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27 January 2011
In compliance with the November 9, 2010 judgment of the Appeal Court sitting in Benin City, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the Delta State Governorship re-run election on Thursday, January 6, 2011, nearly four years after the original, rigged, vote. The election, which was seen by many as a litmus test for the INEC under the chairmanship of Prof. Attahiru Jega, was like past elections in the country fraught with hitches and mass disenfranchisement of voters.
Although there was a massive turnout of eligible voters across the state, the majority of the voters could not exercise their franchise as most of them could not find their names and photographs in the Voters' Register reportedly "cleaned up" by the INEC. For instance, of the 106,850 registered voters in Uvwie LGA, only 13,592 (12.72%) were able to vote. In Warri South, Sapele and Ethiope East LGAs only 58,984 (52.10%), 9,799 (21.02%) and 10,719 (17.27%) voted out of the 113,211, 46,600 and 62,085 registered voters in those LGAs respectively. INEC had scheduled accreditation of voters for 9.00am-12.00pm while actual voting was to take place between 12.00pm and 3.00pm. However, the exercise did not commence as scheduled in most of the polling units. Particularly, in Edjeba, and other places visited in Warri South, accreditation of voters did not start until around 10.30-11.00am. The INEC attributed the delay to challenges bordering on logistics.
The rigging machinery was deployed more in local governments with low population where there was less attention and media focus. This explains why some local governments produced far more votes than local governments with higher population. For instance, Warri North had an overwhelming more than 38,000 votes cast while Uvwie a relatively larger local government recorded merely about 12,000 votes.
Notably, the disenfranchisement of voters in the rerun election was not unanticipated considering the history of elections in the state and the events leading to the re-run. The INEC insisted on using the old Voters' Register despite series of mass protests by the mass of Delta State electorate requesting it to conduct a fresh voters' registration and to display the register for public verification before the election. The commission had argued that it was not obliged by law to display the register. Yet, Jega had consistently promised to conduct elections that are of "superior quality" to the previous ones.
Besides disenfranchisement of eligible voters, there were also cases of intimidation of voters and ballot snatching. In places where ballot boxes were snatched and other electoral frauds perpetrated, the police and other security personnel were either unable to prevent the thugs or simply compromised.
Expectedly, Jega has already begun singing his praises in the aftermath of the re-run. Of course, this is not strange to Deltans and indeed, Nigerians as his predecessor, Prof. Maurice Iwu, did the same in 2007. Despite the wide condemnation and public admission by one of the major beneficiaries, late Musa Yar'Adua that the elections were flawed, Iwu consistently insisted that the 2007 General Elections were free, fair and credible. It is sad that in spite of the enthusiasm and patriotism shown by Deltans, the political elites have continued to resort to fraudulent tactics to win electoral contests. Understandably, these faceless, thieving politicians do not only aim at imposing themselves on the people, but also with a view to create political apathy among electorate by frustrating and making the poor masses apolitical in order for them to continue perpetrating anti-poor and unpopular policies in the state.
No doubt, Emmanuel Uduaghan's PDP government has failed like its predecessor led by James Ibori in the areas of infrastructural development as virtually all communities lack basic and quality infrastructures like education, health, roads etc. While many Deltans showed enthusiasm to participate in the rerun with the aim of voting out PDP from power, the opposition did not represent any ray of hope or inspiration. To a large extent, the major opposition was Great Ovedje Ogboru, the candidate of the Democratic Peoples' Party (DPP) who does not stand for anything fundamentally different from Uduaghan and could not offer a strong opposition. Though, Ogboru won in 11 local government areas while Uduagha won in 14 local government areas. Great Ogboru and the rest of the opposition such as Ovie Omo-Agege of Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN), Abel Edijala of the Labour Party etc., were never seen to be providing any alternative to Uduagha's policies and program before the election and as such could not have inspired a formidable interest. Hence, the various opposition, including and unfortunately Labour Party, are just interested in assuming political power and beginning the same ruinous anti-poor, neo-liberal policies. So, when an average Deltan desperately wanted PDP out of power, they weren't confident and united in its replacement, hence most votes cast for the opposition were mere protest votes while some were on the basis of ethnicity.
This re-run election has proved that Nigerians cannot trust the current capitalist government and the INEC to deliver credible elections in April. Also, the re-run confirms earlier assertion by different change-seeking elements that conducting credible elections goes beyond the pedigree and individual reputation of Attahiru Jega. The Delta case has shown that the "one man, one vote" slogan of President Goodluck Jonathan and the promise by Prof. Jega to conduct elections that are of superior quality are empty political rhetoric.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party that is expected to be an alternative to the PDP, ACN etc., and offer the masses a platform that could meet their yearnings and aspirations is not in any way different. This is made worse by the Delta state trade union leaders that openly supported Uduaghan in the rerun. The Labour Party leadership in Delta State, just like in other states and nationally, has run the party like any other bourgeois political party that places the party on the counter for the anti-poor moneybag politicians who are ready to pay to use its platform to actualize their inordinate ambition, thereby isolating workers and the masses.
This is one of the reasons the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has consistently called on trade unions, workers, socialist and pro-masses activists to reclaim the Labour Party and reposition it as a working peoples' political alternative or start building of a mass based fighting working class political party which could defeat the thieving ruling elite and form a working peoples' government run on socialist programme. This means that such party in government would commit massive public resources to basic needs and infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, housing, decent jobs, and put the key sectors of the economy under democratic control and management of the working people. Out of office such party would campaign on those programme and identify with the daily struggles of the working people for improvement in living and working conditions.
We therefore call on workers, youths and change-seeking elements in Delta state and across the country to join DSM and thereby strengthen the forces fighting for a genuine political alternative of the working people and socialist reconstruction of the society for the betterment of all.