Enugu 2023 Gubernatorial Elections: An Assault on Our Democracy – Frank Nweke Jr
I will begin this address by thanking you for the warm welcome into your homes, businesses, and digital spaces throughout the duration of the gubernatorial campaigns. Your investment of hope and trust in my candidacy was a constant boost of inspiration for me and my team. It remains so even today.
The elections have come and gone, and with it a multitude of infringements on our democratic process, an assault on our desires and our hope for our great state. I celebrate everyone who came out to participate in the democratic process in spite of the challenges, threats and intimidation reported across the State. Your determination is a sign of the awakening that has taken place; and I encourage you to keep your hope alive. Do not despair and do not be discouraged by the unfortunate challenges that have beset our current democratic experience.
I often said during my campaign that I would offer my congratulations and best wishes to whoever emerged in a fair and transparent manner. This election was far from fair and certainly, not transparent.
The violence, thuggery, intimidation, use of divisive sentiments, and the weaponization of poverty against our people, which the Peoples Democratic Party deployed in the course of the campaign and the elections reflect the desperation of the Party to hold on to power against the will of the people. It was never about service or the good of ndi Enugu; and the impunity with which these wicked acts were carried out is sickening.
Just before midnight on Friday, March 17, 2023, another piece of propaganda was released and distributed aggressively to insinuate that I had stepped down for Peter Mbah, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party. This recurrent lie may be referred to as a “political strategy” but we must call a lie what it is – the absence of integrity, a quality most desired in our government today. We would also discover in the course of the day that agents and canvassers at polling units told voters the same story that I had stepped down on the morning of the election.
Very early in the morning of Saturday, March 18, town criers travelled through several communities in Enugu state ordering anyone who would not vote in favour of the People’s Democratic Party to stay home.
The House of Assembly candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance for Udenu Constituency was attacked and almost killed on the morning of the election, while five polling units within his jurisdiction were cordoned off by police and military officers.
At various polling units across the State, PDP thugs, party members, hired criminals and some compromised members of the police and military threatened voters at polling units and chased those who could not be bought over or intimidated into voting for the PDP. In Nsukka, voters recorded and reported gunshots at polling units allegedly instigated by the Labour Party.
The most vulnerable and impoverished became prey to vote buying by the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party with as little as N500 or packets of noodles in some places. At Udenu, both parties competed for the votes of our people with N2,000, a plate of Jollof rice, Okpa, and a bottle of soda. I feel ashamed that this is what our people are worth to some who seek to lead them. I am even more embarrassed by the so-called enlightened citizens who have lost sight of the implications of these actions.
The PDP also secured the assistance of the INEC agents to rig the election, offering cash or issuing threats as the situation demanded.
Only a few polling unit agents uploaded their results directly on IREV as provided by INEC, and fake result sheets were used to rewrite and manipulate the results of vote counts at the polling units before the falsified results of the elections were uploaded to the IREV. Some of these result sheets are also completely blurred on the portal.
The collation centres at the local government headquarters were completely hijacked by thugs and compromised security operatives, and party agents other than the agents of the PDP were not allowed access to any stage of the collation process until Sunday morning. At 7:20 pm on election day, shots were fired sporadically at the Nkanu West collation centre in Agbani, while the military stood aside and watched. Similar breaches of the law and subversion of the electoral process occurred across many locations in the State.
At the start of this campaign, I said emphatically that no ambition is worth the life of any individual. My sentiments about this have not changed. It is unfortunate that those who seek to govern our state are comfortable with expending the lives of citizens as political collateral damage.
The elections of March 18, 2023 in Enugu State were a complete sham. They were not fair. They were not free. And they were not credible.
Yet, none of these actions came as a surprise. Weeks before the election, and consistently, we shared detailed intelligence reports of the impending disaster with the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies.
We consistently received assurances and chose to believe that our democracy would be protected in the face of the desperate plans for subterfuge.
It is unfortunate that resolute actions were not taken to avert the threats we reported. Again, we saw that the problem is not democracy itself. The problem is the people and institutions that we rely upon to manage our democracy.
The entire process, down to the declaration of its winner is a complete farce and will lack legitimacy for as long as it stands.
The results of Nkanu East local government area which were contested, got reviewed and revised by the national office of INEC without any basis given for the change in numbers. If it was a case of over-voting, the expectation is that the result from the local government area should have been cancelled.
It does seem that the numbers were simply manufactured to fit a preprogrammed outcome and read out to the public, as can be inferred from the Returning Officer of INEC in the state, Prof Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe’s comments about acting under authority and reading out what he had been given.
I am utterly disappointed with the manner in which the Independent National Electoral Commission handled the 2023 elections. I am also saddened by the actions of some members of our security agencies. Both of these institutions of State let the people down when they became compromised by a few desperate power mongers and looters. The unchecked intimidation and violence, the massive rewriting of results and the overall abuse of the people’s will would have failed if not done in connivance with the electoral umpire and members of our security agencies.
Yet, as I said, ndi banyi, do not be discouraged. If the past year has revealed anything, it is that the power truly resides with the people. The criminal activities of March 18 and the events that preceded it in the few weeks leading to the election were a testament to the fear instilled in the incumbent party by the people.
We must not relent now. In fact, the journey has only just begun. We must keep engaging the system and these institutions. No matter how long it takes, we will take back our state.
There are far too many people suffering, impoverished and bereft of hope for us who know what should be done to be quiet. For the children in Iva Valley, Ugwu Peak, Bunker and other slums, we must keep going. For the woman in Awgu who came to sell her wares in the market holding her two weeks’ old baby, we must keep going. For our aged parents who are owed their pensions and gratuities and for our young graduates who see no hope of a future in their homes, we will keep going.
We must not lose faith in our democracy or in Enugu State. As individuals and collectively, we must keep pursuing our rights to choose our leaders, to good governance, and to experience the dividends of democracy.
I have no problem losing an election to the will of the people. But when this will has been subverted, we have no choice but to review the entire process and the outcome.
We will explore and exhaust every action required to ensure the legitimacy of the next government in Enugu State. You cannot hold accountable something that was acquired by illegitimate means.
Once more, we thank our supporters and everyone who believed and came on this journey with us.
God bless you all.
God bless Enugu state.
NASS Management Plans Two-Week Induction Of Lawmakers-Elect In May
The Management of the National Assembly has scheduled dates for the induction of the members-elect of the 10th Assembly ahead of the inauguration in June 2023.
This comes after the conclusion of the February 25 federal legislative elections, and the formal release of the authentic list of senators- and members-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The management’s Secretary, Research and Information, Ali Barde Umoru, who doubles as the Chairman, Sub-Committee on Media and Publicity, in a statement on Thursday, noted that it is fully prepared for the exercise.
According to Umoru, the induction will be undertaken in conjunction with the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic studies (NILDS).
The Induction programme, which will be held in two batches, is scheduled to commence from the 7th to 13th of May 2023 with Batch A, while Batch ‘’B’’ will hold from May 14th to May 20th , 2023,” he said.
“The objectives of the Induction/Inauguration exercise is to expose Members-Elect to the functions of the National Assembly, its Practices and Procedures as well as the services available to them.”
The secretary added that the Management led by the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), Sani Magaji Tambawal, had constituted a Central Planning Committee (CPC) as part of the efforts to ensure a successful exercise.
The committee is also made up of all the secretaries in the National Assembly Service as well as the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) and NILDS.
Supplementary Elections: Voting Begins In Kebbi, Adamawa, 22 Other States
Voting has commenced in Kebbi, Adamawa and 22 other states where supplementary elections were scheduled to hold today.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), supplementary elections hold today in 2,660 polling units in 185 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across 24 states of the Federation.
Channels Television correspondent at Karyo/ Umijin Nana/Baban Dutsi polling unit of Maurida ward in the Birnin-Kebbi Local Government Area of Kebbi State observed that voting has commenced.
The Baban Dutsi model primary school host three polling units of Karyo/ Umijin Nana/Baban Dutsi. Over voting was the reason for cancellation of votes in this polling unit.
Also, supplementary elections have commenced in Rivers State in Port Harcourt Federal Constituency Two and Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency.
In Port Harcourt Federal Constituency Two, elections hold in Ward 5, and Wards 10 to 18 in a total of 377 polling units. In Khana/Gokana, elections hold in Wards 4 and 7 of Khana Local Government Area. The number of polling units affected in Khana is 42.
INEC had during the February 25 and March 18 elections declared some governorship, National Assembly and state assemblies’ polls inconclusive and directed a rerun.
Widespread violence and voter suppression had marred the February 25 and March 18 polls, especially in states like Lagos, Rivers, amongst others as thugs unleashed terror on voters at polling units, fuelling voters’ apathy.
In the Adamawa governorship poll, the incumbent Ahmadu Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 421,524, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator Aishatu Dahiru, scored 390,275.
However, INEC state collation officer, Prof Muhammadu Mele of the University of Maiduguri, declared the election inconclusive due to the margin of votes.
Similarly, in Kebbi, the APC polled 388,258 votes as against the PDP’s 342,980, leading the INEC Returning Officer in the governorship election, Professor Yusuf Sa’idu, to declare the election inconclusive.
He said violence, destruction of election materials, disruption of electoral proceedings, and over-voting played a role in the decision.
With both governorship elections having been declared inconclusive, all eyes will be on the two states, each of which has 20 local government areas (LGAs) participating in the second round of polling.
For Adamawa, voting is expected to hold in 69 polling units (PUs) comprising 37,706 eligible voters, while in Kebbi, 142 affected PUs with 94,209 voters will participate.
Conversely, there are supplementary elections for five senatorial seats: Kebbi North, Sokoto East, Sokoto North, Sokoto South, and Zamfara Central.
In Kebbi North, a total of 13,243 voters in 23 PUs are eligible to participate in the exercise. In Sokoto East, there are 87,138 eligible voters in 169 PUs. Sokoto North has 115,266 eligible voters in 185 PUs, and Sokoto South has 85,022 collected PVCs across 156 PUs. In Zamfara Central, there are 83 PUs affected, comprising eligible 47,227 voters.
Likewise, House of Representatives polls hold in a total of 31 constituencies across 15 states, namely Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara.
As for the state House of Assembly elections, a total of 59 constituencies in 17 states are involved. They are Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, and Yobe.
Ododo Emerges APC Governorship Candidate In Kogi
Alhaji Ahmed Ododo has emerged as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Kogi State.
According to the Secretary of the Kogi APC Primary Election Committee, Patrick Obahiagha, Ododo scored 78, 704 votes to beat six other contestants.
Obahiagha, who announced the result of the governorship primary on Friday in Lokoja, said Salami Momodu got 1,506 votes, Abubakar Yahaya-Ashemogu, 1,159, and Shaaibu Abubakar-Audu, 763 votes.
He added that Stephen Ocheni garnered 552 votes, Sanusi Ohiere, 424, and Smart Adeyemi 311 votes.
Obahiagha said that out of the 93,729 voters, 83,419 who were accredited, voted for candidates of their choice.
“Ododo, having scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the direct primary election conducted on April 14, 2023, in Kogi, is hereby declared the winner of the APC primary election 2023.
“Ahmed Usman-Ododo is hereby returned as the duly elected governorship candidate of APC for the November 2023 governorship election,” he said.
Obahiagha congratulated party leaders and members for the peaceful primary election.
The committee secretary also thanked Gov. Yahaya Bello, for making the democratic process possible.