Gentlemen of the press, we feel greatly constrained to address you today on the outcome of the just concluded elections in Cross River State.
The National Assembly and Governorship/State Assembly elections organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Cross River State on Saturday February 23 and Saturday March 9, 2019, respectively, were, at its best, a sham that cannot stand the test of time.
The contest was not just between the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates on one hand and the candidates of other parties that participated in the exercise on the other hand but between the APC candidates on one hand and the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, the INEC, the Security forces and Gov Ben Ayade’s organized thugs on the other. The Etim John-led faction of the party were the ones INEC collected list of party agents from instead of collecting from the authentic party exco led by Sir John Ochala. These anti-party agents (Etim John and co) colluded with PDP to subvert the will of the people.
There is nothing more devastating and compromising than the attitude of the state INEC REC Dr. Frankland Briyai who on the eve of the Presidential/National Assembly elections on February 22, addressed the press and unilaterally announced the delisting of our candidates purportedly on the orders of a High Court whereas the matter was already in the domain of the Appeal Court from where a stay of execution order was secured. INEC indeed, did the bidding of Gov. Ben Ayade.
For instance, at the just concluded Governorship/State Assembly Elections, about (12) twelve out of the eighteen (18) Local Government Returning Officers were from Obudu, the home Local Government Area of Governor Ben Ayade. This is outside the fact that all the Returning Officers are and were card carrying members of the PDP. Party agents who complained about this were rebuffed and this accounted for why the state Collation agent of the party walked out of the collation Centre.
At first, INEC Headquarters delayed taking the decision about getting our candidates’ names back on the candidates’ list and even when it finally did, the decision only got communicated to Calabar in the afternoon of the Election Day. The State INEC REC called our governorship candidate Sen. John Owan Enoh at about 12.30pm on Satuday, the Election Day to ‘congratulate’ him that he had just received the list containing his name.
The implication of the above was huge. Majority of voters who even turned out to vote were unsure of his candidacy. Several lost interest. Party Agents were sent home on the false premise that Sen. Owan Enoh was not on the ballot. The election which was meant to be by cards readers, was massively manipulated as INEC resorted to use discretion to exploit the law in favour of the PDP. Only votes from supposed APC strongholds were subjected to card readers; otherwise, why would votes from Obudu, amongst other Local Government Areas ever be allowed to stand?
Besides the avalanche of impunity wrought on the exercise by the security forces made up of the police, the army, etcetera, the whole exercise was characterized by massive thumb-printing which began on Friday March 8 in the Governor’s Office/House in Calabar. On Election Day, our leaders were roundly quarantined in their respective homes. For instance, the House of Representatives-elect for Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency Dr. Alex Egbona, had his house searched by soldiers mobilized by Ayade.
The running mate to our Governorship candidate Ntufam Ekpo Okon had his car searched and detained with him while our Director of Campaign Organization, Sir Maurice Effiwat had to storm out of the collation Centre in protest against manipulation of figures by the PDP-prone INEC. Sen. Prince Bassey Otu, the Cross River South Senatorial Candidate was quarantined too just as the State Secretary of the party,Bishop Victor Ebong was sufficiently harassed by Security operatives.
There was massive rigging, thump-printing, intimidation of voters, vote buying, with the aid of INEC and security agents. Many of our supporters were killed in several locations across the state. There were ballot box snatching, while voters in APC dominated areas were prevented from voting. In fact, there was no election in Cross River as voting was inconclusive in most polling units across the length and breadth of the state. But results were entered in Favour of the PDP. It was a calculated charade. The bottomline is that our candidates were excluded from the election as their names were not even on the ballot in the first place.
In the governorship and National Assembly elections, several of the results declared by the Returning Officers were ordinarily supposed to be results of inconclusive elections. Yet, this didn’t matter to a highly biased and compromised electoral umpire.
Based on the general atmosphere of exclusion of our candidates, intimidation, manipulation and hijacking of materials, we hereby reject the result declared by INEC and call for the cancellation of the elections in Cross River State in its entirety.
Gentlemen, Democracy was under attack in Cross River State as the inalienable right of the people to vote and be voted for was violated. The All Progressives Congress in Cross River State lost to INEC and not Gov. Ben Ayade. The democratic credentials of Nigeria was rubbished by Gov. Ayade in connivance with the state INEC which had long been compromised.
Sir John Ochala
State Chairman (Acting)
Cross River State APC
Ntufam Hilliard Eta
National Vice Chairman, APC, South South.