Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has described the nomination and desperation to impose Lauretta Onochie on Nigerians by President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled National Assembly, as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) national commissioner, as a bad omen for the nation’s democracy.
The governor stated this when he spoke at the presentation of his sixth year scorecard of his second tenure in office at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt.
Governor Wike noted that Onochie, whose nomination has received a barrage of criticism, is a strong APC faithful, alleging that appointing her INEC’s national commissioner would be to rig the 2023 general election.
“At this point, let me use the liberty of this event to again voice our concerns and draw the attention of Nigerians to the state of the nation, especially the deteriorating economy, the worsening insecurity, the lack of purposeful national leadership and the strangulating hardship being face by ordinary citizens as a direct result of the visible failure and mismanagement of our democracy and diversity by the APC-led Federal Government.
“For goodness sake, the nomination and desperation of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled National Assembly to foist an invalid Lauretta Onochie on Nigerians as INEC’s national commissioner is a bad omen for our democracy.
“By any standards, the most fundamental consideration against the appointment of an electoral umpire in a democracy is the likelihood of bias, which in this case, is heavily weighted against Ms. Onochie, as a notorious and repulsively partisan dye-in-the-wool member of the APC.
“Despite the flood of protests against her nomination and the general lack of trust in our capacity to remain impartial, it seems the APC-led Senate is determined to confirm her appointment as part of their grand design to rig the 2023 general elections well ahead of time, knowing Nigerians would overwhelmingly reject them in a free, fair and transparent contest managed by a strong and independent election management committee.”
Governor Wike called on President Buhari to withdraw Onochie’s nomination for posterity to avoid creating more credibility problems for INEC.
“As a governor and concerned Nigerian, who loves this country so much and wants our democracy to survive. I wish to appeal to Mr. President to, for the sake of his legacy, withdraw Ms. Onochie’s nomination to avoid creating more credibility problems for his INEC and restore confidence in our electoral system.
“Where Mr. President lacks the courage to so do, then, the National Assembly, which has a responsibility to defend our democracy must endeavour to wake up on the right side of history by rejecting her nomination.”
Wike also urged the National Assembly to fast track the amendment of Electoral Act and heed to calls for transmission for election results.
“A related issue is the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, reported slated to be laid before the National Assembly on Tuesday July 13, 2021.
“We commend the House of Representatives for affirming and reassuring Nigerians on its positive provisions in the proposed bill on electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of unit results by electronic means.
“Everyone who means well for our democracy believes electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of results has the potential to prevent the large-scale rigging of election that has become regular in our electoral system.
“President Buhari readily attributes his victory in both the 2015 and 2019 polls to the introduction of the novel card reader device by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration Yet, he has been overly reluctant on the need to midwife the birth of a new, transparent, efficient and trustworthy electoral system for the country.
“Let me, therefore, warn that we do not need a soothsayer to tell us that to allow the old ways of doing things and much vilified status quo to continue to prevail in our electoral system as recommended by the Senate’s version of the bill would be a complete disservice to the nation and a recipe for disaster for our country.
“Again, I hope Mr. President still cares about his legacy and would, therefore, prevail on the APC-controlled National Assembly to give the nation an Electoral Act with positive provisions on electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of results from the unit level to prevent rigging and guarantee trust, credibility and confidence in our elections.”
Speaking further, the governor expressed worries about the heightened degree of insecurity across the country, noting inability of the Federal Government to tackle the menace.
He said Nigerians were in desperate need of relief from the daily incidents of kidnapping and mindless killings across the country by insurgents, herdsmen, bandits and militia groups.
“The APC-led Federal Government must step up and be alive to its constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property in all parts of the country or admit its lack of capacity and resign before the country collapses like a pack of badly managed cards on its hands. Enough of the excuses, ineffective actions and buck-passing.”
Meanwhile, Governor Wike emphasized that the projects and development footprints seen across the 23 Local Government Areas of the state, and even beyond, testified to the success of his administration in driving the state’s progress and the delivery of the dividends of democracy to Rivers people.
“Take it or leave it, the truth is constant. There is no promise we made or project we set out to achieve that we have not fulfilled or delivered.”