By Sunny Igboanugo
Government magic! Babanla nonsense! Democrazy! Demonstration of Craze! Crazy Demonstration! These were the words of Fela Anikulapo, the late Afrobeat king with which he tried to capture Nigeria’s variance of democracy. Hear him: People no go vote, dem come get big-big numbers – thousands to thousands – millions to millions. Na decocrazy be that!
Now this was after the 1983 elections. How long is that now? That’s 40 clear years. Now, in those 40 years, the same people who brought the idea of democracy to Nigeria, have practically turned man into woman and vice versa – something nobody thought was ever possible. They call it transgender. In 1983, when Fela sang of the sorry state of Nigerian election, who could have thought that a woman in her farm at Eha-Amufu would pick up her phone and call her son in Lagos or Maiduguri to complain of her ailing knees and get the instant soothing words she needs to carry on or that one would enter a car and programme it, sit comfortably and be watching a movie, while the car takes him to his destination, safely and comfortably, without having to shout at his driver.
That’s the level the world has moved. Yet in Africa as retrogression remains the name of the game, the people continue to grapple with most basic elements of life, not because they are completely ignorant of what happens elsewhere, or because they lack the template to redeem themselves, but because they have become prisoners to the most retrogressive enablers of bad behaviour – primordial sentiments.
As Fela sang: In Africa, as time de gooo things just de bad, de bad more and more. Poor man de cry, rich man de mess! Yes, because of the mess the big man makes, the poor have remained the butt of the society, have remained at the receiving end of a swivelling, tempestuous, whirlwind of vicious cycle. They have remained in their sedate, innate and sedimentary state, simply because they lack the means to extricate themselves from the vice grip of their traducers – too helpless to act and failing to act because they are helpless.
Just like many other states, Enugu presents a demonstrably perfect example of this vicious cycle. In the last 24 years, it has found itself in this vice grip, where a political tendency, which burst into the state with some uncanny fanfare, has virtually taken a life of its own, growing into a monstrous behemoth, stamping down on any sort of organic growth that managed to sprout out from the ground with the prospect to give the people a new lease of life.
That nobody can turn the taps in Enugu today, as in most cities in Nigeria and water will flow from a public source, flows from the direct consequence of the illicit, but powerful force that seems to have taken permanent residence in the state since the inception of the current regime the purveyors refer as democracy, but which the majority see in Fela’s apt description as – democrazy.
Just like in previous editions, Enugu, the capital of former Eastern Nigeria presents its variant of the macabre dance the world is being regaled with in Nigeria. It is a dance in which chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission have taken the front row to demonstrate one of the oddest if not the most grotesque forms of electoral heist that has marked the 2023 general elections.
The Owo ward of Nkanu East Local Government Area of the state, was the venue, where the weird political performance was displayed. There, the dramatis personae engineered the crooked construct that made Peter Mbah of the PDP prevail over Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party (LP) in a manner that has kept many mouths agape as they see the curtain fall after the outlandish drama that characterised the March 18 governorship election.
The full story of that uncanny episode was captured by Eze Sabinus Oscar O, Professor in the department of biochemistry and Dean, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), who as the Collation Officer for the ward, saw it all.
Here is how he recorded his story entitled: Why Owo Ward Of Nkanu East LGA, Of Enugu State Is In The Eye Of The Storm he gave a graphic picture of his encounter with some people that could only be described as electoral brigands, gave a clear impetus to to why many people have described the 2023 election as the worst in the history of Nigeria.
His account: “My fellow colleagues and the general public. Having observed the turmoil arising from the results collated from Nkanu East LGA and also having served as the Governorship Collation Officer for Owo ward in Nkanu East LGA, I stand in a proper position to put the records straight and clear some pockets of doubts as follows:
*Collation of results at the INEC office near the LGA secretariat started around 7.30 pm with the arrival of PO’s (Polling Officers) from different wards
*As at 1.30am on Sunday morning, the PO’s from Owo Ward had not returned to INEC office to submit their results.
*As at such late time, majority of the collation officers had already completed their collation assignments from wards under them.
*The PO’s at Owo ward finally returned around 2.00am but collation couldn’t start immediately as the SPO (Supervisory Presiding Officer) was nowhere to be found, as reported by POs.
*Collation of the results finally started around 2.30am
*It was observed that only polling units 008, 009, 010 and 011 used BVAS machines for accreditation of voters, while seven polling units (001- 007) did not use BVAS machines.
*Steps 5 and 6 of the guideline for collation of results were activated but no response was observed.
*This was immediately brought to the attention of the EO but couldn’t yield good result
*Step 17 of the guideline (Form 40G) on collation was activated, as the hard copy of the Form 40G was not issued to CO (Collation Officer) alongside other collation materials, but still failed.
*When all these actions were taken and all efforts to justify results returned from Owo could not stand, it became imperative that the only alternative was to cancel those results from Owo where these BVAS machines could not work.
*All these were brought to the attention of the LGA collation officer who also doubles as the LGA returning officer for gubernatorial election.
*I categorically made it clear to the LGA collation officer that he should not collate the results for Owo ward, especially where BVAS machines could not work, and that the election in the affected areas without BVAS machines should be cancelled so that a re-run should be fixed since the RATECH (Registration Area Technician) claimed that those BVAS machines malfunctioned.
*The LGA collation officer for gubernatorial election claimed that he would not adopt my advice because his life would be in danger thereafter.
*All my efforts to get the results from Owo Wards (polling units 001 to 007) cancelled generated a lot of tension as the news permeated everywhere that I want to cancel the gubernatorial election held at Owo.
*The cloud of tension and animosity became too thick to the point that I was advised from both within the area and outside Nkanu to make effort to leave the scene as my life was visibly in danger.
*At this point, all other collation officers from other Wards had already left back to Enugu with the only two buses that conveyed all collation officers to the INEC office at Nkanu East, thereby leaving only me behind.
*As efforts to get the results from polling units 001 to 007 canceled with a view to rescheduling a re-run failed, I decided, as a last option, to do a letter of complaint to the REC through the LGA collation officer/returning officer. Unbelievably, the LGA Collation/Returning Officer refused to accept this letter from me, insisting that unless the EO endorsed it, he would not collect the letter.
*The EO, on the other hand, also declined to endorse the letter.
*This particular action taken by me to initiate the process of cancellation of the polling units results, skyrocketed the tension in the area and it became visibly obvious that my life was in danger since I have been abandoned with no vehicle to exit the area.
*The total number of registered voters in Owo ward was 6129.
*How the number in (20) above translated to 30,000 votes from Nkanu East LGA is not known to Owo ward collation officer?
*Note that all the results sheets from all the eleven polling units in Owo has only one political party with votes and other parties scored zero.
*The recording of zero to other political parties was done at the polling units level and not at the Ward collation level.
*When I did not obtain the protection and support of the EO to secure the rejection/cancellation of the results for a rerun, and given the clear threats from a plethora of thugs, and without any security protection, it was clear that I was on my own and that my life was in obvious danger. How, I as Owo ward collation officer left the area and arrived at Enugu should be better imagined. The dead does not tell the story but the living.
Now, while many would be quick to capture the incredulity of the story, many more, would simply dismiss it as as an open and shut case, given the glaring and obvious ingredients in relation to the the guidelines used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
But not when vested interests are involved – politicians with bags of money chasing willing electoral officials at the highest level, whose only interests are to either complete some shopping malls in some cities across the country, acquire more housing estates in choice areas of Lagos and Abuja or buy properties in Europe and America – as opposed to those seeking better and nobler ideals for humanity and for country.
So, what do you have? They went to work, after apparently sealing their deal. In the end, the totally scandalised people of Enugu, have again been served one of the wackiest offerings on the Nigerian electoral menu – the Owo breakfast – a pot of soup with the hanging hand of the axiomatic monkey with all the garnishing to boot.
Indeed many believe that the Enugu miracle is a direct counter to the February 25 presidential election in which the Labour Party (LP) through its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, shocked the entire nation by virtually stop a moving train with bare hands. There is the talk that the INEC officials were only acting a script forbidding the party, from capturing any state across the federation in order to asphyxiate the party of the needed oxygen early enough and ensure it ceases to be a formidable force capable of posing any form of threat to the powers that be now and in future.
To achieve this, the INEC in Abuja, where the case was referred, which ought to cancel the entire election in Owo, as a result of not using the BVAS and the glaring fact of over-voting only managed the skim off some votes from the 30,000 recorded for the PDP, leaving it with just 16,000. Case closed.
Now the questions. The ward in issue has just 7,000 accredited voters on the BVAS. From where then did INEC that announced double that figure get the extras? In the first place, is INEC not supposed to cancel election in the ward and call for a rerun, as contained in its guidelines. What is the fate of Enugu people from hence. The answer can only be obtained in those three words – Go to court! Tragedy!