Rivers Rerun: Punch Editorial and the failed attempt to play the Ostrich
The Rivers Rerun Elections were held on December 10, 2016. What transpired before, during and after the rerun elections are already in the public domain.
Every Nigerian with any sense of equity and fairness knows that the APC, the security agencies and INEC formed a criminal gang to steal the mandate of the people of Rivers State. Nobody has denied this fact.
It is on this premise that I find the editorial of Punch Newspaper on Thursday, January 5, 2017, shocking, embarrassing and an insult to the memories of Rivers people who paid the supreme price in defence of democracy.
The truth is; if Punch Newspaper lacks the courage to write truthfully about the unfortunate failure of security agencies and INEC to deliver on peaceful elections on December 10, 2016, there was no reason writing at all.
Otherwise, it would be right to conclude that Punch is part of the damage control mechanism of security agencies, for which certain media organisations were conscripted to sell half-truths, outright lies and concocted audios.
The most unfortunate sentence in the entire politically motivated Punch Editorial is the unfortunate false generalisation by the Newspaper.
Imagine a newspaper writing this of a state from the comfort of their office: "Indeed, Rivers State has become a notorious nest of electoral bandits ".
Are they electoral bandits because they did not allow APC and security agencies to rig? How can a newspaper become cheerleaders for election thieves.
When I read this, I wondered who must have crafted the editorial without respect for decency and respect for the people of Rivers State.
The above statement exposed the desperation of the Punch Editorial Board to change the reality of security agencies unleashing violence on the people of Rivers State in their quest to rig the elections and impose APC candidates on the people of Rivers State.
The Punch Editorial of Thursday, January 5, 2017 struggled in vain to divert attention from the crime against the Rivers people by security operatives caught on video shooting and killing people on December 10, 2016.
Many of these videos, which are already online and used sparingly by some electronic media organisations have been sent via email to all editors, Punch editors and correspondents inclusive.
Instead, Punch chose to play the Ostrich by referring to audios concocted and manipulated to divert attention from the atrocities committed in Rivers State by Federal Agencies.
All through the biased editorial, Punch made no reference to two police officers, SARS Commander, Mr Akin Fakorede and Rivers Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Steven Hasso who perpetrated unbridled violence on Election Day.
Indeed, Fakorede was caught on camera unleashing mayhem on electoral officials at the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation centre.
The Punch Editorial made no mention of the video that has since gone viral of mass thumb printing taking place in the home of Senator Magnus Abe. The Punch Editorial ignored the video of the invasion of Electoral materials distribution centre in K Dere Town of Gokana Local Government Area by the Nigerian Army.
Deliberately, the Punch Editorial turned a blind eye to the invasion of the Isiokpo INEC Collation Center by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who was backed by the Commissioner of Police in charge of elections in Rivers East and hundreds of soldiers.
The minister sacked all journalists from the centre before they settled down to cook up fresh results for Ikwerre LGA.
In their haste, they forgot to reflect the figures polled by the PDP in the March 19 Rerun elections.
The ill-conceived editorial made no mention of the printing of fake result sheets ahead of the elections by Rivers APC using serial numbers provided by INEC.
The APC Chieftain, Atonyesia Peterside, a cousin of the defeated 2015 Rivers APC Governorship candidate has been moved to Calabar in a move to sweep this crime against Rivers people under the carpet.
What about the result sheets handed over the Minister of Transportation by INEC and the ad hoc staff lists compiled by INEC, but dominated by Rivers APC ward and local government party executives.
The Punch chose to ignore that.
All through the poorly researched editorial, the Punch Editorial Board failed to mention the fact that all through Rivers State, security operatives drove PDP agents from collation centres as they struggled to rig for the APC.
From Andoni to Abonnema, Port Harcourt to Emohua, Abua to Bonny, Rivers people had to risk their lives before security agents allowed Electoral officials collate results from polling units.
The Rivers State Government had no control of security agencies. It had no control of INEC.
But all through the days leading to the rerun elections, Governor Wike took it upon himself to raise alarm of the plots and conspiracies to rig the elections.
It is sad that a newspaper would choose to insult an entire state because the political party their conspiracy primed to win, lost.
The Rivers Rerun Elections constitute the victory of the people over the forces of rigging, violence, falsehood and propaganda. It is a victory for performance over unnecessary media manipulation.
Governor Wike represents the new generation of leaders who are connected to the people.
Governor Wike has won the love of Rivers people with his pragmatic and transparent leadership model, which has made Rivers State, a pride of the people.
No amount of lies and baseless editorials would change the cause of events.
It is surprising that Punch is yet to realise that their deliberate misrepresentation of events in Rivers State have yielded no fruits.
They were at the forefront of false reports on the security situation in Rivers State, creating the impression that the security situation in the state had nose-dived.
However, when the state started playing host to series of national and international events, with hundreds of thousands of people attending, they quietly changed direction.
Nobody can stop the Punch Editorial Board from having its political preference, but it should be done with respect for obvious facts.
This particular editorial was in bad taste. It was an insult to those who lost their lives defending democracy.
I thought it is necessary I bring this to the notice of well-meaning Nigerians. We cannot allow self-righteous editorial spew falsehood against Rivers people.
For the avoidance of doubt, Rivers is PDP. Rivers is NEW.
By Simeon Nwakaudu