29th January, 2023
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
A group, the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority (OCIA) has called for ‘Electoral Pause’ in the four local government areas that made up Ogoniland in Rivers over fears of violence ahead of the forthcoming national election.
Mr Goodluck Diigbo, a United-states based Activist and President of OCIA made the emergency declaration during a virtual press conference on Sunday in Bori, Khana local government area in Rivers.
He said that the decision to stop elections in the area became necessary to curb a repeat of violence following “over 300 cases of missing persons so far recorded by previous elections”.
Diigbo noted that the forthcoming general elections will not be different as several recent arm clashes amongst the various candidates of Ogoni extraction had continued to attract crises as the electioneering progressed.
According to him, “Communities in the area had recently witnessed several armed clashes orchestrated by some top politicians during the party campaigns and there are fears for the safety of lives and properties if the elections were to hold.
“Buedum-Gbenebue, Nonwa Uedume, Beeri, Nyokhana,Yeghe were amongst Ogoni Communities that witnessed political rifts at different times, subjecting unarmed villages to sorrow.
“There was pandemonium and tears on 25 and 26 December. 2022 as residents witnessed armed clashes with heavy shootings and manhandlings of villagers by men linked to top candidates of Ogoni extraction in different political parties.
“The incident also lead to the destruction of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and that of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, secretariats in the affected communities,”Diigbo said.
The group’s President also alleged that there have been an alarming influx of strange people suspected to be election thugs in Ogoni communities.
It also alleged a politically motivated attempted kidnap on an Ogoni elder who condemned the undemocratic practice adopted by politicians in the area.
Diigbo therefore, warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against deploying electoral materials and officers to the area pending an assurance of the safety of the area.
He also noted that after due consideration of recent political situation it is important for politicians to hold talks with the OCIA and other stakeholders in Ogoniland to assure the people the area is safe for the general elections.
The call for the stoppage of elections in Ogoniland is coming at the heels of memorial of a prominent Ogoni, Dr Ferry Gberegbe, who was shot at the collation centre in Bori, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State during the governorship and state assembly election on March 2019.
The death of Gberegbe, who was a Senior Lecturer at the Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnics, Bori, died from gunshot wounds generated tension and controversy between the Rivers State government and the Police.
Governor Nyesom Wike had accused security agencies of shooting Gberegbe to death in an attempt to snatch electoral materials at the Collation centre, which met resistance from youths led by the deceased.
It was alleged that some security men had clashed with some youths in Bori, who had openly confronted them (security) at the collation center during which the deceased was shot.