•Abdulsalami’s peace committee to meet Buhari
•Gov Uzodinnma, storms Edo, mobilises Ndigbo
•PDP, APC accuse each other of underhand tactics to rig
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
With just six days to Edo governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared anyone without Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) will not be allowed to vote.
This is contrary to reports that the electoral umpire might have resolved to use the incidence forms for voters, whose PVC malfunctions during the Saturday, September 19, governorship election. The commission has said there was no such intentions and that those without their PVCs stood no chance of voting at all.
Also, the commission has debunked allegation that the reappointment of some of INEC’s national commissioners whose tenures are expected to elapse in November has been tied to the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Edo election.
As a result, the National Peace Committee led by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, is likely to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari soon with a view to soliciting for the neutrality of all security agencies and the INEC during the Edo governorship election.
This is as the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) accused each other of underhand tactics to rig next Saturday’s election.
But some Edo community leaders in the state, led by their chairman, Dickson Omoregie, Friday called for peace in the elections, by asking for a critical review of security deployment and zero interference of other agencies of government, who have roles to play in the management of the election.
In the same breath, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinnma, yesterday stormed Benin City, the Edo State Capital, where was being honoured and seized the opportunity of the occasion to mobilise the Igbo community in support of the APC and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY on the procedure for the election should the PVC malfunction, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education, Information and Publicity, Festus Okoye, said there would be no voting without the voter’s card readers.
“The Commission will continue to improve on its technological solutions. The Smart Card Reader remains a veritable tool for verification and authentication in the accreditation process. Our resolve is to make it more robust, more efficient and smarter.
“We will continue to improve on the Smart Card Reader Technology. The Commission has not commissioned and has not carried out a study that indicates that authentication using the Smart Card Reader has reduced from 80% to about 30%.
“The Smart Card Reader has brought credibility to the electoral process and the Commission will continue to deploy it. We have made it smarter and more robust and we will continue to improve on it. Only persons with the Permanent Voters Cards whose name appear on the voters’ register will move towards the verification and authentication ladder.
“Those that are not in possession of the Permanent Voters’ Card and whose names are not on the voters’ register will not be allowed to vote. The Smart Card Reader will continue to be used for verification and authentication,” he explained.
On why INEC would the Z-pad technology in the Edo governorship election instead of the former Iris scam technology, Okoye said, “The Commission will continue to control its technological solutions and will never allow technology to drive the process. The Commission has been test running a couple of technological solutions and the facial recognition software for secondary accreditation is one of them.
“The Commission deployed the solution to the Nasarawa Central bye-election and noticed challenges with its performance. We are back on the drawing board perfecting it, aligning it and making it more robust as a secondary accreditation solution.
“The Commission will continue to use the Z-pad to upload polling unit results to the Result Viewing Portal. The Commission will only deploy technological solutions it has tested with small bye-elections and is confident of their performance in bigger elections. A responsible Commission will not gamble with a big end of tenure election conducted in the shadow of a pandemic,” he said.
However, addressing the allegations that the INEC national commissioners, whose tenures are due to end in November would be rewarded with a reappointment if they traded off Edo state governorship election in favour of the APC, he dismissed it as untrue.
“Every national commissioner knows his entry and exit date. All the national commissioners are accomplished professionals and some of them are looking forward to returning to their normal lives. More fundamentally, national commissioners are focused on delivering the two-end of tenure elections taking place under the shadow of a pandemic.
“The two elections are crucial to the democratic process and most national commissioners are fine-tuning the programmes of the departments they supervise. It is counterproductive to engage in speculative assumptions and make deductions that are not backed up with verifiable and cogent facts.”
Okoye, therefore, challenged the PDP to produce evidence that one of national commissioners is working in cahoots with the APC to swap and compromise the list of Supervisory Presiding Officers.
“Those with proof of tampering or doctoring or compromised list of Supervisory Presiding Officers should come forward with the evidence. The long-standing policy of the Commission, which is in the public domain, is to recruit Supervisory Presiding Officers from Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.
“These categories of officers apply for recruitment through INEC dedicated portal with their photographs, identity cards and attestation. The applicants are further vetted before they are issued with letters of appointment. The activities of the Commission are carried out transparently. All the political parties contesting the election will be at the Central Bank for the distribution of the materials.
“All the political parties were availed of their statutory right to nominate polling agents. The Commission is constitutionally mandated to organise, undertake and supervise elections. Plotting and conspiracy do not form part of the mandate of the Commission. Our responsibility is to organise a good and acceptable election in Edo and Ondo States,” Okoye explained.
Thus, ahead of Tuesday’s peace accord signing amongst all the political parties contesting the Edo State governorship election, indications are rife that the chairman of the committee, General Abubakar has been scheduled to meet privately with President Buhari on the need for a free and credible election in the state.
The committee headed by Abubakar met Friday to perfect how to ensure peace during the September 19 governorship election at a popularly hotel in Abuja last Friday, where it was resolved that the former military head of state should meet President Buhari.
A source at the meeting, who hinted at the development, said the idea of meeting the president was to ensure that all security agencies and INEC remain neutral in the election.
“We cannot keep quiet as the drumbeats of war in the election is becoming too load. We cannot keep quite and bloods are shed in the name of election. Election should be seen as service and not violence,” the source said.
However, accusing each other of underhand tactics to rig the election, while the PDP cried over alleged suspicious movement of persons from Lagos and other parts of the country into the state, the APC has asked the federal government and the people of the state to rein in Governor Godwin Obaseki and the PDP whom it alleged of fostering insecurity in the state.
State Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chris Osa Nehikhare, who spoke on behalf of the party’s Campaign Council said: “We have just been alerted that 10 Hummer buses left Ojo Military Cantonment in Lagos for Auchi, Edo State this morning. This is one out of over 10 such calls we have received in the last 48 hours.”
He urged the various security agencies in the country to pay more than the usual attention to these movements in order to ensure that Edo voters were insulated from harm before, during and after the election in the state.
Nehikhare stated: “We are liaising with the relevant security agencies to ascertain the mission(s) of these persons flocking into the state and we advise members of the public to watch out for persons whose presence and activities in their neighborhood, are suspicious and report same to the police and other law enforcement agencies.”
On its part, the APC in a statement by the Chairman, Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, accused Governor Obaseki and his party, of several security breaches in the state in the build-up to the September 19 elections in Edo State and asked all the relevant security agencies to take adequate note in case of any breach of law and order before, during and after the election.
“We want Governor Obaseki and the PDP to give Nigerians the assurance that Edo State will not degenerate into a full blown crisis-riddled polity by answering to the following reports that we have received concerning the elections. Youths in Edo have informed us of the mass concentration of arms currently stored all over the state for the elections.
“We also have reports of mass infiltration of thugs and PDP militants, who have been lodged in hotels within the state and border towns. Fake personnel in security uniforms have also been spotted all over Edo State, some of them in bars and joints,” he said.
Revealing more threats to the state security architecture, the APC pointed out that, “30 feet fellows; we found out, have been allocated to work in strategic polling units and hijack election materials, while APC chieftains have been kidnapped or marked for abduction. False charges have been levelled against illegally arrested and detained APC chieftains and several SAs and SSAs have been armed for the election.”
Also, the party alleged that the governor runs a strike force called the ‘WABIZGAN’ and that the force has been assigned to undermine a free and fair conduct of the election in Edo State.
In the same vein, Omoregie, while addressing a press conference on behalf of the Edo Community Leaders said, “We will like to thank our royal father and the chairman of the Edo state traditional council, the Oba of Benin for his wise and timely counsel to the contesting political parties, the contestants and their teeming supporters across political divides, which did set the tone for this press conference, which is primarily centred on the need for a peaceful and well administered election across the state despite the inflammatory and aggressive rhetoric during campaign periods”.
According to him, “We urge the electoral umpire and relative security details to abide by these institutional provisions with due diligence to create an enabling environment for the peaceful conduct of the Edo election.
“As we evolve as a democratic nation, steps must be taken to reduce electoral violence through enabling policies, building strong and adaptive institutions and promoting inclusion in governance, where winners don’t take it all.”
The group, therefore, called for a rethink of the electoral security, lower electoral stakes, support for democratisation beyond elections, resolving existing conflicts at local levels to promote inclusion and reforming the existing electoral system to addressing the yearnings of minorities in the country.
Furthermore, the group appealed to all persons of political interests in Edo State to eschew politics of violence and demagogue, especially, as they affect the young people, emerging leaders and established sons and daughters of the state, who are not just the pride or human capitals, but “our rare guards, considering how tribal our regional and national politics have become.
“For it is of basic wisdom to note that a community, which pulls down its walls during local squabbles, will be left bare, exposed and vulnerable, when faced with external aggression. Friends, we need our bests to negotiate and defend our strategic interests within the wider Nigeria’s democratic and political context.
“To our daddy politicians, we are saying, ‘Please, calm down’ for there is life outside politics and a people, way of lives, civilisations and state to protect, sustain after every election,” Omoregie stated.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Governor, Uzodinma, who seized the occasion of his reception by the Igbo Youth Union (IYU) in Benin, a youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo to canvass votes for the APC described Obaseki’s tax policies as anti Igbos and therefore urged the Ndigbo in Edo State to vote for Ize-Iyamu and the APC.
“Obaseki and his PDP have been blackmailing the APC, alleging that we want to rig election. Meanwhile, that is exactly what he is planning. But, let me tell our Igbo people to go out there and vote for APC. We will protect the votes. We will stop Obaseki from rigging.
“We have many of our brothers and sisters, who own businesses in Edo State, but those businesses are suffering today due to the inhuman policies of the PDP administration in Edo.
“As Igbos, we must be vigilant, so that people will not deceive you. PDP is coming today begging for your votes just because they need it now, but that is a deceit. This governor does not like the Igbos. They are only coming, because of the votes and after that, Obaseki will abandon you.
Earlier, Chairman of the Igbo Youth Union, Obinna Anwatu, said Governor Uzodimma’s presence in Edo State has heightened their determination to deliver APC in the election, adding that the award given to the governor was in recognition of his developmental strides across the 27 local government areas of Imo State.
Immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, described Uzodimma as a genuine party man, adding that his eight months reign so far as governor of Imo State, has occasioned genuine progress in the state.