by Russel Crowe
This piece is a summary of my Report as an independent expatriate election Observer embedded with the ‘International Coalition of Election Monitors (ICEM)’, an amalgam of observer/monitor groups based in Western Europe and the United States. I was accredited to the governorship and legislative elections held in April 2015 in Cross River State, Nigeria. My role as an Observer comprised mainly of collating the reports of the affiliated staff-observers detailed to the field in the various wards and local government areas of the Cross River.
It was also within my brief to compare the field reports of my team members with that of the other unrelated observer teams, wherever and whenever possible; and finally reporting to my principals in Abuja and abroad. Having given this background, let me then proceed below to tell the rest of the story what happened in Cross River.
First, the reports from the Central Senatorial zone: In this zone, the elections were conducted, the votes counted and finally collated. The ward and LGA teams returned no report of voter intimidation, ballot snatching, compromising of officials, or otherwise any other incident of rigging.
The lone exception was in a few isolated enclaves where some elements said to be loyal to Labour Party (LP) and its guber candidate, Fidelis Ugbo, tried to snatch some result sheets but were quickly overpowered on the spot by crack security personnel. It ended there and then and ultimately turned out not to have negatively affected the election in any way. In the end, my field team returned a zero incident report and held the election in the zone to be free and fair.
Second, in the Northern senatorial zone, there was a bit of an initial apprehension on the part of my field team, stemming from some disturbing reports of cross-movement of rank Labour Party faithfuls from the other senatorial zones. When I sought to know why, I was told that there was some looming plan to boost LP votes in that zone in order to dilute the PDP voter-base.
Deciding that this report is credible, I proceeded to relay it to security officials on hand, and then to my principals in Abuja and overseas. Then, with a baited breath, I tarried to await the field reports of the actual balloting to come in. In the end, I was relieved that whatever was plotted didn’t happen as my team turned in their reports. I might add that PDP won in this zone as it also won handily in the Central zone; and here again, the polls were credible, free and fair.
Third, In Calabar South, the contest was tough and tense in several places. While the supporters of the APC governorship candidate and some legislative aspirants generally behaved themselves, same cannot be said of that of LP, represented by Fidelis Ugbo. There was this palpable feeling that Mr. Ugbo appears to be edging his supporters to violence or some fracas as he continued to raise allegations of rigging against the PDP and INEC even as the elections were yet to commence.
When I asked why he was so upset, I was told that Mr. Ugbo has a ‘personal beef’ with the former governor, Liyel Imoke, who he blames for failing to pick the PDP ticket. I said to myself that it’s none of my business but I still decided to be vigilant to trouble as I readied my team for its field assignments in the zone. Eventually, the polls held, and the field reports came in. Altogether, It was typical of the other two senatorial zones, except in two local government areas where security personnel arrested some thugs alleged to be close to the same Fidelis Ugbo, the LP guber candidate. Despite this, my team returned a report indicating that the polls ran satisfactorily, freely and fairly.
Finally, as my modus demands, I made my rounds from one location to the other in Calabar to cross-check and compare my team’s reports with that of the other monitoring/observer teams. I found that ours tallied with theirs in material particulars. On that basis, I proceeded to prepare what I later captioned: ‘My final verdict on the 2015 Cross River governorship and legislative election’. My verdict: The elections were free, fair and credible. I am happy for the people of Cross River State, Nigeria and all those committed to free and fair elections anywhere in the world.
Russel A. Crowe can be emailed at [email protected]