- Clark seeks withdrawal of military from election duties Backs Okowa’s re-election bid
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
A coalition of civil society organisations and election observers have called on the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to immediately prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari against the ongoing militarisation of the South-south states ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.
This is coming as the Niger Delta leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark Wednesday appealed to the federal government to withdraw the military from all election duties across the country.
The Ijaw leader has also urged the people of Delta State to support the re-election bid of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the group, Jacob Okpanachi noted that it became imperative for the group to draw the attention of the media, the Nigerian people and the international community to the attempt to intimidate, harass and build unnecessary tensions around the election process, which ordinarily should be a civil exercise.
Okpanachi stressed that the conduct of the military during the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections and the heavy deployment of troops in states such as Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers, have raised serious concerns about the military’s involvement in partisan activities.
He stated: “We have a duty to our country, to Nigerians and democracy, in ensuring that every elements that threatens our democratic growth are challenged and rejected as a matter of patriotism.”
“We must not allow desperate politicians and their collaborators within the security agencies, to truncate this democracy. And when we find ourselves under such circumstance such as is presently being witnessed, appropriate action must be taken not allow our democracy not to be derailed
“We are calling on ECOWAS, African Union and the United Nations to immediately prevail on President Buhari, to cease the ongoing hostilities against the people of Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and other states, presently under military hostage ahead of Saturday’s elections,” he said.
Okpanachi warned that any attempt to derail democracy would be too tragic for the country to bear, adding that the country must wake up to this reality.
He added, “We want the leadership of our security agencies, particularly the military to realise that we are taking notes of all their actions and every deeds shall be accounted for.
“We shall not hesitate to further petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) if there is any violation of the people’s rights and we will begin to petition embassies and demand for measures, which include but not limited to denial and withdrawal of visas from whoever is involved in any violence that may emanate from this invasion,” Okpanachi added.
Also, the Secretary of the group, Olufemi Lawson, said that the deployment of the military in Rivers is working, noting that in Bayelsa the military has already stationed gunboat, while also designating ten local government areas (LGAs) as flash points in Akwa Ibom State.
Meanwhile, Clark yesterday appealed to the federal government to withdraw the military from all election duties across the country.
Clark, who made this appeal during a press conference held in his home town, Kiagbodo, Burutu LGA of Delta State, said from experience of the last presidential and National Assembly elections it was clear that “the involvement of the army was to intimidate and prevent South- south and South-east voters from exercising their franchise”.
Clark who is also the Convener of the Pan Niger Forum (PANDEF), alleged that the military was also used to aid and abet the manipulation of votes to favour the incumbent and to determine the general voting pattern in the country.
He expressed concern and deepest condemnation in the strongest possible terms on the reported violence and killings that characterised the presidential and National Assembly elections in parts of the country, particularly in Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos and Delta States.
He said, “the gory tales of violence at Okrika in Okrika LGA, Opobo in Opobo LGA, Bonny Island in Bonny LGA and particularly killings in Abonnema, Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State, the mindless electoral violence recorded in such places as Bassambiri, in Nembe LGA, Brass in Brass LGA, Agbere in Sagbama LGA and various parts of Southern Ijaw LGA, in Bayelsa State, is quite worrisome.”
Clark said since the presidential election was over and February 28 deadline for the military Operation Python Dance had elapsed, the army should withdraw to the barracks to forestall further hostilities and unnecessary killings in the region.
“The federal government needs to be reminded that deployment of the military on election duties is an aberration, and same as been pronounced upon and consequently laid to rest in the Court of Appeal, in the case of All Progressives Congress v Peoples Democratic Party & ORS CA/EK/EPT/GOV/1/2015 delivered on Monday, February 16, 2015,” Clark said.
Clark also appealed to every politician to play by the rules, and eschew actions capable of igniting violence and brigandage, adding that it was rather very appalling to hear desperate politicians who do not enjoy popularity in their respective constituencies reportedly sponsoring of some of these violence and killings.
He said there were cases and reports that the military intimidated every available person on their way to connive and cajole the INEC officials to perpetuate electoral fraud resulting in violence and deaths.
In another development, Clark has also appealed to the people of Delta State to support the second term bid of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, saying the governor has done creditable well to deserve a second term.
“Delta State under His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is peaceful and the government is performing. I have had cause to address an open letter to all Deltans, in my New Year Message, on the need to support Governor Okowa for his second term bid; on account of his satisfactory performance and the need for equity in Delta State.
“Delta State is made up of three senatorial districts, the Delta Central, the Delta North and the Delta South. Delta Central and Delta South senatorial districts have produced governors who served two terms each in the persons of Governors James Onanefe Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan respectively.
“It is now the turn of Delta North senatorial district to complete its turn of serving two tenures. This is not new; it has been the practice since the creation of Midwest Region on August 9, 1963, which received the round approval of the entire people of Midwest, which was a part of Western Nigeria.
“We must stand against this injustice in promoting the general good of all. Okowa should be supported to have a second term as his predecessors, as aforesaid.”
Clark said voting for Okowa for second term was the best way to promote the wellbeing of the state, urging all the people of the state to re-elect Okowa on Saturday.
Clark, also leader of the Delta Elders Forum, reiterated his belief on restructuring, saying, restructuring of Nigeria was the only way to give each and every group the opportunity of living on equity, justice and unity.
He added that without restructuring, the Niger Delta region would soon be wiped out in Nigeria or become endangered species.
“But with restructuring, we will be the owners of our resources, which we will explore and pay revenue to the federal government,” Clark added.