2023: How the military meddled in Cross River’s Presidential and NASS elections

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By Magnus Kalu

Startling revelations are surfacing on how the military was illegally deployed to interfere in the presidential and national assembly elections in some parts of Cross River.

Recall that the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, was declared the winner of the presidential election in the state.

Mr Obi polled 179,917 votes to defeat his closest rival, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 130,520 votes.

Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came third in the state with 95,425 votes.

Also in the senatorial contest, especially in Cross River North, where there were allegations of soldiers interfering with the conduct of the elections, the State Governor and candidate of the ruling APC, Prof. Ben Ayade, lost the Saturday poll with 56,595 votes against Agom Jarigbe of the PDP, who scored 76,145 votes.

The PDP which is the main opposition party in Cross River has two factions – one loyal to Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, while the other pledges allegiance to Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate in the February 25 election.

The Wike camp parades the likes of Senator Sandy Onor, the PDP Governorship candidate in the state, who is from the Central Senatorial District and Senator Agom Jarigbe, the lawmaker representing Cross River Northern Senatorial District in the Senate.

Prior to the elections, the Wike faction had adopted Mr Obi of the Labour Party as its presidential candidate against Atiku Abubakar who had backers such as former Governor Liyel Imoke, Senator Gershom Bassey and others.

A day before the Presidential and National Assembly elections, our reporter gathered that political bigwigs who were supposed to work as coordinators for the APC in the Northern and Central Senatorial districts of the State were rounded up by troops of the Nigerian Army on trumped-up charges. The soldiers were alleged to have worked for the Wike faction of the PDP.

Some of those arrested on the eve of the Presidential and National Assembly elections both in the central and Northern Senatorial districts include the Commissioner for Finance Mr Goddy Ettah, a former Chairman of Yakurr LGA Chief Ubi Itam Ettah (aka Bomboy), and a party Chieftain Chris Ukpan Odey.

These leaders saddled with the strategic and important responsibility of mobilizing and coordinating activities of the APC for the February 25 elections, were unfortunately whisked away a day to the polls, leaving the party completely in disarray.

One of the APC chieftains Mr Odey, who spoke to our reporter shortly after he was released, said the February 25 Presidential and National assembly elections were highly militarized, especially in the Northern Senatorial district.

Narrating his ordeal in the hands of soldiers whom he claimed were drafted in to give the PDP cover to rig the elections, said, “The soldiers came to my compound in Obudu in 3 vans to pick me up. They blindfolded me and I didn’t know where they were taking me to. When they got to a point they stopped and brought me down. A cameraman then came, they untied me, took photograph of me, placed a locally made pistol on the ground, one AK-47 bullet and one cartridge.”

“They said the items were picked up from the dining table in my house. When I argued with them they started hitting me with their guns, shouting I should shut up. After here they then took me to the Army barrack in Ogoja where they kept me under the sun for about 4 hours, blindfolded. Thereafter, they were instructed to take me to Enugu on the same Friday that they arrested me. When I got to Enugu I was detained where IPOB members were being held. I was in detention for 4 days. At one point, I started falling sick because I was not eating. After I started shouting about my health condition, they brought me out to take me to the hospital, and that’s when I discovered that the Hon. Commissioner of Finance Godwin Ettah and Bomboy, the former Yakurr Chairman were there, too.

“When I asked why they were here, they explained that they were also arrested and guns planted on them.

“After they took us to the clinic they still returned us back to the cell. And then on Wednesday they took us to the DSS office in Enugu and handed us over to them. The DSS interrogated us and after that, they detained us in their cell. We were there until Thursday, and at about 4 o’clock they came and took us out of the cell. Then the man in charge of intelligence and investigation said the Army had called them to release us. But he said they have not concluded their investigation, so they can’t release us. When the Army insisted, the DSS told the Army to come and take us back the way they brought us.

“At about 5 o’clock the Army came and took us from the DSS along with the statements we gave to the DSS because all those days the Army detained us they didn’t get a statement from us. Before we left the DSS office, the operatives there whispered to us that we shouldn’t be afraid that the Army will be taking us to Calabar. And truly they brought us to Calabar Thursday night and took us to the DSS office in Calabar, where we gave statements and were later granted bail.

“I was arrested by 130 battalion Ogoja, while the Commissioner for Finance was arrested in Ugep in Yakurr LGA by the man in charge of Operation Akpakwu. He’s an Army man. They were working hand in hand with the Enugu people.”

Meanwhile, our reporter learned that the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections in the Northern Senatorial district were riddled with irregularities.

Video footage obtained by our reporter shows the PDP senatorial candidate Agom Jarigbe and his supporters right inside the collation centre in Ogoja intimidating INEC officials.

In addition, some voters in the Senatorial district’s five Local Government areas (Ogoja, Yala, Bekwara, Obudu, and Obanliku) told our reporter that they were barred from voting after being accredited, just as PDP agents were seen across the 5 LGAs inducing voters with cash money.

They also claimed that soldiers were brought in to chase away all identified APC supporters and then thumb-printed ballot papers on their behalf in some polling units, particularly in PDP strongholds.

They also claimed that some PDP agents instructed them to vote for the Labour Party’s presidential candidate and then vote for PDP in all other positions.