Voters were flogged, forced to vote PDP – Cole

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The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, has decried what he described as the high level of voter intimidation in the state’s March 18 governorship election.

In an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Cole spoke on alleged irregularities that greeted the Rivers governorship election.

He alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) piloted a dominance of voter suppression that affected the turnout of voters in Rivers.

The APC candidate claimed voters were whipped and threatened to forcefully vote for PDP, adding that government officials and security personnel took control of ballot boxes in various polling units.

According to Cole, the election was not equitable, arguing that a free and fair election without any form of voter suppression would prove that Rivers is not a PDP state.

He said, “There was a build-up of intimidation; voters were intimidated. They were told not to come out; whips were bought, and people were whipped. Town criers went into communities, saying that nobody should come out.

“[They said] if they came out, they will be dealt with. Voter intimidation was very heavy, bringing down the number of people coming out to vote because they were scared.

“In some cases, before the counting of the votes occurred, police came and – this was shocking – local government chairmen and councillors were coming with their vans with the police.”

According to him, the authorities took away all the electoral materials in the polling unit, and there was very little they could do.

The APC candidate added that the only other option he and his supporters had to resist what they saw coming would have escalated into violence.

Cole described Rivers as a “hijacked PDP state,” alleging that the opposition attacked him.

He further stated, “They came and carried the entire polling unit away (sic) and took them to an unknown destination, and the next thing we saw is that these results were uploaded.

“We knew that it was going to happen because we had heard it in a small political environment, so we knew there were plans to kidnap [people]. We saw people come into the polling unit who were strange.

“There was not enough security to counter that in any case, it was a national election, and security was widespread. We had choices, and one of our choices was to arm and equip our own side equally, but this would escalate into bloodshed and death, and we chose not to.”

“I would have loved this to be tested without intimidation, without violence and just allow a free and fair election to hold. The violence and the ability to rig has kept Rivers State a PDP state since 1999,” he said.

“People wanted to vote differently, and it was the fear of allowing free and fair elections that would have shown that Rivers State was not a PDP state.”