“POLITICAL PARTIES DO NOT HAVE CANDIDATES NOW UNTIL JANUARY 2019”—RIVERS INEC RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER —OBO EFFANGA REVEALS
The hot seat of Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioner—Obo Effanga is having needs no further introduction as a result of much expectations the political players in the state have placed upon the electoral umpire Independent national Electoral Commission-INEC. The cool-headed intelligent Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers state remains at home with the enormous responsibilities bestowed upon him by the electorate in the state.
On Thursday 29th of November, 2019 www.towncrier.ng Media Team was at the executive office of Rivers state Resident Electoral Commissioner-REC –OBO EFFANGA who spoke on challenging issues the electorate and political leaders in Rivers state most needed for the coming 2019 General Elections. READ ON.
Que: Let us look at the Election Petition Tribunal of Rivers Parliamentary Elections rerun in 2016,where Police report was used against INEC Report as in favour of Senator Magnus Abe against Prince Olaka Nwogu, which of them is superior?
The (Election Petition)Tribunal and the Court have jurisdiction and have their powers and I cannot meddle into how they interpret the law and the decision they make. But once they make that decision everyone is bound by that decision that they have made. Our duty as INEC is to conduct the election and announce the result. If the court has good reasons to decide otherwise that some other person apart from the person we declared winner is the winner and then everybody has to abide by that that is what the rule of law entails. I don’t know the exact details of what the court or the Tribunal looked at to reach at that decision.
Que: We have this All progressive Congress-APC governorship candidates tussle in Rivers state which one do you see as authentic governorship candidate between Tonye Cole and distinguished Senator Magnus Ngei Abe?
Let me just say that right now there are no candidates of any political party for any position in the country. What INEC published some weeks ago was the particulars of the persons presented by the respective political parties for the respective positions to be contested for. That has been published. It gives room for people to raise any objections and go to court.And we are bound by any court Order that is addressed to us. It is sometime in January, 2019 that the final list of all the candidates for all the elective positions for 2019 will be published by the Independent National Electoral Commission-INEC Headquarters.
Que: What is your comment about the suspended Port Harcourt State Constituency-3 Bye election?
The election was not declared inconclusive but the election was suspended and we all know what happened and the election was suspended as the election was marred by widespread violence that affected the credibility of the entire process where in there was violence and destruction of electoral materials, violence against electoral officials and violence against voters in such a way that election was widely disrupted across the constituency. And as a responsible commission that is interested in conducting credible election and also mindful of the effect on lives and property we have to suspend the election.
Que: Has INEC made any attempt by settling up an inquiry into that?
Well the reports from the various stakeholders participants in that election have been made and submitted to the commission Headquarters in Abuja and it is yet to take decision on what to do with that and what decision and whenever that decision is made I as the Resident Electoral Commissioner-REC in Rivers State will have to implement whatever decision they come up with.
Que: How will that affect the main election in 2019?
We are planning for the main elections and all the available seats will be contested for that is the legislative Houses, also the executive seats will be contested for. We are planning for that very well. And when the time comes elections will be conducted and the results declared.
Que: The Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike has raised alarm accusing AP led Federal Government of having plans to disrupt the Governorship election in Rivers state. What is your response to this weighty allegation?
Well, I am just hearing this and you did not say that it was INEC that was accused but we know that it is the duty of INEC to conduct elections and INEC has promised that they are going to conduct credible election and that is what my focus is on to conduct elections that is credible and meet the standard of credibility. And when it comes to elections, for us election is about the voters deciding who they want to be in Government to run the administration on their behalf and what we assure voters is that we will mobilize all the materials, resources and personnel required for a successful elections and we will be encourage people to come out and vote. And we also promise them that their votes will count and at the end of the day whoever will be declared winner will be based on the voting of the people.
Que: There is this argument that the electoral result after been recorded at the Collation Centers and the ones they get from various Polling Units and REC Centers do not correlate and reflect the aggregate of votes they got from various places as the results suffer distortion either by the police or your INEC officials, what is your take on this?
Well I will say that it is not unusual for politicians to make allegations of wrongdoing against the election management body in this case –INEC. But what we have done is to improve on our systems and processes in such a way that you can actually trail the votes from the points you have finished counting the votes in a polling units and recorded the results …you can actually trace them to the final points. So, it is possible and it is not impossible that there could be a mix up at some points of manipulation but the important thing is that the process is thorough and the traces are there. So, if anybody has any reason to challenge the outcome of the election as the records are there for the person to trace through to show where the mistake or falsehood happened. Remember that when elections are conducted at every polling unit each political party is entitled to have a Party Agent who would be at that Polling Unit. When the votes are counted there, the results for that polling unit are entered into an appropriate Form. A copy is given to each of the Polling Agent.It is also given to the Security agents and we at INEC we have our own and itis that our own that is taken to the next level which is a Collation Center and they will bring all the Result Sheets from all the Polling Units in that Collation. And from there they will now put them together and announce the results there. At that point too you will also have the representatives of the political parties who are part of the process and who see the process and they are also given copies of the Results at that Ward Collation Center. In addition to this, this is also transmitted electronically to the final point.
Back in the days, manyelections went bad you could say that would happen and that it will not matter.As a matter of fact if you will recall at a point politicians were not so much interested in mobilizing people to come and vote. In fact they even said whether you voted or not that they will still win elections…because what they were interested is what is written on the Result Sheet at every level. Now, the votes are counting as a matter of facts, that is why you find the situation where politicians now try to buy votes. If your vote does not count they would not border about that. They will only wait to get the results. But they have seen that the system has improved over the years with the use of the Smart Card Reader which means that you cannot vote if you don’t have a Permanent Voters’ Card—PVC and for you to have a permanent Voters’ Card it means you will register personally. The Card Reader is here to stay.
Que: What is your advice to the state, and particularly to the electorate and to the politicians for the forth coming elections in 2019?
I have said this over and over again, that election is supposed to be a peaceful civil regular exercise where citizens have the opportunity of deciding who should govern their affairs. And that is what we want elections to be. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria and some parts of the country Rivers state inclusive that over the years when they talk about election people are always worried because of incidents of violence that come with the elections. It is time for the Rivers state people and particularly the elites to change the narratives. Let us have the elections that is peaceful so that when people are declared winners in the election nobody will have the opportunity or the right to look down on them that the process that threw them up was faulty. And Ithink for the politicians particularly my advice to them is that they should dignify the process that will bring them into office if they do everything negative about the election and they get elected they will carry the moral burden that the process that brought them into office was not authentic. So, it is in their best interest to ensure that there is credibility in the election. And one way they can ensure this is to ensure that they conduct themselves based on what the rule says. As you mentioned here it is embarrassing that politicians as members of the same political party which is like a political family cannot even put their acts together to conduct credible primaries for themselves and then part of this spills over to the mainelections. And then there is a lot of violence in the land, what does anybody want to achieve by ascending into office through the use of violence. And that was one of the reasons we said the election in Port Harcourt-3 State Constituency election has to be suspended… because we needed to make the point that the only way for you to get into office through election properly so-called not through intimidation, intimidation to stop some people from voting, intimidation to make people vote in a particular way or intimidation to destroy the processes where you probably think that you are going to win.
So, everybody should do their own part to ensure that the process is violence free and the process is credible. On the part of INEC we promise that we will ensure that people who come to vote are given equal opportunities to vote. People who come to stand for an election are given equal opportunity to stand for the election and at the end of the day whoever wins will be declared winner.