Even though the handwriting was clearly written on the walls due to the incessant electoral violent witnessed in Rivers state during the February 23 and March 9 elections in the state but what everyone never saw clearly was the ultimate decision taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to indefinitely suspend electioneering process in the state after collation of the governorship election result was underway.
However, the major players in Rivers political sphere still remains the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) – even without its candidates contesting in the election – and the African Action Congress (AAC) – which has taken up the post of major contender with Governor Wike of the PDP.
In light of the inconclusive elections in other states and suspension of election in Rivers, INEC has summoned a meeting of its management today in order to receive and consider the report of a fact-finding team it sent to the South-south state.
The electoral body may also receive the report on its investigation into the disruption of the poll in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
But top on the list of issues before INEC, as at last night, is the suspended election in Rivers State.
THE NATION quoted a source who spoke to its correspondent on the condition of anonymity stated that: “The panel on Rivers State will on Friday submit its report to INEC management. Thereafter, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and his team will consider the findings and make a pronouncement. We are aware of the interest which the suspension of the elections in Rivers State has generated and we want to resolve it as soon as possible.”
THE NATION also gathered that there are four options before INEC, which includes – Whether or not to cancel the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State; Restricted conduct of elections only in units, wards or areas affected by violence; Announcement of collated or retrieved results if the security situation does not permit a fresh poll; or Declaring the results as it were and leaving the aggrieved to go to the tribunal.
According to the source, any delay in taking a decision may lead to a constitutional crisis in the state.
“INEC will be fair, just, equitable and it will be guided by the Electoral Act, 2010( as amended) in its decision on Rivers State. The panel has concluded its assignment. Were it not for the issuance of Certificates of Return to senators and Representatives-elect, we would have considered the report on Rivers on Thursday (yesterday).”
A statement last Sunday by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, said: “The commission has decided to suspend all electoral processes in Rivers State until further notice. This is in line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Clause 47(e) of the regulations and guidelines of the commission.”
According to reports, the team which investigated the disruption of the collation and cancellation of results in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State had concluded its assignment.
“We will look at the findings of this committee to guide the conduct of supplementary elections in the state on March 23,” the source said.
However, what is more worrying in all these issues is how the decision taken by INEC today on the River polls may affect the indigents of the state as violence has not yet ceased in the state and considering the fact that Governor Nyesom Wike is seeking a re-election back into office and has been tipped to contest unchallenged due to court decisions that have crippled his major opponents from contesting in the election.