Members of the Nigeria Police Force who were assigned to monitor the botched election of the Delta state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Thursday made mockery of poor behaviour of the journalists who could not organize themselves to conduct credible, fair and peaceful election.
The police who witnessed the failed election were in shock as some were seen saying if it were police that organized themselves in such unruly manner, journalists would take them to the cleaners. But journalists who judge society of wrong behaviour could not organize themselves to conduct election that should serve as example to other people.
The election was to pick members to pilot the state council for the next three years. This followed the expiration of the tenure of the state executive led by Michael Ikeogwu, whose tenure, though expired in June, was extended to July 2, 2020. Prior to the botched election, there had been heavy crisis in the build up to the election. The crisis emanated from accusations over misuse of funds appropriated to the council by the state government.
Members of the NUJ in the state who are contesting for the position include Mike Ikeogwu, the immediate past chairman, who is still running for state chairman, Churchill Oyowe, outgoing secretary and is now running for chairman of the state council. Ikeogwu writes for The Pointer Newspaper while Oyowe is an assistant director in the state ministry of information.
Others are Patrick Ochei, publisher of Anioma Trust newspaper, who is vying for secretary; Toju Oteri a staff of the ministry of information, also vying for secretary; Salvation Ogono, a staff of ministry of information vying for Vice chairman and Victor Sorokwu, reporter with Daily Trust for Vice Chairman. Others are Thelma Eliogu, a staff of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) for assistant secretary and Felix Ekwu of Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS) Warri for assistant secretary.
Two of the members contesting the election against Ikeogwu’s redemption team were members of the executive led by Ikeogwu. They are Churchill Oyowe, who was former secretary and Patrick Ochei, who was former vice chairman of the outgone administration. Both are now vying for chairman and secretary respectively.
The crisis that led to the stalemate arose from disagreement on the modalities and criteria for members to be qualified to vote in the election. The contestants are divided into two camps. The camp led by Mike Ikeogwu christened itself as redemption team. This camp has Ikeogwu, Ogono, Oteri and Ekwu. The camp led by Oyowe christened itself with the acronym PRIZE. It has Oyowe, Ochei, Sorokwu and Eliogu.
Supporters and members of each camp with the national leadership of the NUJ failed to reach agreement on modalities for the identification of members for the election. Three issues arose upon which members are to be deemed fit to vote. These include possession of the national NUJ identity card, payment of dues up to date and recognised members of chapels. The state has 16 chapels.
The stalemate arose from disagreement on which criteria to use among the three for the election. One fact is that some members do not have the identity card but their names are in the list of chapels and they are financial members but they have no identity cards. And again, some persons who have the identity card, if it is to be used are believed not to be members of the NUJ. They are seen to be imported thugs from some parts of the state to vote in the election.
Another area of confusion was an alleged disagreement between the National President of the NUJ, Chris Isiguzo and his National Secretary from Abuja. Available facts revealed that the National Secretary who is said to be in charge of the conduct of elections reportedly gave directive which ran counter to the directive of the National President. Both of them are alleged to be in support of different chairmanship candidates for the election.
Emerald News gathered that the National President is allegedly supporting one of the aspiring chairman while the secretary is believed to be supporting the other aspiring chairman. Hence both reportedly gave counter directives on what qualifies members to vote during the election. This was one of the biggest challenges that crumbled the election in Delta state. If both national executives had stood on one issue, the election would have gone without issues.
Following the disagreement on voting criteria for members, the state commissioner of police, Hafix Inuwa, invited the two camps to the police headquarters for dialogue on the way forward but the dialogue ended in deadlock. Hence, Emerald News learnt that the commissioner then asked that in situation like this, what followed. He was told that a caretaker committee is therefore set up to conduct a fresh election within the next three months.