PDP alleges arrest of members by security agencies
Olakiitan Victor in Ado Ekiti and James Sowole in Akure
As two candidates are now slugging it out to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Ekiti State chapter, has appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to settle the confusion without taking partisan interest.
IPAC said the PDP remains a major and critical participant in the election, saying failure to resolve the logjam created by the friction and division between Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi factions in the most tactical way could create an atmosphere of tension that could heat up the polity unnecessarily.
The name of a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, had been submitted to INEC by the Governor Olusegun Mimiko faction which has a leaning with Makarfi group, while the Sheriff faction later forwarded the name of a business mogul, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim to the electoral commission.
Jimoh’s candidature was later buoyed by the Federal High Court verdict of last Friday, which declared him the rightful candidate to fly the flag of the party.
Speaking with journalists in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, the IPAC Chairman in Ekiti State, Dr. Dele Ekunola, said INEC had done the country proud by conducting a credible election that complied substantially with the provisions of the Electoral Act in Edo State, urging it to replicate such in Ondo State.
Ekunola appealed to the commission to apply the same modality it used in presenting Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in Edo State to resolve the Ondo debacle.
Describing the situation as worrisome and confusing, the IPAC boss added that INEC taking the right decision will help the credibility of the poll.
“This situation whereby both Jegede and Ibrahim are laying claim to a ticket is very worrisome and the PDP is a critical participant in the election. Though, the matter is more of a judicial issue, but INEC can still apply wisdom so that commonsense can prevail and the polity will not be heated up,” he said.
It praised the electoral body for maintaining substantial neutrality in Edo governorship poll, urging the commission to replicate the same feat in the November 26 governorship poll in Ondo State.
On the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party, which polarized the body into two, Ekunola clarified that the feuding groups had fused into one after reconciliation , which he said led to the election of new executives recently in the state.
Those elected were: Ekunola as Chairman, Hon Ilesanmi Omolayo (Vice Chairman), Mallam Jimoh Saheed (Secretary), Fred Iyaniwura (Publicity Secretary), Chief Moses Awogbemi (Financial Secretary), Rufus Alabi (Treasurer) and Ileanmi Josiah (Assistant Secretary).
He added: “INEC even settled the PDP confusing candidature in Edo with ease and we expect this to come to play in Ondo. We all the existing political parties in the state are pleased with INEC neutrality.
“All these showed that democracy has taken a deep root in Nigeria and we appeal to INEC to repeat the same feat in Ondo State.”
Meanwhile, the PDP in Ondo State yesterday raised the alarm alleging that security operatives had embarked on the harassment of its members through unlawful arrest as the party prepares to inaugurate officially the campaign of its candidate for the November 26 election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) today.
The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Mr Banji Okunomo, who raised the alarm in a statement adding that those arrested were mainly youth leaders from the across the state.
Okunomo, who did not mention names of the people involved, alleged that those arrested were presently at the State Investigation Bureau (SIB) office for questioning by security agents.
Responding to the allegation, the state Police Public Relations Officers Mr. Femi Joseph, said it was not true that they arrested people.
He said the command however, had course to invite some people for questioning to maintain peace in the forthcoming election and in doing that they do not know which party they belong because the police do not want to know the party they belong to.
He said the police had meeting with stakeholders on the need to maintain peace before, during and after the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
The publicity secretary said intimidating members of the party would discomfit people as the PDP prepares for the flag off of its campaigns noting that such a development would make members feel politically unsafe to associate with the PDP in Ondo State.
“Much as we are not saying that security agencies should not perform their duties, if, especially, they find anybody wanting in conduct or behaviour, we also want to say that any act on the part of these security agents should be properly channeled at this period where what is rampant in Nigeria now is that anybody, no matter how highly placed could be harassed, democratic norms are not respected, there is much of intimidation.
“All we are saying as a party is that if things are allowed to go on the way they are, and some of these acts are left unchecked, it would spell doom for our democracy.
“This is why we are raising this alarm now so that things could be done appropriately. Whoever is found to have committed an offence should be shown to the whole world.
“Things should not be done by arresting or intimidating anybody especially when it is believed that such has political motives.
“What we are saying is that we as a party will not support that and we will tolerate and accept that. I also want to say that our party has been a peaceful one since inception.
“We do not indulge in violence or any act of criminality in our party. Everyone knows that this party and Ondo State have been peace loving and everybody admires the state.
“So, we do not anybody to compound the situation or raise the barometer or temperature of crisis in Ondo State because our governorship election is around the corner,” he said.
Okunomo said the party was raising the alarm because democracy can only thrive where freedom of expression and freedom of association with choice political parties is allowed.