Gov. Wike
Gov. Wike

I have been following Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s persistent vitriolic attacks on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and his insistent allegation that INEC wants to rig the elections. This, to me, is tale-tell, if not ominous. At every opportunity, Wike makes these wild allegations without presenting any credible evidence to support his claims.

During a recent visit to him by the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Wike told the visiting Ambassador that INEC lacks the capacity to conduct credible elections. He cited the Kano underage voting incident and the contention over the issue of election re-ordering by the Senate as his only pieces of evidence. Now, the INEC Chairman has already set up a panel to investigate and unravel the unfortunate underage voting saga and until the report of that investigation is out, there is no point dwelling on it. The outcome of that investigation will either vindicate the INEC chairman or those accusing him of complicity.

I was at a forum last week in Abuja where the INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu interacted with media and Civil Society representatives. He eloquently and frankly spoke on a number of burning issues around INEC’s preparations towards the 2019 general elections. One of the issues was the ongoing continuous voter education and the sequence of elections. He explained that all that INEC has done so far regarding setting election timetable has been done in accordance with the existing law. ‘We are proceeding on the basis of the existing law’.

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Now, when in the aftermath of the December 10, 2017 re-run legislative election in Rivers State, the police arrested 21 INEC Ad-hoc staff over their alleged involvement in compromising the election, Wike and his party also cried wolf. I’m sure that had INEC not given up its own staff for investigation, the same Wike would have also accused INEC leadership of complicity. What exactly does Wike want?

Wike is well known for his propensities for violence. The brute violent tactics he deployed during the court-ordered re-run elections in Rivers state in December 2017, among others, illustrates this. The outcome of the Wike-orchestrated violence was the beheading of an INEC ad-hoc staff and the maiming of another.

Let me clarify. I have no partisan leaning or interest. I belong to neither PDP nor APC. None of those two grouping represents a genuine political party. They are both devoid of people-oriented vision, mission, programs or manifesto. They are simply two contending gangs of opportunistic, self serving and blood sucking men and women interested in grabbing political power, not for public service, but for their own selfish and narrow interests. I’m reacting to Wike because he has been too noisy and in the forefront of unnecessary hurling of baseless and preposterous accusations at the INEC Chair; and someone needs to tell him the home truth.

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I understand Wike’s tactic. He wants to create a decoy; divert attention from his ill-motives and grand diabolical machinations and then unleash violence which he will then blame on others. I suspect that Wike is setting the stage for another round of bloodletting through his relentless mischief of crying wolf where there is none.

Evidently, elections are consistently getting better in all the states where elections have been conducted so far under the current INEC leadership. The commission has conducted over 178 elections with minimum litigation which is an indication of increased confidence in the electoral process.

Maybe Wike is haunted by the spectre of the detestable and questionable circumstances leading to his attainment of power in 2014. In the course of the legal contest against his ‘victory’, evidence of violence and other malpractices were so overwhelming that he nearly got thrown out of the Creek House but for his alleged unashamed manipulation and perversion of the Justice system.

While some people are aware of Wike’s fears- since it said that a head hunter does not take kindly to a cutlass-wielding individual lurking behind him, Wike needs to be rest assured that this INEC, from what I know of the Chairman, is not interested in who wins in any election. INEC is only interested in ensuring a level playing field for all and that the electoral process is credible.

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I took particular note of the INEC Chairman’s assurances, during his interaction with civil Society and media representatives in Abuja, last week that 2019 election will be better than 2015. He said, ‘For me, INEC work is a calling, not a job and I cannot afford to fail Nigerians.’ This is a commitment he made publicly. And I have no reason not to trust and believe Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Wike’s intrigues and his crude mannerisms should not deter INEC from sustaining its ongoing reforms to continuously improve the electoral process. Perhaps Wike now knows he can no longer easily corrupt INEC officials as he was wont to do in the past. And some people are aware of certain moves already being made by Wike’s foot soldiers to compromise elections in Rivers State. At the appropriate time, these schemes will be exposed. Frustrated that it is no longer possible under the current INEC’s principled and focused leadership to corrupt the commission, Wike is now pushed into ill-tempered, malicious attacks on INEC and vengeful questioning of INEC’s credibility.

Wike will do well to leave INEC alone and focus on providing good governance to Rivers people. He should rather deploy the funds he has already budgeted for the inducement of INEC officials to delivering democracy dividends to Rivers people. This time, under this new INEC, only the people will determine the fate of candidates.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Nigerian citizens