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Why the official results of the governorship election in Enugu are false and should be reviewed — By Emeka Ugwuonye

7 min read

Professor Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman

Firstly, one needs to understand in clear terms what happened with the governorship election in Enugu held on the 18th of March, 2023. It was most absurd, to put it mildly. INEC officials announced the false result after a three-day horse-trading and most blatant and predictable manipulation of election results ever. You can call it a last minute affair because the job was so poorly done such that even a child could see the absurdity. Where the only legitimate standard of voter accreditation has specified the number of accredited voters, it is impossible to have twice such number as number of actual voters. It made nonsense of the accreditation process. It was an arithmetic farce that no one can accept. What happened in Enugu was an unprecedented desperation in election rigging that will not stand. It is now a question of the best way to cure that absurdity.

The easiest and most efficient way to correct the abnormality of the official result of the Enugu governorship election is by a review process internal to INEC. It is the least costly option for INEC, for the candidates and, above all, for the people of Enugu State. The internal review process will also save face for INEC which has been so battered and turned into the most odious organization in history. INEC should save what remains of its reputation as a serious organization by reviewing the results of the governorship election.

Apart from Lagos, Enugu State governorship election was the hottest battleground in this past election. Why? For over 20 years, total political leadership of Enugu state had been concentrated in the hands of one party, one click, one gang. Enugu gradually descended into a land where elections were replaced by selections, where democracy was trashed and discarded, and dictatorship held sway. For every view and every thought, be it on politics, the economy and even basic lives of the people, for the past 20 years plus, everything depended on one party and on one man – the Governor. The first Governor in the chain of leadership since 1999 set in motion a string of nearly unbreakable dictatorship, which suffocated the people of Enugu, enslaved them and turned them into unwilling conspirators in passive criminality.

In that period of darkness during which the gang maintained their stranglehold on the people of Enugu, the common wealth of the state was rapaciously stolen, wasted or mismanaged. Politics within the state became the easiest way to personal wealth. Unmitigated greed became the cannon that governed the minds of those who ruled the state. With billions of dollars of Enugu peoples wealth stolen and shared among a few loyalists over the years, it was inevitable that those behind the wheel of such depraved enslavement and dispossession of the people of Enugu would go to every extent to resist change and to perpetuate themselves in power. They did this to every extent and by every means, including murder on a mass scale. They called themselves the kingmakers and they proceeded to choose who would be the next Governor, and determined to ensure that they would put in place each time someone who had promised to cover their back. Office of the Governor thus became a tradeable commodity as power slipped from the good people to the perverts and the most inept.

Undue concentration of political power in one hand or in the hands of one group of people, especially where such concentration of power is a negation of democracy, inevitably breeds political violence. Without necessarily pointing a finger at any one person in particular, I dare to say that due to lack of democracy in Enugu state, there emerged a certain brand of pollical violence in the state. The world cannot forget what happened with the cold-blooded and terrorist-styled assassination of Chief Oyibo Chukwu, as he campaigned to unseat an entrenched pollical power-fixer in Enugu State. The chilling murder of Chief Chukwu, whoever did it, was an attack on the entire people of Enugu. It was an attack on a terrorism scale. And never forget that it was done out of the culture of violence that has built up in the state. that culture of violence, in turn, stems from the fact that certain people are desperate to hold onto power in Enugu at all costs. Anyone who could visit such terror on the people of the state will commit any other atrocity to be in power. Tampering with the electoral process, violating the election laws, unleashing violence and denying the people their rights to vote, and bribing the electoral officials are standard tools in the toolbox of the political terrorists that took over Enugu State over the years. No one should be surprised, therefore, to hear that some practitioners of terror would spend billions of naira between Friday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 22, 2023 to buy electoral officials and bend the results in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

Enugu was the hottest battleground because so much was at stake. Those who stole billions wanted to maintain leverage so they could continue to steal, and be able to cover up and hold onto the stolen wealth. Those who have killed for power wanted to hold onto power so they could continue to evade justice and accountability for their crimes. This election was therefore a fight for the heart and soul of the people of Enugu. It was every man’s last stand. It was a war between the dark forces of thuggery and terrorism versus the progressive elements of the children of the state who have had enough and who were ready to return Enugu to the path of glory and human progress, justice, equity and fairness. These progressive forces must succeed and the agents of darkness must fail. This is why this struggle is the struggle of every citizen of Enugu State. This is not the moment when anyone could afford to be neutral and stand by to watch. This was why, as never before since 1999, the people of Enugu came out enmass to support change and to replace the one party that has been in power over two decades.

The progressive citizens of Enugu state have done extremely well in this fight. They delivered a near total change in both Federal and State legislative houses. They also overwhelmingly voted for the Labor Party candidate as their Governor of choice. It now remains for them to demand that their majority votes should not be stolen from them. The struggle of the people of Enugu and their votes will come to naught if the candidate that got the majority votes is not returned as the winner. That will be pushing the people of the State to the edge. The officials behind the elections must therefore understand that they are pushing the people to the point of either utter disenchantment in the political process or to the point of agitation or social explosion.

A major disaster was averted in Abia State when INEC finally followed its rules and upheld the wishes of the Abia voters. The danger averted in Abia must be similarly averted in Enugu State. This is particularly so at a time of growing disillusionment in the Eastern part of Nigeria. With escalating violence in this part of the country, worsened by the seemingly total failure of governance, the only hope is to respect and honor the wishes of the Enugu voters by returning the candidate that had the majority votes. The process whereby the thousands of ghost voters were manufactured last minute in Nkanu East in order to steal victory from the legitimate winner of the election is a criminal act with grave consequences not just for Enugu people, but for the entire South East and the nation as a whole.

In so far as INEC has not issued the certificates of return as regards the governorship elections, INEC retains the power to review the results and ensure that the true will of the voters is reflected and that the man that won the elections in accordance with the laid-down rules and standards is returned as the winner of the elections. That is the only way the government that comes after the election can be truly called a government of the people for the people and by the people.

With the glaring numerical evidence and clear standards of the electoral laws and processes that were violated with impunity, every legal analyst will easily conclude that the courts will most likely reverse the results announced by INEC as regards the Enugu governorship election. Without reviewing these results, a man that actually lost the election will be foisted on the people as their governor for a period of time it would take to exhaust the litigation option. That will be an act of punishment on the people of Enugu and would permanently disrupt the electoral circle in the state. To put the wrong candidate in office as the Governor for, say, six months is akin to deliberately allowing the loser to occupy the office long enough to steal from the state coffers the money he used to buy the electoral officials. In such event, the people of the state will lose and they will never forgive those behind such a catastrophic but avoidable loss.

It is not too much to ask. It is actually the right thing to do. Let the man who won the election be return as the winner. Those last minute ghost votes must be rejected in accordance with the law and standards that govern our elections. Nothing more, nothing less will be considered just by the people of Enugu State.

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