- Force headquarters to deploy 24,000 policemen for election
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
The long intra-party crisis bedeviling the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has taken a new dimension as one of the factions loyal to Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has apparently developed cracks within its ranks.
THISDAY gathered that just as the clash of interests is behind the stalemated reconciliation move of the PDP, disagreement over varying interests has crept into the ranks of the Sheriff’s faction, and is making it difficult for them to speak with one voice.
The disagreement which has pitted the leaders of the faction against each other, came to the fore last Tuesday following the divergent positions taken by them over the Ondo State governorship aspiration of Chief Jimoh Ibrahim.
Sheriff’s Special Adviser on Media, Inua Bwala, issued a statement last Tuesday distancing his boss from any move to petition the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) regarding the crisis in the PDP.
However, the factional National Secretary, Wale Oladipo, has countered Bwala’s statement, describing it as mischievous.
Speaking with THISDAY wednesday on telephone, Bwala accused some persons, whose names he did not mention, of trying to sabotage Sheriff’s political interest by linking him with a petition to INEC and the NJC.
“What I said and you can quote me; nobody thinks that I would sacrifice the interest of Sheriff for anybody’s ambition. I insist that Sheriff did not petition the NJC; he did not petition INEC and he did not authorise anybody to do so on his behalf,” he said.
Bwala further alleged that these persons, apparently referring to some members of the Sheriff’s group, were out to sacrifice his future interest in furtherance of the governorship ambition of Jimoh Ibrahim.
In apparent reference to the $1million bribery allegation petition written against INEC by Jimoh Ibrahim over the commission’s refusal to recognise his candidacy on the PDP platform, Bwala said Sheriff should not be dragged into the matter.
He also said Sheriff would like to dismiss insinuations that he was behind several petitions against the INEC, stressing that he has done his duty by submitting a name to INEC, and expects that the commission would act in accordance with its own mandate.
“This is against widespread speculations linking him with controversies surrounding the emergence of Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and Jimoh Ibrahim as candidates of the party for the Ondo State election to the effect that he has been arm twisting the electoral body.
“But some people turned it upside down because of their own interest. I am protecting Sheriff’s interest, as they are alleging that Sheriff petitioned INEC and NJC. They want to stain his relationship with INEC and the judiciary. As stated in my statement yesterday, they want to sacrifice Sheriff’s future for Jimoh Ibrahim’s governorship ambition, and I will never support that.
“Sheriff wishes to clarify for the avoidance of doubts that he will not take sides in any conflict over the choice of candidate by the INEC in any state, including Ondo where governorship elections will hold on November 26,” Bwala stated.
However, while countering, Bwala’s position, Oladipo said Sheriff stands solidly behind and is in total support of Ibrahim as the only authentic PDP candidate in the November 26 Ondo State election.
In a statement issued yesterday, Oladipo described Bwala’s statement on behalf of Sheriff as mischievous and not a true reflection of the position of the faction.
“The attention of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of Sheriff has been drawn to a mischievous statement credited to Bwala purporting to be speaking for Sheriff.
“The statement in question is false and Sheriff stands solidly behind and in total support of Ibrahim as the only authentic PDP candidate in the November 26, 2016, election in Ondo State,” he said.
Oladipo added: “In the forthcoming election, we are urging INEC to be completely neutral. We will do anything within the ambit of the law not only to defend our party but our candidate Ibrahim.”
He stated that if there was any reason INEC should not obey the order of court as it is related to Ibrahim in the state governorship contest, it should explain so to the judge, adding that it was even easier for INEC to do so as it was a defendant in the suit.
Meanwhile, determined to provide adequate security before and during the November 26 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, the police yesterday disclosed that no fewer than 24,000 officers and men would be mobilised from various state commands and deployed directly by the Force headquarters for the exercise.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Hilda Ibifuro-Harrison, disclosed the figure in Akure, the state capital, during the signing of peace accord by the representatives of various political parties that would field candidates for the election.
Harrison said the men and officers are expected to arrive in the state five days before the actual election date.
She said the personnel on arrival would be deployed straight to various parts of the state in order to be familiar with the environment where they would work on election day.
The commissioner said the command had identified some areas with difficult terrain that cannot be assessed easily hence the need for personnel to be on ground ahead of the time.
“We had election recently in Edo State and no live was lost; so the police shall do everything possible to ensure improvement on what was achieved in the state.
“I have spoken with my bosses on the need for adequate security during the forthcoming election and I had been given the assurances.
“To ensure that the message goes down the line to men that would be on duty, I had invited all the 47 Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) to a meeting. I will tell them to listen to the people and take appropriate action,” she said.
The commissioner urged candidates and leaders of political parties to warn their supporters to desist from any act that can break down law and order during campaigns for votes.
She said the police frowned at the act tearing opponents’ posters and bill boards, stating that perpetrators would be dealt with decisively.
“We have set the machinery in motion to arrest perpetrators of Owo incident of assault which caused harm. We shall get them and make them face the law.
“For any crime committed, whoever commits such crime would be punished,” she said.
She advised politicians to warn their supporters against throwing objects that can harm people, adding that the command was aware of shooting into the air during campaigns.