The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum is deeply worried about the turn of events in Rivers State over the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections .
In announcing the suspension of electoral activities in the state ,Mr Festus Okoye,INEC National Commisdioner said :”Iniitial reports suggest that violence occurred in substantial number of polling units and collation centres; staff have been taken hostage and materials including result sheets have either been seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.
“In addition, safety of our staff appears to be in jeopardy all over the state and the commission is concerned about the credibility of the process.
“Consequently, at a meeting held Sunday, March 10, the commission has decided to suspend all electoral processes in the state until further notice”.
The statements codify what members of the ruling party led by Minister of Transport,Mr Rotimi Amaechi have been doing in a state where APC has no official governorship candidate .
Soildiers,Air Force personnel and thugs have been deployed to terrorise opponents,INEC officials and many citizens in Rivers State in the last few days and creating a state of panic and anxiety all over the state.
There has been a spill over of the Rivers situation to Bayelsa State where Mr Timpire Sylva of the ruling APC has also been alleged to be terrorising residents with impunity.
We call on the President to call Messrs Amaechi and Syvla to order and restore normalcy so that the electoral process in Rivers State in particular can be concluded.
Indeed,if we are a Republic governed by law ,Mr Rotimi Amaechi and Mr Timpire Sylva should have been arrested by now for the wanton violence they have instigated .
There has been peace in the Niger Delta in recent time and it would be sad if the President’ s men provoke a situation that will disrupt the peace of the region with serious implications for the whole country .
We are equally alarmed by the role security agents have played in Imo where the collation centre was invaded and election materials carted away .
We warn of serious consequences if such crude methods are used to violate the will of the people.
The militarization of several areas of the country for the Governorship elections has been a serious blight on our democratic experiment and the President should have seen how voters across the country have now resorted to shunning polling booths for fear of their safely.The sad part is that these soildiers have only played the role of intimidation and not to guaratee safety as we have seen how lack of security forced non-indigenes to stay indoor in Lagos during elections.
The Chief of Army staff should bury his head in shame as all his assurances of neutrality of the Army has come to nought as his men were involved in undue interference in the electoral process and harassment of opposition elements.
We have also noted how elections are now being declared inconclusive in many states where the ruling party is having challenges with results. As at last count,this has taken place in Adamawa,Bauchi,Plateau,Kano and Sokoto states.
This development is worrisome and is capable of creating serious stress for the system.
We must learn from history and not overstrech the system the way the ruling party is doing.