The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in last Saturday’s governorship election in Enugu State, Mr. Frank Nweke has rejected the declaration of Barr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the winner of the polls.
Nweke, who came third in the election, behind Barr. Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party, said the exercise was fraught with irregularities.
While describing the election as an assault on democracy, the APGA candidate said he would explore all legal means to ensure that a legitimate government is put in place in the state.
He said the election witnessed a multitude of infringements on the people’s democratic process democratic and an assault on their desires and hope for a great state.
Nweke accused both the PDP and LP of engaging in vote-buying the elections, alleging that votes were bought for as low as N2,000 and a plate of rice.
He ruled out any form of congratulatory message to the winner of the election.
“I often said during my campaign that I would offer my congratulations and best wishes to whoever emerged in a fair and transparent manner. This election was far from fair and certainly, not transparent.
“The violence, thuggery, intimidation, use of divisive sentiments, and the weaponization of poverty against our people, which the Peoples Democratic Party deployed in the course of the campaign and the elections reflect the desperation of the Party to hold on to power against the will of the people. It was never about service or the good of ndi Enugu; and the impunity with which these wicked acts were carried out is sickening.
“Very early in the morning of Saturday, March 18, town criers travelled through several communities in Enugu state ordering anyone who would not vote in favour of the People’s Democratic Party to stay home.
“The House of Assembly candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance for Udenu Constituency was attacked and almost killed on the morning of the election, while five polling units within his jurisdiction were cordoned off by police and military officers,” he said.
He further alleged that “at various polling units across the State, PDP thugs, party members, hired criminals and some compromised members of the police and military threatened voters at polling units and chased those who could not be bought over or intimidated into voting for the PDP.
“In Nsukka, voters recorded and reported gunshots at polling units allegedly instigated by the Labour Party.
“The most vulnerable and impoverished became prey to vote buying by the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party with as little as N500 or packets of noodles in some places.
“At Udenu, both parties competed for the votes of our people with N2,000, a plate of Jollof rice, Okpa, and a bottle of soda.
“I feel ashamed that this is what our people are worth to some who seek to lead them.”
He claimed further that the PDP also secured the assistance of the INEC agents to rig the election, offering cash or issuing threats as the situation demanded.
“Only a few polling unit agents uploaded their results directly on IREV as provided by INEC, and fake result sheets were used to rewrite and manipulate the results of vote counts at the polling units before the falsified results of the elections were uploaded to the IREV. Some of these result sheets are also completely blurred on the portal.
“The collation centres at the local government headquarters were completely hijacked by thugs and compromised security operatives, and party agents other than the agents of the PDP were not allowed access to any stage of the collation process until Sunday morning.
“At 7:20 pm on election day, shots were fired sporadically at the Nkanu West collation centre in Agbani, while the military stood aside and watched. Similar breaches of the law and subversion of the electoral process occurred across many locations in the State.”
He summed it up that “the elections of March 18, 2023 in Enugu State were a complete sham. They were not fair. They were not free. And they were not credible.
“Yet, none of these actions came as a surprise. Weeks before the election, and consistently, we shared detailed intelligence reports of the impending disaster with the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies. We consistently received assurances and chose to believe that our democracy would be protected in the face of the desperate plans for subterfuge.
“It is unfortunate that resolute actions were not taken to avert the threats we reported. Again, we saw that the problem is not democracy itself. The problem is the people and institutions that we rely upon to manage our democracy.
“The entire process, down to the declaration of its winner, is a complete farce and will lack legitimacy for as long as it stands.”
Nweke equally faulted the INEC’s decision on the controversial Nkanu East results.
“The results of Nkanu East local government area which were contested, got reviewed and revised by the national office of INEC without any basis given for the change in numbers.
“If it was a case of over-voting, the expectation is that the result from the local government area should have been cancelled.
“It does seem that the numbers were simply manufactured to fit a preprogrammed outcome and read out to the public, as can be inferred from the Returning Officer of INEC in the state, Prof Maduebibisi Iwe’s comments about acting under authority and reading out what he had been given.
“I am utterly disappointed with the manner in which the Independent National Electoral Commission handled the 2023 elections. I am also saddened by the actions of some members of our security agencies.
“Both of these institutions of State let the people down when they became compromised by a few desperate power mongers and looters.
“The unchecked intimidation and violence, the massive rewriting of results and the overall abuse of the people’s will would have failed if not done in connivance with the electoral umpire and members of our security agencies.
“I have no problem losing an election to the will of the people. But when this will has been subverted, we have no choice but to review the entire process and the outcome.
“We will explore and exhaust every action required to ensure the legitimacy of the next government in Enugu State. You cannot hold accountable something that was acquired by illegitimate means,” he vowed.