Enugu State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the 2015 general elections, Okey Ezea, has tales of woes to tell over the recent local government polls. He alleged that he was attacked by thugs hired by political opponents in his hometown, Itchi in Ibagwa-South Local Government Area. In this interview with reporters in Lagos, he narrates his ordeals and makes suggestions on how to avert violence during elections. Emmanuel Oladesu was there.
What is your position on the outcome of the recent local government elections in Enugu State?
I was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State in the 2015 general elections. The state government called for local government election and gave us their words that it will be free and fair; that parties would be called to come and participate and voters would be allowed to vote freely to elect their counselors and chairmen, but nothing like that happened. We also agreed that materials for the election would be taken from the state electoral commission office in Enugu to the police divisions in various local government areas, for safe custody. The idea was to reassure every party that the materials are in safe hands. But, they were taken to local government headquarters, where the PDP, which is a party to the election, was in charge of affairs.
What actually happened?
On Friday November 3, few hours to the election, report came that the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) has decided to take the materials to the local government headquarters. That was when we knew that there was not going to be elections and some of us who are used to local government elections in Enugu State were not allowed to vote. We went home, hopeless over the situation. The following morning, of course, our candidates started calling that they went to local government headquarters where the materials were supposed to be and that they were not allowed to go inside. Least I forget, that same Friday, immediately I got information that the materials were going to be in the local government headquarters, I called the ENSIEC Chairman, Dr. Mike Ajiogu (SAN), and he said if they don’t have enough space at the police station they could take them to the local headquarters for safe keeping and that the next morning they would share everything. In fact, he has started to tell me that they sent 15 cartons of ballot papers for my council area, Ibagwa-South Local Government. He said each carton contains 50 booklets and that each booklets contains 100 leaves. He gave me his word that if we go there the following morning and these things were not complete, we should just call him and he would cancel the election in the area and bring fresh documents. I also called the Commissioner of Police and he said he has asked the D.P.O to go to the local government to provide maximum security, so that the following morning, the parties will be there to share the materials. We believed all. Then, we went home. When we got there in the morning, my people were not allowed in and all the materials were gone. I accosted the member representing the area in the House of Representatives, Hon. Patrick Asadu, and he seems to be in charge of the activities at the headquarters. Rather, he said we should go to our wards that they are going to distribute them at the polling booths there.
Could you give us an account of what happened in your town on the day of the exercise?
I left peacefully and went to my village from where I went to the distribution centre. When I got there, there was argument with the woman that was acting as ENSIEC Supervisor. Our people said she had only five bags for five polling units, while there are seven polling units in my ward. So, we were asking her about the other two, but she could not explain satisfactorily. In fact, she was confused and stated that she does not have the result sheets. We asked her how she could come for election without result sheets, but she could not give a credible answer. We had fears that they must have gone to write results secretly and we expressed that fear to the DPO.
What was the evidence?
I then went away and about a kilometre from that distribution centre, I met about five policemen from Ibagwa Police Station and about five or six Civil Defense officers; they were interrogating one boy they caught on the road there. Immediately I saw the face of the guy, it was familiar and I stopped to inquire what was going on. That was when I saw a convoy of about 10 Hilux vans coming with full headlamp and siren. Initially, I thought they were policemen or soldiers, but when I saw the guns they were raising up, most of them were pump action riffles, I knew it was not Nigeria security force. They were all in black and black so, when they got to where we were, a serving commissioner in the state was the first person to jump out of the vehicle, carrying his own automatic pump action riffle. He made straight to me saying: “Ideke, you have been giving us trouble with this your APC. Now that we have caught you, I am sure you are going to call Buhari to come and save you; boys deal with him; put him in my car”.
At his stage, hell was let loose as more than 50 armed bandits clad in all black attire with beret and dark glasses, wielding weapons in one hand and substances suspected to be Indian hemp in the other hand, descended on me. Some of them had AK47, some automatic pump action and they dragged me to their Hilux vehicle and sped off. They kept one armed thug on my right, and another on my left. The one on my left was busy hitting me with the butt of his gun and when he felt the gun was not forceful enough, he started using his right elbow to hit me. So, when we got there, they dragged me before the House of Representatives member, while they continued hitting me. They also used plastic chairs in heating me on the head.
Does that mean that the police could not guarantee security during voting?
While the merciless beating continued, one of the officials confronted them, asking if they wanted to kill me. He then dragged me towards a safer place, away from the thugs to where policemen from the Special anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were sitting and they cordoned off the place. I noticed that while they were manhandling me, the House of Representatives member was constantly receiving a call, as if he was being given instructions. I know the faces of some of those thugs that abducted and manhandled me. In fact, I was conscious enough to recognise them while the merciless beating continued.
While this banditry lasted, I was wondering if I had thugs, what would have happened. Definitely, there would have been a bloodbath. I was with my driver and two policemen, but they were overpowered by the thugs. Sadly, I remembered that the same thing happened in 2003 at Enugu-Ezike, where many lives were lost all in a bid by the ruling party to remain in power. Unfortunately, the man that led the attack on me was also the same person that attacked my polling booth during the 2015 governorship election and he narrowly escaped being killed by angry youths. That was what earned him the position of a commissioner in the state cabinet today.
Later, I was taken to the police station where I wrote a statement. It was there that I heard that when the Commissioner of Police heard about my abduction, he swiftly directed the Area Commander and DPO to rescue me. Incidentally, they came with the same policemen that were there when they abducted me. It was simply a pre-meditated attack meant to kill me, so that I would not be a stumbling block. It should be noted that this is what they have being doing in all the elections in the state.
What action did the police take after the incident?
After the ugly incident, I must tell you that, as I am making this report, nobody has called me and till date and no arrests has been carried out by the police, even after I named some of the people that attacked and abducted me. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that the number of armed bandits they have in that local government is twice more than they have in the area. It should be noted also that these thugs were wielding dangerous weapons freely in the presence of men of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) and nothing happened.
So far, I have reported the matter to the National Chairman of my party and I expect him to take it higher. Be that as it may, it will be difficult to recover fully from the injuries they inflicted on me. First and foremost, I have lost my left eye. As we speak, I cannot recognise you if I close my right eye. The whole of my left hand is paralyzed. I have wound all over my body and you cannot ascertain the extent of the wound inflicted inside my body, especially the heart where they used the butt of their guns to hit me severally. I also have a dislocation on my leg and pains in my ribs.
As we speak, the state government has not condemned what happened. It is very unfortunate. Incidentally, the governor called me and said he was the person that directed the Commissioner of Police to rescue me. It therefore means that he was aware that I was abducted. I expect the security agencies to investigate this matter and bring the culprits to book and, especially, find out the source of the dangerous weapons in their possession.
I must also emphasise that there is no iota of truth in the rumour making the rounds that the people of my area were angry with me for not allowing them present a chairman for the election. We have long been disenfranchised in selecting representatives and nobody in his right senses can compromise that. The advice I have is that I stand firm on the side of the people that they must be allowed to vote to determine who they want to rule them. A group of people who are very unaccountable, very irresponsible, who has no mercy for the suffering of the masses, cannot continue to sit in the comfort of their homes and write results of their election and say this person would go and that other person would go.
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