The Akwa Ibom governorship election was marred by irregularities, manipulation, voter and electoral officers’ intimidation as well as harassment, however it was overshadowed by similar and much publicised events in Rivers state, says the state governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Umana Okon Umana.
Immediately after the election ended and Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party, was declared winner of the polls, Umana Okon Umana took his case to the election tribunal.
At a media parley held in Lagos on Wednesday, June 17, to state their side of the happenings in the state during the last general elections, independent election observers, former deputy governor of the state, Nsima Ekere, as well as the APC guber candidate spoke to bloggers and journalists.
Although there was widespread voters apathy nationwide in the governorship elections, however, the observers who covered the North-East area of the state, revealed that Akwa Ibom had a higher turn-out than most states in Nigeria.
The observers said that apart from the fact that the election was widely manipulated, there were also widespread cases of human rights abuses ranging from intimidation, harassment, kidnappings and murder.
The head of the observer group, Simi, disclosed that: “When we interviewed different people, it was clear that they wanted to vote but they didn’t know if their votes will count. In some areas, there was a lot of fear (of the security agencies and alleged thugs of Godswill Akpabio). On April 11, we went out to the North East, which is the zone with the largest population in the state.
“Out of the 9 LGAs we covered, we only saw slight voting in Etinan but everywhere else, there was no election at all. In the few places that had accreditation going on, there was no result sheet, so people refused to get accredited because their party agents instructed them not to do so, unless there was result sheet.”
In the North West, there was election recorded but it was in Essien Udim LGA, where Akpabio hails from. In the South of the state, we saw people being intimidated, teargassed and some were running into bushes while we were driving through.”
“There was actually a large turnout of people but most of them were just waiting around doing nothing. We were getting phone calls and text messages that the election materials were in politicians’ houses. Youth corpers were intimidated and harassed and we even saw one hiding in the bush. The corpers came back with their election materials intact and we didn’t witness counting or collation of votes in any of the 9 LGAs we covered.”
“Around 10 am on Sunday, April 12, we contacted the state INEC office and they said they hadn’t received any result, however by 4:58pm, results were announced, and none of the voters we spoke to were able to say what the total vote count was at their respective polling units.
Even the Channels Television reporter on the scene, who is from Akwa Ibom, said he was threatened. They said his family will be burnt alive if he reports what really happened on ground.”
Umana, in his remarks accused the former governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio, of manipulating the primary election in the state by imposing Udom Emmanuel on the other 22 aspirants of the PDP, saying that: “He just sat down in the government house and wrote the name of Emmanuel and imposed him on the others.”
According to Umana, the impunity witnessed in the state during the last general elections, has compelled even members of the PDP to join his fight to make things right.
“In Akwa Ibom today, the leaders from everywhere in the state and all the political parties have come out to say enough is enough and rescue the state from the grip of the cabal led by Akpabio. Eminent leaders like Victor Attah, who is a member of the BoT of the PDP has come out to say Akwa Ibom did not have elections, and the same goes for Don Etiebet, who is not even a member of the APC.
It is not about APC or me as a person, rather it is about whether one man can on his own decide the fate of over 1 million people of the state and prevent them from exercising their rights. If I had lost in a free and fair contest, I would congratulate Udom Emmanuel and move on. If we don’t challenge what happened in Akwa Ibom, we are not helping our country, so it is more about the survival of our democracy. The people were not allowed to elect who should be their governor.
Somebody who should be the CSO of the state set up a private army and armed them, provided police and army uniforms to them. He procured brand new buses to thugs to go around on election day to harass and intimidate voters and in many instances, shoot to kill for resisting. That trauma is still there with our people. The only way we can heal the wounds of our people is to go to the tribunal, seek redress in the court of law and also hope that those who committed these acts also have their day in court.
You’ll recall that a few days before the election, INEC said that for the governorship and House of Assembly elections, card readers must be used but when they fail, elections must be postponed. In Akwa Ibom, based on card reader data, the accreditation data we had were 487, 128 but the purported votes allocated were 1, 122m. Udom Emmanuel alone was given 996,000 votes against 487,128 that were accredited, so votes were in excess of accreditation. Where did they come from?
In the entire state, the votes allocated exceeded the number of people accredited. In my unit, on election day I went there and nothing happened. I couldn’t vote because all the INEC staff present had no election material. They had been accosted, beaten up and the materials snatched on their way to the polling unit.
There were few areas like Uyo where accreditation started and in some cases, voting commenced but before the votes could be counted, thugs who were converged in branded buses procured by the state government moved from polling unit to polling unit to take away all the materials including the card readers and anybody who resisted was shot and this is how several people were killed.
We moved around the state and collation was not taking place in any of the designated centres apart from 2 local governments and finally we ended up in Uyo and asked to see the REC. We were not allowed to enter the office even though the REC was there but the Head of ICT came out to see us and we informed him that collation wasn’t taking place and he could not say anything.”
Speaking of the ongoing hearing at the election tribunal, Umana said they had called for inspection of election material but the PDP and INEC have so far frustrated their efforts.
He said in spite of that, they have been able to discover through forensic investigations that in several instances, an entire booklet was thumb-printed by one person.
“At the tribunal, we have filed our petition and INEC, PDP as well as Udom Emmanuel have all responded. We asked for access to the ballot papers and election materials but INEC has so far, been uncooperative. We are going back to the tribunal for a new motion for extension of time because we couldn’t do much in the 14 days given to us to gather our evidence.
This case has a time-limit of 180 days so the strategy of PDP and INEC is to try and delay the process as much as they can so that we will run out of time. We asked INEC for ballot papers of the governorship elections but INEC brought a bag of ballot papers that had papers of governorship, senate and house of assembly elections.”
Similarly, Ekere, who resigned as Deputy governor in 2012, echoed Umana’s position, stating that Akpabio’s plan even before the polls, was to manipulate the process and ensure that the election swings in the favour of the PDP.
“We have managed to make Nigerians aware of the rigging. It is unfortunate that the CSO used the apparatus of the state to abuse his office. The situation in Akwa Ibom prior to the elections was such that all the meetings and plans Akpabio made was to subvert the will of the people. Even when he got the guidelines on how the primaries should be done, he and his team sat down to imagine how to subvert, manipulate it and have their way.
They ensured that the votes of the people did not count. How would you imagine a situation where on April 11, when the governorship and House of Assembly election took place, and then he ensured that the governorship elections were announced the next day but it took 2 weeks for the state house of assembly election to be announced, despite the fact that the latter is smaller than the former.
This is because Akpabio’s vote allocation committee had serious problem trying to reconcile the allocated votes for the governorship elections, so it took them two weeks to work on that. The entire state is united in this struggle. We do not want this kind of impunity to continue. We need to rescue the state from the clutches of the cabal led by Godswill Akpabio.”
The election tribunal of the Akwa Ibom governorship election, which has been moved to Abuja, resumes today, June 18.