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Abia State: Unholy alliance between PDP and INEC, By Chima Nwafo

By News Express on 11/09/2015

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Does the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State consider it a thing of pride that Prof Attahiru Jega – erstwhile chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – admitted that some of his staff in the state, behaved disgracefully during the recent general elections?

Juxtapose such a sincere admission by the respected boss of the electoral umpire with recent happenings in the state, do we still need a seer to tell us that INEC officials truncated the wishes of Abia people as massively expressed on April 11, 2015?

In a bid to recover the stolen mandate, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) standard bearer, Dr. Alex Otti, turned to the Election Tribunal for justice. Ever since, so much murky water has passed under the bridge. As a result, one often comes across inane and poorly articulated arguments to defend obvious acts of illegality, either sponsored by the PDP chieftains or agents of the state administration. 

It must be recalled that ex-governor T.A. Orji’s ineptitude and corrupt enrichment of his family at the expense of the people, contributed to the unpopularity of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at the polls. He was regarded as the ochendo’s puppet, irrespective of the zoning arrangement that supposedly threw him up.

But recent ugly developments in the state show that the PDP is desperate to hold on to power. But thank God for President Muhammadu Buhari’s change mantra and war against corruption. This gives reason for confidence in the Abia election tribunal.

Thus, Dr. Otti had travelled overseas for a deserved rest. But in an interview in the Sunday Vanguard of August 2, he recalled an assassination attempt on his life at Abuja, shortly after his return. According to him, it was a narrow escape, which took place in the night of same day he left the FCT for Umuahia.

And to confirm the desperation and mission of the death merchants, a police guard was reportedly killed. Briefed of what happened after his departure, the banker-turned politician returned to Abuja to see things, after which he reported to the police.

Thereafter, he returned to Umuahia, his constituency, and addressed a press conference. Having fulfilled his own part of the law, he naturally expected the Nigerian Police to investigate the incident that led to the termination of their colleague’s life.

While the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command under whose watch the crime was committed was yet to issue a statement, Otti said the Abia State Government had curiously issued one, ‘debunking’ the incident while describing the APGA candidate as a liar. Asked if he pointed accusing fingers during the media briefing,

Dr. Otti averred: “A day later, Saturday, in the evening, I saw an online report: the governor had issued a statement. To my consternation, the statement said that what happened was a robbery event; that they had checked (from Umuahia) and that it didn’t happen in my place, but another compound; and that the person that was killed was not attached to me.

One of the curious things about the statement from Abia State was that the government gave the name of the place where the incident happened. I was very careful not to give out too much personal information. I believe the police will delve into the matter thoroughly and they will come out with the culprits and who sent them.”

He added that more disturbing was the fact that within 24 hours of the incident at Abuja, the governor had concluded his investigation: arrogating to himself the role of Investigating Police Officer (IPO), the Inspector-General of Police, and spokesman of the Force, as well as FCT Commissioner of Police. Hmn! But as if that was not enough, Dr Otti was in for another shocker.

“On Tuesday, the state chairman of the PDP took a page in a national daily and published an advertorial titled: ‘Exposed, the antics of a drowning man.’ I was really shocked. He said he had gone round all the police stations in Abuja, between Friday and Tuesday (same Tuesday the advertorial appeared); and no one confirmed to him that such a thing happened, and that it was not true; that if it was true, I should have gone to the police,” he said.

Ironically, this is a complete contradiction of the governor’s speed-of light investigation on the same incident, from the same Umuahia, the Abia State capital.

Meanwhile, in the Abia State House of Assembly, the Minority Leader (APGA member) was suspended for opposing the approval of the governor’s quest for a whopping N130 billion loan, which lacked statistical transparency, initially.

What manner of intolerant and dictatorial legislature are we operating in Abia, 16 years after the birth of our nascent democratic dispensation? This is a serious cause for concern, because it portrays the Abia House as an extension of the executive. While the air was yet to settle, there was ‘rumour’ of attempts to burn down INEC office in Umuahia.

Next, six INEC officials were reportedly accosted carrying various electoral materials, likely with the intent of burning them, as part of the scheme with the ruling PDP administration to destroy exhibits that would aid the APGA candidate in his quest for justice at the election tribunal. That is not all.

On August 2, the Obingwa INEC office was torched. The PDP administration in Abia should stop hiding behind a finger. The foregoing acts of desperation by the Abia PDP and INEC’s reluctance to comply with the Tribunal’s order to allow Dr Otti access to relevant election materials, to a large extent confirm that the burning down of the Obingwa Local Government INEC office is neither a happenstance nor a coincidence.

It would be recalled that it was same LG that the Abia Electoral Returning Officer was compelled by PDP big-wigs to reverse the result he had earlier cancelled in the presence of local and international observers.

Ironically, Chief Olisa Metuh, who – together with then governor T. A Orji, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Col Austin Akobundu (rtd) –  was actively involved in the above electoral manipulation on April 11, is the leading voice today blackmailing the boss of the Department of State Security (DSS) for allegedly harassing INEC officials in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states. Unfortunately, INEC officials in the three states are shamelessly compromised, as can be seen from the Abia experience, which is replicated in neighbouring Rivers.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Hon Dakuku Peterside, in a recent media chat observed: “The Electoral Act empowers us as candidates to request for materials that were used to conduct elections; and that we must get it (within) seven days after filing our notice and paying the necessary fees. On April 13, we applied for these documents.

Till today (August 16), we have not got the properly certified documents that were used for the elections: result sheets, voters’ register and other related materials… In the light of these developments, we wrote the police and DSS. The Police invited us; after a chat, the police wrote INEC saying: ‘Please, comply with the law.’ DSS also invited them for questioning, to forestall a breakdown of law and order. Thus, we cannot understand the wolf-cry by the PDP, if they are not in an unholy alliance with the INEC.”

Given the above cloud of evidence, you will agree with C C Agujiegbe of Aba, that the razing of the Obingwa INEC office should “be viewed by the Abia State Election Tribunal as a monstrous and devious ploy to cause a monumental obstruction of justice; an alleged arson to cover up guilt.”

If allowed, it will contribute to what a Diasporan Abian describes as our amazing collective tolerance for election rigging. “But when we see a set of Justices who seek the truth and stand by the law, and who are determined to do what is right, it gives us hope.”

•Chima Nwafo is News Express Consulting Editor.

Source News Express

Posted 11/09/2015 05:02:28 AM

 

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