By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Jonathan NDA-Isaiah and Patrick Ochoga
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday cautioned political parties, candidates and security agents to behave responsibly in tomorrow’s governorship election in Edo State.
The president, in a message to voters, political parties, election officials and security personnel, reiterated his stance that he is passionately committed to free and fair elections, adding that his own commitment is not enough if other actors at ground zero refuse to abide by the rules.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying: “I want to see democratic standards in the country raised higher at every level, but these cannot be achieved when politicians resort to do or die methods to gain power by any means or machination.
“The do-or-die mentality to politics is a threat to free and fair elections because the actors are more focused on winning than caring about a fair outcome that reflects the Will of the people.
The president appealed to all political parties and their candidates to behave peacefully and respect law and order.
He also advised election officials and security agents “to remain neutral to ensure free and fair elections and avoid any action(s) capable of compromising the integrity of the elections.”
President Buhari noted that conducting free and fair elections is one of his main concerns for the nation’s democracy, saying, “I want this commitment to be one of the legacies I will leave behind when I depart office.”
Security Operatives Embark On Another ‘Show Of Force’
Meanwhile, a team of combined security operatives yesterday embarked on another ‘Operation Show of Force’ in Benin City, the Edo State capital, to signify their preparedness to provide adequate security for tomorrow’s governorship election.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that operatives from the various security agencies in no fewer than 70 patrol vehicles participated in the exercise.
It would be recalled that the operatives had embarked on similar exercise last Saturday and Sunday in the capital city.
Convoy of the troops moved from the State Police Command Headquarters in Benin City at Sapele Road through Country Home Road to Ugbo Road.
Other routes covered were the GRA, Adesuwa Road, Ihama Road and the entire stretch of the Airport Road.
Others were Akenzua Road, Ehaekpen Street, TV Road, Five Junction, Uselu-Lagos Road, Upper Mission Road and the Ring Road in the city.
The spokesman of the Police Command, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, told journalists that the exercise was to restate their commitment to provide adequate security for the election.
He urged voters to come out enmasse on Saturday and vote for the candidate of their choice, assuring that the protection of lives and property before, during and after the exercise is secured.
Security agencies that participated in the exercise include Police, Army, Air Force, Nigeria Customs Service and the Department of State Services.
Others are the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Immigrations Service and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
PDP Stages Protest, Insists On Transparent Polls In Edo, Ondo Polls
In another development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to uphold its promise of ensuring free and fair governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States and not allow its image to be soiled.
The party stated this when its leaders staged a peaceful protest at the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.
The national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who led the protest, said the situation in the country demands everybody to be law abiding.
He said the party was deeply worried and in pain “because of past experiences especially those of Kogi and Bayelsa”.
The party chairman added that the only way out of all the crises facing the county is to conduct free and fair elections which will reduce the tension in the country.
Secondus said, “Let me also use this opportunity to call on all the security agencies, especially the DSS and the Director General of the DSS. We have been reliably informed that over 1,500 men and special squad are on their way to Edo to carry out their lawful duties. We agree, but the past elections have shown that some of the officers in plain cloth are used by APC to replace results, result replacement, it has happened.
“This is a peaceful protest to remind INEC to also speak to other security agencies not to damage the image of INEC, strictly that they should follow the rules. We believe that our message will be delivered to the Chairman and we have confidence that INEC will not fail again.
“They made promises before, even the security agencies made promise before and they failed. What legacy are we going to leave behind for the next generation of Nigerians? We want to appeal to you to use your good offices to make sure that the final order and meetings with security agencies, let them conclude to conduct free and fair elections, that’s all we demanding, free and fair election, transparent election, credible election so that our country can move forward”.
Deputy national chairman of the party, Senator Suleiman Nazif, also said, “We have come here as a matter of urgency to demand for free and fair elections in Edo and Ondo. This was as a result of the need for us to come and get first hand assurance that the elections will be free and fair. We are all aware of what happened in Kogi, Osun, Bayelsa, Kano and the rest of them.
“We have had a lot of assurances but at the same time, it is one thing to assure us and it is another thing for us to go and hear that something else is happening. So we don’t know what you are going to tell us today. People are concerned and worried about the way elections are being conducted in Nigeria. We believe that it is high time that the right thing is done and that is why we have come here to demand nothing other than free fair election.”
Receiving the party leaders on behalf of INEC, commissioner in charge of Election and Party Monitoring, Prof Antonia T Okoosi-Simbine, said the commission was aware of their fears, adding that it will do its best to deliver on a free, fair, credible and safe election.
She said, “The commission has just returned from a visit to Edo State. The chairmen and members of the commission went to Edo State to check on the processes for the election, last minute processes.
“By the time we departed, we were very sure that virtually everything is on course. What remains is the distribution of sensitive materials and that is to take place today.
“Just before you arrived, the process has been concluded and all the local government areas have proceeded. In fact we started with the farthest local government; they have received their materials. All the vehicles are being tracked to ensure and to be able to say where they are at any point in time.
“So the processes are on, if there is any local government outstanding, they are the ones within the city of Benin and that process in on. The commission has always given you assurances like you said. What we shall continue to do is to assure you that on our part, as the election management body, we will continue to give you our best.
“I want to tell you that on Saturday we may not all be in Benin but we are going to operate a virtual situation room where we will be seeing all that is going on in all locations and we will be dealing with problems as they arise”.
INEC Distribute Sensitive Materials To Edo LG’s
Meanwhile, ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election in Edo State, INEC yesterday commenced the distribution of sensitive materials to 18 local government areas of the state.
Speaking to journalists, the Head of Voter Education and Publicity, Edo State INEC office, Mr Timidi Wariowei, noted that the distribution commenced with the farthest local government areas.
He said: “So far we have loaded about 11 local governments. We started from Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Owan East and Owan West, among others
“Some have gone and others are completely loaded and are sorting out their security escort and very soon materials will move to all the local government areas.
“From the local government, the materials will move to Registration Areas Centres (RACs) and from the RACs they will move to the polling units and voting points on Saturday morning”.
According to him, INEC was fully ready for the election, adding that “this is the high point of our preparation, which is moving the materials from the CBN to local government areas.”