Nwagwu: In Bayelsa election, I can see a territorial battle

Nwagwu: In Bayelsa election, I can see a territorial battle

Friday, December 4, 2015 11:33 pm

Ezenwa Nwangwu

Ezenwa Nwangwu

Ezenwa Nwangwu is the Chairman of Partners for Electoral Reforms and Co-Convener, Say No Campaign Nigeria, based in Abuja. He spoke with Jethro Ibileke on the governorship election in Bayelsa state

What is your observation of the whole process?

Wherever we go for election monitoring, we always have interaction with the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). So we came to have an update with the state of INEC preparedness. As usual, you will be told that they are crossing the Ts and dotting all the Is. But my personal attitude has always been to focus on the process; the issue of the PVC, how has it gone? If it goes well, what is the state of the card readers? How much committed is the INEC staff who usually compromise the card readers? What commitment are we going to extract to ensure that they allow those cards to work? If they work, the reason for introducing the technology is to eliminate or reduce rigging to a reasonable extent. If that conspiracy within INEC failed, election integrity will come up a bit.
So, generally, we are very prepared. I think it is more interesting to have more and bigger citizen oversight.

How will you rate the performance of INEC and the political parties thus far?
For Bayelsa, the warnings should go to the political parties because they don’t seem to understand that election is a game, they seem to see it as war. They are generally becoming territorial, saying this is my territory and nobody should come this way. But it’s not so. Politics is a competitive business, you allow your competitor to sell his ware and see if the people will buy because the ultimate judge is the people. I can see a territorial battle.

And you know this is an election of pride; we have issues about ‘oh, we don’t want a former President to be disgraced.’ But let the people say so, that’s what I worry about. I wish the political class in Nigeria can understand that this is more about the people than about themselves and that the war mongering that characterises elections in this region, this should be halted for the benefit of the people.

Ant then, this whole idea [of scaring people with] difficult terrain is being played up in such a manner that you are probably saying that elections will not hold because of the bad topography. What do I mean, I am asking you as a journalist , ‘Can you go to southern Ijaw?’ They are already telling you ‘don’t go to Southern Ijaw because you could be drowned, thereby ensuring that you don’t come and do your work. Those are generally the trend.

More important is the fact that observers must be allowed to do their job unhindered. We are told that politicians have hired all the boats, so your access to the boats to even ferry you may be difficult. Those are the challenges that this election will face. So in most cases, journalists and observers may not have access, may not be able to get to the polling areas because about 90 per cent of the environment is riverine. Those are the issues that are playing on. But generally, at least, Yenagoa where we are today, there seem to be some relative calm and peace.

What’s your comment on the movement of sensitive materials to locations by INEC?
In that area, INEC has been proactive enough, they ran away from bad weather. I understand that the materials came in on Monday and they got them in here on Tuesday, so they have moved them to places where they will be used. But like I said, it’s also a territorial issue. People are saying, if you take this materials to this place, you want to favour this person and all that.

It is observed that only a small fraction of registered voters always come out to vote. Don’t you think politicians have more work to do on voter apathy?
Don’t use that word, voter apathy in Nigeria. Those who came out to vote are the real and actual voters. The other millions are the un-interrogated registered voters. The truth is that this voters register is a compromised voters register.

Is that your observation?
That is what it is, I am telling you, it’s not an observation. The point I am making is that you need to take your time to find that out. When people say voter apathy in Nigeria, I shout it down because the real voters are the ones who come out to vote. So what the political class does is to pad those figures to justify what I don’t know.

But it also appears the elites don’t come out to vote
Every elite member that wants to come out to vote always comes out to vote. In your community, right now, your voter’s card is there. Apart from the one you have with you, somebody is [also] holding your own in your community.
Jethro could be reached @ jethroibileke@gmail.com

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