Bayelsa Polls: Lawyers Seek Probe Of Military Involvement In Electoral Malpractice

Bayelsa Polls: Lawyers Seek Probe Of Military Involvement In Electoral Malpractice
December 09 17:17 2015 Print This Article
A civil rights organisation, Lawyers in Defence of Democracy, has. Asked on the Federal Government to investigate the alleged role of security agencies, particularly the military “in the whole episode of electoral corruption in Southern Ijaw” during the Bayelsa State governorship election.
Such investigation, it advised, must also look at the role of the police high command “leading to such mind boggling violence as widely reported in the media as well as that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to unravel any complicity.”
 
The National Secretary of LDD, Ikechukwu Ikeji, who tabled the demands during a press conference on Wednesday in Yenagoa, praised the courage of Bayelsans by fearlessly standing firm to defend their rights to vote even in the face of intimidation by security agencies.
 
He said, “The allegation of collusion by top officials of the army, police and those of the INEC allegedly corralled to do the bidding of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Timipre Sylva is unconscionable because it sends a very wrong signal of possible annihilation of democracy and rule of law. Yes, the rule of jungle is anathema in a democratic system of government. It is clearly a dangerous step which calls for a thorough investigation by the Federal Government before it becomes a routine in future elections and in particular when the SouthernIjaw election is rescheduled.  
 
“This is why we call on the Federal Government to properly investigate the alleged role of the military in the whole episode of electoral corruption in Southern Ijaw as claimed by Governor Dickson which would be in line with similar on-going investigation of the role of the same institution in the 2015 general elections in Ekiti and Osun States. The investigation must commence without further delay.
 
“Such investigation must also look at the role of the police high command leading to such mind boggling violence as widely reported in the media as well as that of INEC to unravel any complicity.
 
“We have looked carefully at the whole scenario and think rationally that the governor’s accusation is not without some substance. It cannot and must not be dismissed as frivolous as the APC, an interest party, in Bayelsa has said.”
 
Excerpts!…
 
Gentlemen of the Press,
 
We want to welcome you all to this Press conference we have called to brief you on the unfolding political developments in Bayelsa State.
 
You are all aware of the various issues in the governorship election of December 5th and 6th with the eventual cancellation of the expected rerun of the remaining part of the election in southern Ijaw.
 
We have followed the developments in Bayelsa State with utmost concern especially on the implication for our national interest and of course the challenge it poses to democratization in the country.
 
As one of those bodies and individuals who were in the state to monitor the election, we can report on behalf of our body here today that what we saw in Southern Ijaw was nothing short of anarchy. The extreme case of desperation on the part of politicians was just unthinkable leading to a gross manipulation of the electoral process which effectively corrupted the election and was accordingly cancelled. We condemn this desperate mentality of the politicians involved in this regrettable incident of violence akin to do-or-die kind of politics which is usually aimed at disenfranchising the people to satisfy their selfish interest.
 
We believe the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC) took the right decision by this cancellation which we hope can now allow the people of Southern Ijaw exercise their inalienable franchise to vote according to their choices in the election whenever it is rescheduled.
 
This is important because democracy is all about the people who should be allowed to freely elect their leaders without recourse to violence and intimidation. Otherwise democracy is imperiled and the outcome of such election cannot be regarded as truly representing the wishes and aspirations of the people.
 
But as much as we must blame the political leaders, the alleged collusion of the military top brass, the police and other highly placed individuals in the Federal Government calls for concern and we believe this seriously challenge our collective interest as a people and nation. Election becomes a parody of the real thing when the process lacks integrity.
 
It is not that we have not experienced electoral malpractices in the past but in a new political environment where the change mantra is the order of the day as an important element of President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership and government, the reported accusation of some highly placed individuals at the federal level having a hand in the orchestrated attempts to rig the election in Southern Ijaw must agitate our minds and we condemn this action in very strong terms.
 
The allegation of collusion by top officials of the army, police and those of the INEC allegedly corralled to do the bidding of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Timipre Sylva is unconscionable because it sends a very wrong signal of possible annihilation of democracy and rule of law. Yes, the rule of jungle is anathema in a democratic system of government. It is clearly a dangerous step which calls for a thorough investigation by the Federal Government before it becomes a routine in future elections and in particular when the SouthernIjaw election is rescheduled. 
We could have disregarded the allegation but when it came from the state governor, Seriake Dickson, on national television stations and widely reported in the newspapers, we should take it seriously.
 
According to the governor, the attempted rigging plan was aimed at deflating his lead in the election having won in 7 of the 8 local governments in the state but with manipulation of the election in Southern Ijaw, some ridiculous figures would be conjured and credited to the APC candidate who will then be declared winner. Governor Dickson would thereafter be battling in court which is not a realistic option, hence his loud voice to save democracy.
 
This is why we call on the Federal Government to properly investigate the alleged role of the military in the whole episode of electoral corruption in Southern Ijaw as claimed by Governor Dickson which would be in line with similar on-going investigation of the role of the same institution in the 2015 general elections in Ekiti and Osun States. The investigation must commence without further delay.
 
Such investigation must also look at the role of the police high command leading to such mind boggling violence as widely reported in the media as well as that of INEC to unravel any complicity.
 
We have looked carefully at the whole scenario and think rationally that the governor’s accusation is not without some substance. It cannot and must not be dismissed as frivolous as the APC, an interest party, in Bayelsa has said.
 
Governor Dickson claimed so assertively that prior to the ill-fated conduct of the election in Southern Ijaw, he had informed INEC and security authorities that political thugs and criminal element had taken over the entire Southern Ijaw and advised that the election be postponed but his advice was ignored.
 
We also saw the Deputy Inspector-General oPolice, Hashimu Argungun who was mandated to ensure a hitchfree environment conducive to hold a peaceful election telling the whole world on television that the situation in Southern Ijaw was okay to holdthe election but invariably turned out to be fiasco. So what went wrong? Why the hurry to conduct the election when it was obvious the security situation was tension soaked? Why did he and other top ranking army officials in the same boat withArgungu refused to heed the advice of the governor as the chief security officer of the state? Was there actually a deliberate plan to rig the election in favour of APC candidate by the agencies of the Federal Government as Governor Dickson claimed?
 
These are weighty questions demanding appropriate answers from all those accused in the macabre dance in Bayelsa State which we believe constitutes a huge negative on the administration of President Buhari, especially as a beneficiary of a clean election. 
 
Incidentally the ignoble rampaging of electoral manipulation occurred in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s state, a man who chose honour and national interest instead of power and handed over to President Buhari. So why should we have a reversal of democratic consolidation so soon?
 
Of course the whole shameful episode is now before the international community which suggests that democracy is heading towards the rocks in the current dispensation if care is not taken and the imperative to call to order those who are clearly abusing their offices all in the name of politics. PresidentBuhari certainly cannot afford to fail the nation because the consequence would be disastrous for all of us
 
In this regard, we hereby call on the Federal Government to do all within its powers to ensure a violence free rerun whenever election is to be conducted in Southern Ijaw by ensuring that credible personnel from the various security agencies are in charge of security in the entire area. The allegation that security top command handed electoral materials to APC members to rig the election remains a sour point in any estimation of the Southern Ijaw saga. Too bad for democracy. INEC must also be ready to hold a free, fair and credible election as the entire worldwatches and assesses the impartiality of its new leadership.
 
We want to use this opportunity to praise the courage of Bayelsans by fearlessly standing firm to defend their rights to vote even in the face of intimidation by security agencies. They have proven that no amount of abuse of power through intimidation and violence can kill the will of the people with a resolve to do what is right as against perfidy as we can best describe the orchestrated attempt to rig the election in SouthernIjaw.
 
We must all rise against this regrettable situation which can only tarnish the nation’s image in the comity of nations. Democracy must survive in our country.
We thank you all for your attention.
 
Ikechukwu Ikeji
National Secretary
Lawyers in Defence of Democracy
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