As long as the hatchet writers sponsored by the Rivers APC refuse to rest in their quest to mislead the reading public on the happenings at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, so long shall we be obligated to set the records straight. The most recent of the venomous lies being circulated by the Rivers State APC is contained in the piece written by one Shola Oyeyipo who titled his false article ‘An Election Under Security’ published in Thisday of Wednesday September 23, 2015.
In the false article, Shola Oyeyipo merely rehashed the several falsehoods that have been circulated in earlier propaganda by the Rivers State APC. Nothing is new in the two-page article except the name of the author. Oyeyipo merely recycled the hearsay testimonies of the security agents and an INEC staff directly subpoenaed by the Rivers State APC and arrived at a fallacious conclusion.
The hired writer was not informed by his paymasters that INEC has opened its defence of the election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. The Rivers State APC hid from Shola Oyeyipo the fact that on Thursday, September 17, 2015 and on Monday September 21, 2015, INEC comprehensively defended the Rivers State April 11, 2015 governorship election wherein Governor Wike emerged victorious. The INEC defence will continue after the Sallah break.
We had envisaged this scenario of distraction as soon as INEC commences its defence of the election, that people like Oyeyipo would be hired to divert public attention from the reality that has struck Rivers APC at the tribunal. They are now sponsoring writers to ensure that attention is shifted from the pummeling that their lawyers are getting at the tribunal as INEC staff who directly conducted the governorship election testify. We have successfully transited from the hearsay testimonies of Rivers APC witnesses to the period of concrete proofs and participant testimonies by INEC staff.
INEC Staff and ad-hoc staff who conducted the election on April 11 in five local government areas spread across the three senatorial districts of the state have already testified. More will testify to the chagrin of the Rivers APC and their hired hands.
The Rivers APC had gone to the tribunal with the false claim that election did not take place on April 11 because it was marred by violence, snatching of election malpractices and illegal thumb-printing. Faced with the reality of the evidences at the tribunal, the tone of their propaganda has changed to the issue of accreditation. However, they have been faced with the truth every step of the way. The governorship election held in compliance with the Electoral Act and the INEC guidelines.
In the face of recurring falsehood and propaganda, it is imperative to once again put in the public domain the details of the testimonies of the eight INEC Defence Witnesses whose statements brought to the fore the smooth conduct of the election. As it stands today, their testimonies have silenced the Rivers APC.
INEC started her defence of the election from Obio/Akpor LGA, one of the two most populated local government areas in Rivers State. INEC Electoral Officer of Obio /Akpor, Mr Ebikoro Tebekaemi testified to the smooth conduct of the election. Tebekaemi stated that INEC used both card readers and manual accreditation for the April 11 governorship election in Obio /Akpor local government area.
According to him, a total number of 304,745 voters were accredited using both card readers and manual accreditation. He said of the number, card readers accounted for 40,281 voters. The Obio/Akpor local government area INEC Electoral Officer said that the distribution of election materials and actual voting took place under a peaceful environment ensured by the Police, the Army and other security agencies.
He said that all through the election he did not receive any reports of snatching of election materials, clash between INEC staff and thugs and the disruption of election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Monday continued its defence of the victory of Governor Wike at the tribunal, with further proofs that the election was peaceful, credible and conducted in line with the Electoral Act.
Presenting its case before the Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led tribunal sitting in Abuja, INEC maintained that relevant electoral procedures were followed before the Commission arrived at the lawful declaration of Governor Wike as the winner of the election in view of the valid votes garnered by him on April 11, 2015. The Commission stressed that best practices were observed in the conduct of the Rivers State governorship election.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, INEC presented seven witnesses who are presiding officers in polling units spread across four local government areas. The witnesses conducted elections in Bonny, Tai, Oyigbo and Akuku Toru local government areas. They were serving corps members at the time the election was conducted.
The defence witnesses were led in evidence by the counsel to INEC, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN ). In her testimony, Ogechi Anyanwu, a corps member who served as Presiding Officer Ward 8 Unit 8 of Tai local government area confirmed that elections were free and fair, noting that nobody snatched election materials as alleged by the APC.
The youth corp member noted that there was no case of violence during the governorship election and that as presiding officer she never participated in electoral fraud. She maintained that in line with training received before the election she adopted manual accreditation after the card readers malfunctioned.
Another defence witness, Jerry Nyikwagh who served as Presiding Officer for Ward 7, Unit 4 in Tai LGA explained that he reverted to manual accreditation after the failure of the card readers, but first got permission from his supervisor.
He explained that the accreditation and voting process were in line with the training they received and the Electoral Act.
Adeyemi Saheed who served as Presiding Officer at Alabrabra Polling Unit in Akuku Toru LGA described the election as peaceful, credible and free and fair with all the party agents participating.
He noted that contrary to the Rivers State APC allegation, the governorship election did not witness any case of ballot box snatching, election malpractices or fraud.
Mr Fidelis Zeribe who served as Presiding Officer at Ward 7, Unit 5 of Bonny LGA said nobody manipulated the election, stressing that accreditation and voting took place and a return was made.
The Presiding Officer for Ward 1 Unit 1 in Oyigbo Local Government Area, Ifem Charles Chidozie, a former youth corps member, said he didn’t participate in electoral fraud, neither did he see soldiers partake in violent acts or electoral malpractices.
Sofiri Jombo, a former youth corps member who served as the presiding officer for Ward 4 unit 1 in Bonny LGA testified that the election in his area of coverage was in line with the Electoral Act and election guidelines.
Another Defence witness and Presiding Officer Ward 1 Unit 1 in Oyigbo LGA, Onyejen Martins maintained that the governorship election in his area of coverage was peaceful, free, fair and credible.
He denied the allegation by the Rivers APC that INEC officials colluded with the PDP and the Army to commit election malpractices, stating that he did not even see a soldier in his polling station.
Under cross examination by Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel to Rivers State APC governorship candidate, all the defence witnesses insisted that voting successfully took place on the day of the governorship election and that card readers and manual accreditation were used.
They maintained that the official training they received mandated them to revert to manual accreditation in the event that the card readers failed. All seven witnesses stressed that the presiding officers had no powers to postpone election when the election process had commenced with voters lined up for accreditation.
Like Shola Oyeyipo, the hatchet writers hired by the Rivers State APC would pretend to be unaware of the commencement of INEC defence at the tribunal. They would continue to recycle the hearsay statements of the witnesses directly subpoenaed by Rivers State APC, while shutting their eyes to the concrete documentary evidence tendered by INEC defence witnesses. The question is; how long will they play the Ostrich? The defence of the election is just starting and they are losing sleep. What will happen when Governor Wike and PDP witnesses take the witness stand? We are talking about 14 extra days of defence.
Governor Wike won the April 11, 2015 governorship election in spite of the falsehood and propaganda spurned by the Rivers APC and her hatchet writers. This wave of falsehood and propaganda will again fall to the superior firepower of truth.
Nwakaudu, Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor Wike wrote from PH