The Nigerian government has sent more troops to the southeastern state of Imo ahead of a controversial re-run of the governorship election.
The vote was first held on April 26, along with gubernatorial elections across the country. The opposition candidate was ahead when electoral authorities canceled the results in some local government areas. The authorities said they needed to protect the population from electoral violence.
They’re saying the same thing now. They say they’re sending troops to protect lives and property. But the opposition says the troops were sent to help rig the election.
The candidates are Ikedi Ohakim, the incumbent governor, representing the ruling PDP, and Rochas Okorocha of the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance.
“It is a very difficult situation here and a challenge,” said Okorocha’s campaign manager, Prince Eze Madumere, a Nigerian-born American citizen.
He said it’s like preparing for the election under what he calls a blanket of pro-government security forces.
As for the government’s reason for sending in troop, he said, “I believe it is a deceit and a ploy for the Nigerian government and the ruling party to support their own. They don’t want to let go.”
He said his candidate, Okorocha, won the election in April, but “they [the government] connived with electoral officials to withhold the result. We don’t believe the [upcoming] election will be free and fair.”
The ruling PDP says there was no official declaration of the winner by the Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission [INEC] and it is only fair elections be repeated in those areas where the commission did not validate the results.
Governor Ohakim has denied trying to rig the election or using troops to intimidate the opposition.
But Madumere said flooding the state with the heavy presence of troops and other security personnel is an act of intimidation, especially since the government did not extend the security presence to the areas where the results are not expected to change.
“There is the influx of the soldiers and police all over the city, but we are saying it’s not enough. If the government is serious, how about the rural areas and local governments? They are putting security in the towns,” he said. “We believe they were sent to come and work for the party in government. We are asking they let every vote of the people count.”
“INEC has not been free, fair and unbiased in this election,” said Madumere.
“INEC has removed the resident electoral commissioner for Imo and redeployed new commissioners from neighboring states. We have rejected these new appointments. This election has been rigged; we are only going to fulfill the formalities,” he said.