The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shifted the Presidential/National Assembly elections to February 23, yet nobody or group could avert the crisis that erupted in Obot Akara local government area of Akwa Ibom State on the eve of the postponed elections.
Before Monday, February 10, there were flashes that crisis was lurking in the area. Like a time bomb, it was a matter of time for it to explode. For instance, Tiebet Joshua, a one-time Obot Akara Transition Chairman, visited and assaulted the Electoral Officer (name withheld) in the area.
“As a build-up, Joshua visited and wanted the officer to allegedly compromise with him during the forthcoming elections. It was said that therebuffed the request and the politician felt slighted,” a source in the area confided in Straightnews.
The man like his colleagues in the rest 30 local government areas knows that the state resident electoral commissioner, Mike Igini is a no-nonsense man. Every INEC staffer is careful. The man remembered that the INEC boss in eight weeks dropped 10 electoral officers alleged to have compromised with some politicians. The man remembered too that every person in the commission is placed under surveillance. Even their telephones are said to be bugged because the commission wants to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the state. So, every politician must return to his constituency and campaign in order to get votes. The era of ‘Carry Go’ politics is said to be gradually giving way to ‘Votes must count’ one.
The source stated “As the elections approached, the E.O. invited stakeholders in the area for a meeting on Wednesday, February 13. One of the stakeholders who attended the meeting said the electoral officers rolled out the do’s and don’ts of the elections. Yet, Joshua from Okob and one Mbakara from Ikot Idem Udo, all chieftains of All Progressives Congress, APC, in the area did not attend the meeting.”
The source told Straightnews that on Friday, February 15, the INEC office in Nto Edino, Obot Akara local government area booked buses and other vehicles to convey elections materials to the 105 voting units in the area. Unknown to them that danger was lurking in the corner, the drivers parked their vehicles along the tarred road and walked into the office to collect materials
“It was rumoured that APC hired some thugs from Gokana local government area in Rivers State in the area and camped them to assist them in the conduct of the elections,” an insider said.
However, Straightnews tried to reach Tony Esu, Deputy Campaign Director-General of APC to unravel the story, but he busied his phone.
“On Friday evening, February 15, one Mbakara as he is famously known in the area visited and wanted to bump into INEC Office to hijack the materials. At this point, the soldiers and policemen who guarded the office repelled him. In anger, he and his cohorts engaged the security operatives in fierce gunfire. Unsuccessful, he left and torched the 12 parked vehicles. Everybody in the INEC scampered for safety. Luckily, the roasted vehicles were parked outside the premises otherwise the elections materials would have been gutted by fire.
“Unable to break into INEC office to hijack the materials, he and his gang left in frustration. Sensing that the said Mbakara and his gang would pass through a particular junction, some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP boys mobilised and hid themselves between Ikot Idem Udo and Ikot Ukpong boundary for reprisal attack.
“As Mbakara and his gang was heading home, the PDP boys engaged them in a gun battle. In the cross gunfire, the PDP boys allegedly mowed down one Ekom from the area and an Ogoni man from Rivers State alleged to be hoodlum; others were wounded while the rest escaped into the nearby bush,” the source narrated.