A day before the Supreme Court delivered the reasons for its judgement on the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was at the Supreme Court premises to attend the meeting of the Body of Benchers. He has been attending this meeting for three years as a distinguished member of this August Assembly. This was on Thursday, February 11, 2016.
As usual, the APC bent on maligning the integrity of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary planted a few hatchet Reporters on ground. They doled out their poorly scripted falsehood claiming that Governor Wike was summoned by the Body of Benchers to be quizzed. These reporters blinded by destructive politics could not do the simple due diligence of finding out why Governor Wike was at the Supreme Court.
The dissemination of propaganda and falsehood, using pliant media conspirators has always been the underlying factor in the misconception about the Rivers State Governorship Election and the ensuing long legal battle that terminated at the Supreme Court.
After the governorship election won by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Former Governor Amaechi’s Media Consultant, Humphrey Bekaren masquerading as the leader of international observers who monitored the elections, expectedly wrote a false report about proceedings on April 11 and 12 of 2015. This baseless international observers report backed by a compromised media working in league with the APC created the false perception about the Rivers State Governorship Election.
The worst was to come during the hearing of the petition filed by the defeated Rivers State APC Governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside at Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Abuja. It was an unprecedented conspiracy of biased reporting heavily sponsored by the APC with tax payers money. The objective was to build the negative impression that would justify the nullification of Governor Wike’s election .
While the soldiers, policemen and DSS operatives detailed by the powers that be came to testify at the Tribunal, there was an ungodly silence on the cross examination by the respondents lawyers. All these security personnel right inside the tribunal confessed that they did not participate in the election at the polling unit. They admitted under cross examination that they did not arrest anyone involved in violence and that they had no report of cases of violence. These realities were deliberately hidden from Nigerians by the media.
The Police and DSS operatives who participated in that election were subpoenaed by Governor Wike. They told the Tribunal that the governorship election was peaceful, free and fair. These were the officers who coordinated security during the election. These facts were not brought to the reading public.
At the Tribunal, the APC made no attempt to call relevant witnesses to prove allegations of electoral malpractice and violence. They merely relied on their paid media associates to mislead the public.
The Judgment of the Supreme Court and the explanation thereof have put paid to the falsehood and propaganda which formed the premise of the Rivers State APC Governorship challenge. The Rivers APC knowing that they had no case resorted to media blackmail and propaganda even before the Supreme Court made public its reasons for upholding the election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike .
Even Prof Attahiru Jega, immediate past INEC Chairman said this of the Rivers State Governorship election:
“We created a three man team to investigate the allegations of electoral malpractice, it was not true that elections didn’t take place in majority of the state, it was not true that results sheets was manipulated. There was no evidence of malpractice or photocopied result sheets, and no substantive evidence to establish alterations.”
The Rivers State APC celebrated falsehood after the governorship election. They held Nigerians spellbound by their unfortunate scheming, but forgot that at the level of the Supreme Court only the law and evidence adduced count.
Speaking on APC’S failed petition against his election, Governor Wike said:
“In their petition, they said they would show in the course of trial, video coverage where people were thumb-printing, where people were killed and that they would use forensic examination to show that there was multiple thumb-printing but not one was shown even by the forensic expert.
“The Tribunal granted them leave to go and inspect. Ask them what was the result of the inspection? Did they tender any document to show that this was the result of our inspection?
“If you say that there was violence, if you say people died in the course of the election, if you say that some people were kidnapped, does it not dawn on you to show evidence of those who died in that election. That you need to let the tribunal know that these are the people that were kidnapped.
“As I speak to you, let them mention one death certificate that was tendered at the Tribunal to show that during this election that Mr. Z died or Mr. Y was kidnapped”.
The Supreme Court has explained that the Rivers APC failed to prove the allegations of over-voting, violence and electoral malpractice contained in its petition. The Supreme Court further stated that the defeated political party failed to prove polling unit by polling unit that the governorship election did not hold in Rivers State.
Most significantly, the Supreme Court held that Governor Wike was denied fair hearing by the trial tribunal.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun who read the lead judgment declared: “in order to prove non-accreditation and over-voting, the 1st and 2nd respondents were bound to rely on the voters register in respect of all the affected local governments. The voters register tendered were only in respect of 11 out of 23 local governments. They were tendered from the bar; no attempt was made to link them with exhibit A-9. It is also noteworthy that forms EC8A were tendered in respect of only 16 out of 23 local government areas.
“This cannot mee the required standard of proving over-voting polling unit by polling unit. Furthermore, the voters’ register could not be jettisoned in the exercise”.
On the card reader, Justice Kekere-Ekun stated:
“I am of the view and I do hold that the tribunal and lower court were unduly swayed by the INEC directive on the use of the card reader. As held by this court, the INEC directives and manual cannot be elevated above the provisions of the Electoral Act so as to eliminate manual accreditation of voters. This will remain so until INEC take steps to have the necessary amendments made to bring the usage of the card reader within the ambit of the substantive Electoral Act. It was for this reason that that I resolved these two issues in favour of the appellant”.
Stressing that the Rivers State APC Governorship candidate failed to prove his several allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the governorship election, the Supreme Court held:
“He has an onerous task, for he must prove it polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward. And the standard of proof is on the balance of probability. He must show figures that the adverse party was credited with and the result of the non-compliance. It is only then that the respondents are to lead evidence in rebuttal. It is also the law that were the commission of crime by a party is directly in issue in any proceeding, civil or criminal, it must be proved beyond every reasonable doubt. The burden of prove is on the person who asserts it”.
The Supreme Court explained further: “throughout the length and breadth of the petition, such as hijacking and diversion of election materials, the illegal thumb printing of ballot papers, falsification of results, violence and kidnapping of electoral officers”, were not proved beyond every reasonable doubt.
“Where crimes are alleged, the ingredients of the offences must be proved. This they failed to do.”
On the card reader report that formed the basis of the Tribunal and Court of Appeal decision to nullify Governor Wike’s election, the Supreme Court discred it thus:
“Exhibit A-9 was tendered as conclusive proof of the number of accredited voters at the election. As stated earlier, PW-49 did not participate at any stage of the election process in Rivers State. What is evident from the extracts of the testimony of the PW-49 is that exhibit A-9 cannot be a conclusive proof of the number of accredited voters at the election. The witnesses are acknowledged that there are circumstances when the card reader did not read the voters’ PVC, in which case incident forms are used. No incident forms were tendered by the 1st and 2nd respondents.”
According to the Supreme Court, out of 66 witnesses that were called by APC and Peterside, 18 of them were ward collation agents who received information from polling agents from the various units, saying their evidence was not tied to any of the exhibits tendered. In other words, no fundamental attempt was made to prove the petition outside of the inordinate reliance on propaganda and falsehood.
The take-away in the Supreme Court’s confirmation of Governor Wike’s election is the fact that elections can only be won at the polling unit. It cannot be won on the laptops of compromised international observers, the pages of pliant newspapers or blogs and cannot be won via press conferences held under the shades of trees in abandoned party Secretariats. The Supreme Court has made it clear with its decision on the Wike appeal that election cannot be won via the manipulation of facts by so called civil society crooks empowered by the powers that be to intimidate the judiciary by making outlandish claims.
Beyond basking in the euphoria of ill-conceived press conferences and the posting of baseless pictures on Facebook, the Rivers APC did nothing to show that the party suffered any form of electoral violence engineered by the PDP on election day.
Mr Rotimi Amaechi, leader of Rivers State is a kingpin of make-believe which he has transferred to his political godson, Dakuku Peterside. Amaechi ruined the security of Rivers State and attempted to play the victim in order to benefit from his governance crime. The Rivers people completely rejected APC because the actors of the party in the state are notorious administrative failures who squandered the resources of the state.
Despite the glaring and convincing reasons given by the Supreme Court on its confirmation of Governor Wike’s election, nobody expects the APC to have the grace to act responsibly . They have been infected with the propaganda and falsehood virus. Therefore, they will continue to spew unreasonable and unconscionable allegations against the judiciary.