All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate in the 2023 gubernatorial election in Enugu State, Frank Nweke Jr has described the last election as one that came “with it a multitude of infringements on our democratic process, an assault on our desires and our hope for our great state” .
Nweke, while addressing a Press Conference this morning in Enugu argued that the election process was far from fair, and lacked transparency.
Going further, the former minister stated “The violence, thuggery, intimidation, use of divisive sentiments, and the weaponization of poverty against our people, which the Peoples Democratic Party deployed in the course of the campaign and the elections reflect the desperation of the Party to hold on to power against the will of the people. It was never about service or the good of ndi Enugu; and the impunity with which these wicked acts were carried out is sickening.”
Expressing gratitude to voters, Nweke continued “I celebrate everyone who came out to participate in the democratic process in spite of the challenges, threats and intimidation reported across the State. Your determination is a sign of the awakening that has taken place; and I encourage you to keep your hope alive. Do not despair and do not be discouraged by the unfortunate challenges that have beset our current democratic experience.”
The statement further narrated the ugly incidences that he said, marred the elections, “Just before midnight on Friday, March 17, 2023, another piece of propaganda was released and distributed aggressively to insinuate that I had stepped down for Peter Mbah, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party. This recurrent lie may be referred to as a “political strategy” but we must call a lie what it is – the absence of integrity, a quality most desired in our government today. We would also discover in the course of the day that agents and canvassers at polling units told voters the same story that I had stepped down on the morning of the election.
Very early in the morning of Saturday, March 18, town criers travelled through several communities in Enugu state ordering anyone who would not vote in favour of the People’s Democratic Party to stay home.
The House of Assembly candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance for Udenu Constituency was attacked and almost killed on the morning of the election, while five polling units within his jurisdiction were cordoned off by police and military officers.
At various polling units across the State, PDP thugs, party members, hired criminals and some compromised members of the police and military threatened voters at polling units and chased those who could not be bought over or intimidated into voting for the PDP. In Nsukka, voters recorded and reported gunshots at polling units allegedly instigated by the Labour Party.
The most vulnerable and impoverished became prey to vote buying by the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party with as little as N500 or packets of noodles in some places. At Udenu, both parties competed for the votes of our people with N2,000, a plate of Jollof rice, Okpa, and a bottle of soda. I feel ashamed that this is what our people are worth to some who seek to lead them. I am even more embarrassed by the so-called enlightened citizens who have lost sight of the implications of these actions.
The PDP also secured the assistance of the INEC agents to rig the election, offering cash or issuing threats as the situation demanded.
Only a few polling unit agents uploaded their results directly on IREV as provided by INEC, and fake result sheets were used to rewrite and manipulate the results of vote counts at the polling units before the falsified results of the elections were uploaded to the IREV. Some of these result sheets are also completely blurred on the portal.
The collation centres at the local government headquarters were completely hijacked by thugs and compromised security operatives, and party agents other than the agents of the PDP were not allowed access to any stage of the collation process until Sunday morning. At 7:20 pm on election day, shots were fired sporadically at the Nkanu West collation centre in Agbani, while the military stood aside and watched. Similar breaches of the law and subversion of the electoral process occurred across many locations in the State.
At the start of this campaign, I said emphatically that no ambition is worth the life of any individual. My sentiments about this have not changed. It is unfortunate that those who seek to govern our state are comfortable with expending the lives of citizens as political collateral damage.
The elections of March 18, 2023 in Enugu State were a complete sham. They were not fair. They were not free. And they were not credible.
Yet, none of these actions came as a surprise. Weeks before the election, and consistently, we shared detailed intelligence reports of the impending disaster with the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies. We consistently received assurances and chose to believe that our democracy would be protected in the face of the desperate plans for subterfuge.
It is unfortunate that resolute actions were not taken to avert the threats we reported. Again, we saw that the problem is not democracy itself. The problem is the people and institutions that we rely upon to manage our democracy.
The entire process, down to the declaration of its winner is a complete farce and will lack legitimacy for as long as it stands.
The results of Nkanu East local government area which were contested, got reviewed and revised by the national office of INEC without any basis given for the change in numbers. If it was a case of over-voting, the expectation is that the result from the local government area should have been cancelled.
It does seem that the numbers were simply manufactured to fit a preprogrammed outcome and read out to the public, as can be inferred from the Returning Officer of INEC in the state, Prof Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe’s comments about acting under authority and reading out what he had been given.
I am utterly disappointed with the manner in which the Independent National Electoral Commission handled the 2023 elections. I am also saddened by the actions of some members of our security agencies. Both of these institutions of State let the people down when they became compromised by a few desperate power mongers and looters. The unchecked intimidation and violence, the massive rewriting of results and the overall abuse of the people’s will would have failed if not done in connivance with the electoral umpire and members of our security agencies.
Yet, as I said, ndi banyi, do not be discouraged. If the past year has revealed anything, it is that the power truly resides with the people. The criminal activities of March 18 and the events that preceded it in the few weeks leading to the election were a testament to the fear instilled in the incumbent party by the people.
We must not relent now. In fact, the journey has only just begun. We must keep engaging the system and these institutions. No matter how long it takes, we will take back our state.
There are far too many people suffering, impoverished and bereft of hope for us who know what should be done to be quiet. For the children in Iva Valley, Ugwu Peak, Bunker and other slums, we must keep going. For the woman in Awgu who came to sell her wares in the market holding her two weeks’ old baby, we must keep going. For our aged parents who are owed their pensions and gratuities and for our young graduates who see no hope of a future in their homes, we will keep going.
We must not lose faith in our democracy or in Enugu State. As individuals and collectively, we must keep pursuing our rights to choose our leaders, to good governance, and to experience the dividends of democracy.
I have no problem losing an election to the will of the people. But when this will has been subverted, we have no choice but to review the entire process and the outcome.
We will explore and exhaust every action required to ensure the legitimacy of the next government in Enugu State. You cannot hold accountable something that was acquired by illegitimate means.
Once more, we thank our supporters and everyone who believed and came on this journey with us.
God bless you all.
God bless Enugu state.