguous to the effect that where Card Reader fails, poll should be postponed rather than resort to manual accreditation. It was not for anybody to go outside the guidelines,”it stated. “
We have also considered the potency of the evidence tendered by petitioners’ witnesses and we are satisfied that the petitioners succeeded in proving that the election was characterised by wide spread irregularities, violence and ballot snatching.
“We are satisfied that the petitioners were able to discharge the burden of proof placed upon them by the law. The petitioners were able to prove that electorates were disenfranchised”.
“While some claimed that they could not see, others insisted that they would not read documents that were presented to them because they were not the author”, it said.
“We were not impressed by the conduct of the respondents’ witnesses upon cross examination by the petitioners’ counsel.
“We are in agreement with counsel to the petitioners that the evidence of respondents’ witnesses were unreliable and untenable.
“In view of this, the respondents have failed to convince this court on the credibility of their claim that election substantially took place in Rivers State on April 11, 2015”.