Dousing Tension, Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, Others Commit to Peaceful Election

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•Tinubu urges electorate to reject Edo gov
•We will win, Atiku, PDP reply

By Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Peter Uzoho in Lagos and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, all the political parties and their candidates, particularly the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Godwin Obaseki, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, yesterday signed a peace accord to ensure peaceful conduct before, during and after the election.

The peace deal signed in Benin City, Edo State capital, which seeks to douse the rising pre-election tension was brokered by the Nigeria Peace Committee (NPC), led by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd); and supported by the Kukah Centre for Faith, Leadership and Public Policy, headed by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.

The peace deal occurred on the day Obaseki and the PDP berated the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, for his campaign against the Edo State governor.

The former Lagos State governor had in a viral video called on the people of Edo State to reject Obaseki in the state’s governorship election holding this weekend.

Promising to abide by the peace agreement, Obaseki said he is fully committed to a peaceful election.

The Edo governor, however, appealed to the NPC to also reach out to other political actors in the election who have an influence on the polity so as to get full assurance that the process is sacrosanct.

He said: “I want to say on behalf of myself, as a candidate of the party and my party, the PDP, that we are fully committed to ensuring that we have a peaceful election. I have no choice because, in addition to being a candidate, I am also the governor and the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the state.

“I want to commit publicly, once again, that I will live by the letter and spirit of the accord that has just been signed.”

Ize-Iyamu, also promised an unwavering commitment to the peace accord.

“Let me reaffirm our commitment to what has been signed and to assure Nigerians and particularly our people in Edo State, that we will talk to all our supporters and we will conduct ourselves peacefully. We will do our best to ensure that the election is peaceful. We support free, fair and credible election. We believe that is the only way that we can sustain our democracy,” he said, adding: “We want to assure all our dignitaries that, by the grace of God, the election is going to be very peaceful. We thank you and we are grateful.”

Abdulsalami said the essence of the accord was to ensure a peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the election.

He noted that it is not just for the candidates to sign the peace accord but to also accept the outcome of the election by telling their supporters to eschew violence.

He said: “We want a situation where voters will come out on Election Day without fear of harassment and intimidation. We urge all the stakeholders and key people to be committed to the Peace Accord and ensure that peace reigns during and after the election.

“As you are all aware since 1999, democratic elections in Nigeria have been conducted with varying degrees of violence.” He said the tension and anxiety around elections necessitated the setting up of the National Peace Committee whose mandate is to support peaceful election processes and cultivate a culture of peace.

The former Head of State stressed that in 2014, the committee commenced efforts to support free, fair and credible elections and to ensure a peaceful transition, adding that the intervention of the committee contributed immensely to the success of the 2015 election.

He further stated that since that time, NPC has successfully intervened in elections to ensure a peaceful outcome right after the just past 2019 general election.

“The gubernatorial election in Edo State is just a few days away and having peace during and after the election is a priority which must be done,” he said, adding: “We as a people should aspire to see a Nigeria where people feel safe to come out of their homes to cast their votes without any fear.”

Abdulsalami explained that election could not hold in the absence of a peaceful atmosphere and said disharmony among political parties was responsible for the tensions usually witnessed during elections.

“Therefore, all contesting parties need to adopt a code of conduct that will remove confrontation among them,” he said.

Earlier, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, represented by Deputy Inspector General Adeleye Oyebade, assured the peacemakers that the police would ensure that there is peace and tranquillity and promised that citizens who want to vote will do so freely.

Also in his remarks, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, thanked conveners of the meeting especially for what they had done, particularly for coming to Benin to assist in preaching peace and tranquility before, during and after the election.

The Oba, who was represented by the Esogban of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, also said he has been doing his best to see that the prediction of violence and bloodshed does not come to pass, pointing out that elections in Edo State have never produced such acrimony since the history of participatory election.

He said the candidates of the two major political parties are descendants of people who have ruled Edo in peace.

Present at the epoch-making event were the INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, among others.

The parties that signed the peace accord are APM, APP, APGA, LP, NRM, NNPP, YPP, APC, PDP and SDP

Reject Obaseki, Tinubu Urges Edo Electorate

Meanwhile, Tinubu has called on the people of Edo State to reject Obaseki in the state’s governorship election holding this weekend.

Tinubu made the call yesterday in a televised broadcast programme, whose short video clip was circulated online.

He said he was making the appeal as a committed democrat and the leader of all democrats in the country regardless of political parties.

The former Lagos State governor said he had suffered along with many others to bring the democratic regime being enjoyed by everyone in the country today, stressing that Obaseki did not participate in any aspect of the struggle to enshrine democracy in the country, and so could not understand the value and the pains that were associated with the democratic struggle.

The former governor of Lagos State said Obaseki prevented 14 of the 24 elected state lawmakers from being inaugurated.

He said the governor refused to take the advice of the National Assembly and the Attorney-General of the Federation to let the 14 members of the House of Assembly to be inaugurated.

Tinubu said rather than let them be inaugurated, Obaseki supervised the destruction of the House of Assembly complex all in a bid to prevent them from being sworn-in.

He, therefore, called on the people of Edo State to punish the governor.

“He demonstrated the act of dictatorship, lack of respect for rule of law, lack of respect for you the people who voted for those legislators prevented from being sworn-in. Today, he now comes back as a democrat wanting you to vote for him. Please, I appeal to you, reject him,” he said.

We Will Win, Atiku, PDP Reply

But in a swift response, Obaseki, in a press statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, told Tinubu that he could not extend his political empire to Edo State.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the PDP also replied Tinubu saying he was labouring in vain as the party would win the election.

“I urge all duly registered voters of conscience and who truly care about the wellbeing of Edo to turn out en masse to cast and defend their vote for Governor Obaseki,” Atiku said on his verified Twitter handle yesterday.

In the statement titled: ‘You can’t extend your political empire to our state – Edo govt tells Tinubu,’ Obaseki said Edo people were determined to end godfatherism in the state.

Obaseki said: “It has become obvious that the spirited fight which Edo people have put up against godfatherism has sent tremors beyond the shores of Edo to the likes of Tinubu, who has for years sustained a stranglehold on Lagos and other states in South-Western Nigeria, hence this desperate, last-ditch effort to rescue the unproductive political instrument, now popularly referred to as godfatherism, with which he has feathered his nest and built his political empire at the expense of the people.

“Tinubu knows clearly that come September 19, when godfatherism would have been dismantled in Edo State, the people of Lagos may just have found the recipe and the formula for removing the chokehold placed on their collective destinies for decades by Tinubu, hence the inciting television broadcast.”

Obaseki described the allegation that he prevented the inauguration of lawmakers in the state as false.

Also, reacting to the issue, the PDP, which rounded off its governorship campaign yesterday, said that it was amused by what it described as the amateur video released by Tinubu, in which “he arrogated to himself supremacy powers, lord over the people of Edo State and dictate their choice of leadership.”

The party said Tinubu was labouring in vain because its candidate would win the election soundly.

The PDP said that it is indeed pathetic and derisory that “Tinubu is claiming to be the leader of all democrats in Nigeria, which obviously he is not, while at the same time violating the fundamental of democracy, which is allowing people to freely choose their leaders without confrontations with lies, coercion, mudslinging, slanders and beguiling as exhibited in his amateur video.”

The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement in Abuja: “It smacks of unpardonable hypocrisy that an individual who claims to be a democrat will at the same time choose to sit in the comfort of his residence to insult the people of Edo State over their manifest choice of Governor Godwin Obaseki as their preferred leader, for another term of four years, due to his sterling democratic qualities and performance in office.

“We know that Asiwaju is desperate to re-launch himself into relevance but can someone who wants the nation to believe that he is a democrat be campaigning alongside self-confessed liar, who has been rejected by his kinsmen and suspended as national chairman of his party, all in the quest to install a stooge in office?”

The spokesman of the PDP reminded the former Lagos State governor that Edo State is not part of his fiefdom “and that the needless sanctimonious pomposity, which he displayed in the broadcast, will never sway the people.”

Play by Rules Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal Task Politicians

Meanwhile, as the world yesterday marked the International World Democracy Day, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and the Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, said democracy would grow in Nigeria when politicians play by the rules.

The Sokoto State governor has also insisted that any electoral victory obtained through means other than the legitimate votes of the people is nothing short of a coup d’état.

Atiku said the democracy that Nigerians are enjoying today was procured at a great price.

He said: “We can only deepen and sustain it (democracy) by respecting the sanctity of the ballot and necessary review of our electoral processes.

“As the great people of Edo State go to the polls to elect their governor this weekend, they need to be provided with a secured environment to cast their votes and be assured that their votes will count.

“I urge all duly registered voters of conscience and who truly care about the wellbeing of Edo to turn out en masse to cast and defend their vote for Governor Obaseki.”

Saraki also spoke in Abuja yesterday at a ceremony to mark World Democracy Day organised by the Centre for the Advancement of Civil Liberties.

According to him, “It is also important to stress that democracy can only grow if those of us who are politicians get ready to play by the rules at all times.

“Politicians must stop the mentality of electoral victory at all cost. The stability of the nation’s democracy and peace of the nation are definitely higher goals than the personal aspiration of individual politicians.

“Politicians must learn to always act in a manner that gives confidence to the people that truly, elections still provide the best process for sourcing leaders and kicking out those that are not wanted by the people.”

He called on political actors to sometimes suppress the desire for power and take sides with the survival of the system.

“When I argue that politicians should learn to accept election results and demonstrate patriotism even in the face of naked provocation, it is based on my experience. The lives of our people, the stability of our democracy and the peace of the society are more important than our personal interest or the inflated egos of the leaders,” he said.

The former senate president charged members of the National Assembly to make haste to commence the process of amending the electoral act, explaining that the Edo and Ondo States governorship elections should have been the starting point for the reforms.

Saraki said: “This should be a starting point for our demand for a credible electoral process. Whilst we wait for the new Electoral Bill to be passed, we can begin to demand that the right things are done by all stakeholders in these elections.

“Led by President Muhammadu Buhari, we can ensure that these two elections signpost his desire to leave for Nigeria and Africa a legacy of true democracy and clean electoral process. President Buhari must use the Edo and Ondo elections to demonstrate ECOWAS commitment to a credible electoral process.

“The President must put his feet down and ensure that the security agencies will, and must, not be misused to influence the results of the elections in Edo and Ondo States. Also, the electoral commission should be made to be truly immune from manipulations by individuals, no matter how highly placed.”

In a statement titled: “Tambuwal: Rigging is coup d’état,” which he signed and issued to commemorate the 2020 edition of United Nations International Day of Democracy, the Sokoto State governor argued that the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States are test cases of the country’s preparedness for a rule-based and consent-enabled governance.

Tambuwal who is also the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum said: “It has become imperative to rethink the role of not just the electoral umpire but also the activities of various security agencies in our electoral process in such a manner as to instill in them the culture of inflexible support for democracy and its practice.

“Any electoral victory obtained other than through the legitimate votes of the people is nothing short of a coup d’état.”

While quoting the preamble of the UN resolution to buttress his point, the governor said “…While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region… democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.”

The governor appealed to the National Assembly to immediately conclude the long-overdue amendments to the Electoral Act to entrench provisions that make it impossible for rigging and manipulation of elections taking into cognisance the nation’s recent experiences.

While making a case for electronic voting, Tambuwal said provisions should be made for a test run before the 2023 general election.

In a veiled reference to the failures of the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari, he said: “It bears repeating to say that good governance anchored on a sound economy and corrupt-free progressive social, cultural, and infrastructural development is a sine qua non for sustainable democracy.”