From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist the name of Labour Party’s Enugu North Senator-Elect, Okechukwu Ezea, from the list of members-elect into the 10th National Assembly, for allegedly making inciting remarks ahead of the March 18 governorship and state assembly polls.
HURIWA, at a press conference on Thursday in Abuja, claimed that Ezea’s anti-democratic statements should not be swept under carpet going by the widespread violence recorded in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls.
Its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, argued that Ezea’s action of voter intimidation and threat contravened Sections 125 and 128 of the Electoral Act 2022, adding that both sections clearly prescribed three years imprisonment for political actors found to incite voters and threaten the electorate in an election.
Ezea, in a viral video, was heard as saying the governorship election would be a do-or-die battle in the state, which Onwubiko said was an incitement of violence against the people of Nkanu, literally drumming up war on the day of the next election.
He claimed that “inflammatory comment which is against the Peace Accord signed by all candidates in the state before the election but he won’t withdraw the comment or apologise for such an unpardonable statement which is capable of precipitating bloodshed in the March 18 governorship election in the state.”
According to him, “just as security agencies arrested and charged Doguwa for culpable homicide, the police should immediately swing into action and arrest and charge Ezea because he committed almost similar offence even if not in the same terrain of murder but that of spreading hate message which may inevitably snowball into hate crime if not prevented by the security agencies.
“INEC should cancel the February 25 election in the Enugu North Senatorial District of Enugu State just like the commission did in the Doguwa/Tudun Wada Federal Constituency of Kano State and announced a supplementary election in the constituency.
“We maintained that it is important to conduct fresh elections in Enugu North Senatorial District because the February 25 election witnessed voter intimidation and political violence apparently sparked by Ezea’s alleged vitriolic comments.
“That this man now parading about as Senator-Elect, appeared on one of the major National television during a prime time interview and defeated his use of the term ‘Do-or-die’ as it relates to the coming governorship poll and was clever by half by attempting to hang his use of the word on the Oxford dictionary meaning of the words and then asserted that the term does not denote incitement to violence.
“But this man Okey Ezia forgot to also recollect the etymological context of that expression so defined by the Oxford dictionary which depicts that it came from a War situation if you put it as an adjective.
“Also in Nigeria, the popular clitché of do-or-die in politics means desperation to gain power through the fair or unfair process even to a point of death.
“That he refused to apologise and indeed repeated that threat on national television is enough to hold him responsible should there be any violence in NSUKKA senatorial zone during the Gubernatorial election this Saturday.
“Ezea’s action contravenes the Electoral Act 2022, especially Section 125 which provides thus: Any person who at an election acts or incites others to act in a disorderly manner commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
“Also, his action violates Section 128 (a) which states: A person who— (a) directly or indirectly, by his or herself or by another person on his or her behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restrain commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years.
“We at HURIWA strongly condemn the incitement to violence by the accidentally elected Senator for Enugu North who rode on the wave of charismatic popularity of Peter Obi to win under the Labour Party platform even when he has now shown himself to be predisposed to political violence or at least espouses political violence.
“We reemphasise our call to the Inspector General of Police to arrest Ezea for questioning so as to prevent violence at the March 18 poll. It is so arrogant of him that he has put up defiance and failed to apologise for urging voters in Nsukka senatorial zone to see the Saturday election as a do-or-die affair even when he is not on the ballot on Saturday thereby still asking his political nitwits to unleash violence.
“Ezea’s clever-by-half attempt to obfuscate the serious import of that term in Nigeria by going to Oxford dictionary literally meaning without looking at the root of that term is deceptive, absolutely unacceptable and primitive. IGP should arrest him immediately.
“We also call on INEC for the withdrawal of his certificate of return and repeat of the election for Senate should the political thugs in Nsukka follow his guide and unleash mayhem on Saturday since he failed to apologise even on air.
“Persons elected for public office should operate with decorum and uphold the tenets of democracy which include civility and peaceful elections. Elections are not a do-or-die affair and the court should remain a legal option to explore to challenge the outcome of polls.”