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As a first measure to becoming the Governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has declared Monday through Wednesday, as dry fasting for the state. Perhaps this could serve as the beginning of a more God-fearing system of leadership in a bid to govern the state, but many are still wrought with the scars left behind by April elections.
The Akwa Ibom elections which caught little media attention was according to many residents one of utter disenfranchisement. As with all Nigerian elections in the past, it was, according to several reports and accounts, significantly marred by violence, intimidation, blood-shedding and warped results. But more than that it introduced Nigerians to a dangerous possibility in coming elections: that results can still be altered in several states.
The first evidence came in form of a huge disparity between the total number of persons accredited and the total votes declared by the INEC for the gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State. A difference well over 700,000 votes. More than the votes of some Nigerian states in the recently concluded elections.
But sky-rocketing the vote was not the only measure used to earn a victory for the current governor of the state. At a press conference last month, governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress Umana Okon Umana, displayed thousands of ballot papers that voters allegedly cast for his party in Ibesikpo local government area, but which were isolated and thrown away by rogue staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission in collusion with officials of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
This narrative is frightening. First, it highlights the possibility of rigging elections with state infrastructure by the out-going governor’s alleged use of security operatives to scare away voters and intimidate the citizens of the state. Secondly it hints at the possibility of undermining the newly installed card reader system which many Nigerians praise for making Nigerian elections more transparent than ever and as always it still shows how possible it remains for a governor’s power to elevate beyond the will of millions of people. All possibilities are unacceptable.
That is why any response by the Independent National Electoral Commission is going to scrutinized detail for detail and not only by the people of Akwa-Ibom state, but Nigerians as well. In the aftermath of the April elections protesters and civil rights groups have marched around campaigning for a more transparent and people oriented elections in the state. Some of the placards borne by the residents during the marches read, “Akwa-Ibom Election – the height of impunity,” “No Election in Akwa-Ibom State,” “INEC must Cancel Election in Akwa-Ibom State,” “Commissioner of Police in Akwa-Ibom State must be sacked,” “PDP paid thugs to pack election materials,” and “INEC sold our result sheets”.
One thing is certain; democracy is a slow and sometimes painful process. It isn’t a sure means of ensuring that a nation or state witness development and it certainly isn’t the best model of governance for all the nations of the world. But it gives a people the right to elect the person to govern them, at the extreme; it gives the people the right to even choose their dictator. Nigeria has now twice chosen past military rulers as democratic presidents. This is the will of the people.
I simply ask that a keener eye should be shed on the events that occurred in Akwa-Ibom state during the recently concluded elections and this is only because i still hear the voice of the people. For those who have embraced the concept of democracy even without fully understanding it, one other thing is certain, the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Article written by Tahiru Sherriff, in-house freelance reporter with NewsWireNGR in Abuja
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