26th January, 2023
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has cautioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the success and failure of the 2023 general elections next month will have substantial implications for the country.
He said success of the election will add value by consolidating and strengthening the roots of the nation’s democracy, while failure might increase political polarization in the country and set its democracy backwards.
Wike gave the warning an International Conference in Port Harcourt with the theme: “Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security”.
He said elections are seen as contest and that the outcome must be seen as free, fair and credible.
Wike pointed out that since 1999, Nigeria has six general election circles but that none of them had been seen as free and fair as the losers had to end in the Supreme Court to contest their results.
He recall that the outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests and riots, which he said led to the loss of several lives and properties in a particular section of the country.
“Indeed former President Musa Yar’Adua publicly denounced the election that brought him to power as flawed and pledged to make necessary corrections with electoral reforms. The 2011 general elections suffered a similar experience and was litigated by the opposition up to the supreme court.
“None of the defeated contestants believed that they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, security agencies and politicians for undermining the contest with brazen electoral fraud,” he said.
Wike said the 2015 general elections recorded some improvement with the introduction of the Smart Card Reader.
He said even at that, the result of the election was considered rigged in favour of the opposition and was challenged up to the Supreme Court.
He said the 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected by the opposition as highly compromised up to the supreme court.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in the 2019 rerun of the general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory to retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens,” he said.
He noted that with six consecutive circles of elections in Nigeria, the method of elections should have crystalized into putting in effective standard rules of a free, fair and credible elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
However, he said Nigerians are hoping that with assurances from INEC, the 2023 elections would herald a new dawn in the electoral process in Nigeria.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State commended the organisers of the international conference and the Rivers State Government for sponsoring the event.
He hoped that the outcome would resonate the thoughts of renowned intellectual and social scientist from Rivers like the late Professor Claude Ake.
The event had in attendance, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria who gave the keynote address.