By Labaran Maku, CON
The people of Nasarawa State went to the polls on Saturday, March 9, 2019 to exercise their free franchise in an election that was to produce a State Governor and Members of the House of Assembly for the period May 2019 to May 2023.
In a democratic election, the persons who subject themselves to the electoral process expect a free, fair and credible process. The beauty of democracy is in the fact that it allows communities to elect those who will lead them towards the attainment of theirhopes, goals and aspirations. This belief is derived from an adherence to democratic norms and values as well as to the rule of law, justice and fair-play. Once these are taken away, the tenets of democracy are destroyed and replaced by anarchy, terrorism and dictatorship.
It is in a bid to address this that I offered myself for election into the office of Governor of Nasarawa State on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) during the March 9,2019 gubernatorial election in the state.
In reviewing the election which was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, I wish to observe as follows:
1. That the election was characterized by the highest levels of electoral malpractice. What was supposed to be a free, fair and credible election turned out to be a quasi-military operation conceived, organized and executed by all arms of state apparatus to the advantage of the All Progressives Congress (APC);
2. In contravention of all known international human rights conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory, the election of March 9, 2019, failed the basic test of the freedom of choice. The election was characterized by unprecedented levels of voter intimidation, threat to life and physical assault. These led to many persons becoming victims of maiming and death.The cumulative effects of these anti-democratic acts were meant to force the electorate to select the candidate of the APC against their will.
3. State institutions including the military and other security forces were coerced to promote and give cover to the criminal acts, malpractices orchestrated by the APC government and its agents.
4. The election was preceded by widespread reports of illegal thumb-printing and stuffing of ballot boxes on private farms, residences of some government functionaries, all preparatory to the outright allocation of votes which took place before election day. For instance, I heard that in the vote allocation projection by the state government, APGA would be placed in the third position to prevent any serious opposition to the electoral fraud that took place in Nasarawa State.
5. In order to facilitate the smooth operation of the electoral crime against the people of Nasarawa state, the state government reportedly took its list of returning officers to the INEC headquarters in Abuja for approval and deployment to the state.
6. Election day witnessed widespread snatching of essential INEC materials such result sheets, ballot boxes, amongst others, coordinated by a combination of security operatives and violent thugs with the sole purpose of imposing the handpicked APC candidate on the state.
7. In specially designated places, such as parts of Lafia, Awe, Keffi, Toto, Nasarawa towns, the use of PVCs and card readers was ignored by INEC officials to allow for mass thumb-printing of ballot papers to meet up with the pre-election figures allocated to those towns.
8. There was deliberate cancellation of results in units and wards where the APC was trounced at the elections in order to give the party underserved victory. In cases where the results could not be cancelled at the unit and ward levels due to voter vigilance and resistance, the results sheets were simply hijacked along the route by military officials and their trained electoral thugs who then altered the original results to the advantage of the APC party.
9. Many permanent and ad-hoc staff of INEC were held hostage, intimidated and cajoled to cooperate with the APC to rig the vote in favour of their candidate.
In light of the above acts of electoral fraud, malpractices and injustices perpetuated before, during and after the governorship election in Nasarawa state, I have come to the sad conclusion that the election did not meet the minimum standards of a truly democratic election. In this circumstance, after due consultations with my Party, the campaign team, party agents and supporters, I have come to the inevitable conclusion that:
• the purported figures and so-called result presented and declared by the INEC is completely contrary to the actual votes cast by the people of Nasarawa state in the governorship election;
• votes were allocated to parties prior to the election and simply forced on the people through the various crimes committed on election day. The votes allocated to APGA were far lower than the number of people who attended our campaign launch on January 23, 2019!!!
• My party and I hereby totally reject the declared result because of the unwholesome practices and fraud that characterized the governorship election in Nasarawa state.
• We call on all genuine opposition parties in the state to unite against the perennial deliberate acts of electoral fraud that continue to rob the people of Nasarawa state of their right to elect leaders of their choice. We must work together to resist the continued imposition of unelected persons as governors of our state.
In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to all our teaming supporters and associates across the state and beyond, who showed unwavering commitment to the ideals of our party, APGA our struggle to liberate our state from oppressive governments imposed on us through electoral fraud by a combination of forces within and outside the state. I assure the people of Nasarawa State that we shall continue this struggle until peace, justice, equity and freedom is attained for all.We will never give up in the struggle for freedom and liberty in our state, no matter how long it lasts.
We were robbed of our victory for the second time through electoral fraud, but we know that the people are with us. We call on our people to remain strong and determined, now and in the years ahead.
God bless the people of Nasarawa State!!!
God bless APGA!!!
▪ Maku, candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 Governorship Election; presented this text at a Press Conference held in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, 11 March 2019.