2023 Polls: The People’s Will Must Prevail, Says National Security Adviser

*Allays concerns, declares election will take place 

*Says govs attacking opposition suffering from inferiority complex 

*Promises security agencies will come after political thugs 

*No gov will be allowed to stop opposition rallies, IG vows

Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja  and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin 

The National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno, yesterday, assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari, had given a clear directive that the will of the people must prevail in the 2023 general election and that’s exactly what the government would ensure happens during the elections. 

The NSA, who further allayed concerns by some Nigerians about the feasibility of the 2023 elections, however, promised that the elections would take place and in an atmosphere that is without intimidation.

According to Monguno, who read Riot Act ahead of the elections, the federal governmentwould not tolerate any political crisis in the states, and therefore warned governors using thugs to prevent opposition from mounting campaign materials in their domains to desist forthwith from such acts as security agencies would soon go after them, adding that governors in such habit were merely suffering inferiority complex. 

This is as the Nigerian Police Force, yesterday, warned that none of its personnel deployed to man the inner rings of polling booths should be seen bearing lethal weapons during the elections, even as the Inspector-General, Usman Baba, has vowed that no governor would be allowed to stop opposition rallies again.

Speaking yesterday with newsmen at the State House, Abuja, Monguno, said, “One thing I can assure you is the President has given clear directives that the people’s will must prevail. What happened in Anambra is what we want to happen all over the country. 

“Let the people choose their leader, whoever they want, then, later they can decide but in the process of selecting who governs them. We must be mindful of the fact that there are people who are hell bent on forcing or bullying and cornering their opponents is not even a function of you know, numbers or function of money.”

Responding to a question on whether or not the federal government would be able to secure next year’s election, he said, “I hope your question is not a trap. But the elections will take place, we have said that. By the grace of Almighty, they will take place in an atmosphere bereft of intimidation and violence, we’ll try as much as possible to maintain that. 

“For those people, who’ve been going around burning offices, killing people, I have already said it, the security agencies have been given that instruction. Visit them with all you have and let them understand that there are consequences for bad behaviour that we are determined. Everybody’s a Nigerian, everybody’s free to do whatever he wants to do, but don’t cross the line and move into another person’s territory.

“That you want to destroy government property, property set up by taxpayers money? How dare you? Who the hell are you? In a normal society, this is not tolerated, and I believe we’re normal society, how can you just on your own, so please, let’s forget that one.”

He said security agencies had been given instructions to give those burning government facilities like the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the treatment they deserve.

According to him, when the law enforcement agencies move, there will be no hiding place for the perpetrators of the dastardly acts. 

Monguno, who particularly, reacted to reports of governors implementing policies that prevented the presence of opposition campaign materials in their states, blamed the action on what he called inferiority complex.

According to him, politicians hiring thugs did not believe in themselves, and warned that any person that engaged in any unpalatable activity would be dealt with.

The NSA, who cautioned the governors to rein in their thugs, said President Muhammadu Buhari, had given clear directives that the 2023 election must be free, fair and credible.

He told the governors to “call their Capo regime to order, because when we move, there will be no hiding place.”

On why some governors were not allowing opposition political parties to campaign in their states and even pull down their campaign posters, Monguno said, “Well, it’s not something that is new to us; it’s been like that going all the way back to 1999. And if you want, you can see going all the way back even to the Second Republic, probably the first republic.

“We had a press briefing with the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission about a week ago, and we emphasised the need for everybody to operate on a level playing field.

“It’s a big problem. It’s a problem that’s also linked with complex, because if you are really who you are, you don’t need to hire thugs. If you cannot restrain your thugs, the government will do that for you. And you will call on the cabinet and you will answer questions.

“We have a lot of politicians and I’m not being specific about any politician but this virus has to be contained. I have given a clear warning during the press conference that any politician,who engages in any activity and unpalatable activity, the use of thugs and I know we have a lot of thugs, political thugs, straining at the leash, foaming at the mouth, desperate to buy blood.

“But we’re going to apply everything within the powers of the government. And I’m not saying that we’re going to just operate in a manner that is not regulated. The government is not going to embark on anything that is, you know, uncontrolled. We will operate on the straight and narrow confining ourselves to legality that I can assure you the President’s directives. And we’re working on that.

“So those elements, who think they can deny other people the air to breathe – the political air to to breathe and reach out to the local community. So, they have another thing and I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again.

“These political elements should call the thugs of that capo regimes to order. They should have a nice quiet fireside chat with them, and advise them that when the law enforcement agencies come, they’ll be dealt with.”

Similarly, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has declared that no governor would be allowed to prevent opposition political parties from holding rallies in their states.

The police chief, who spoke at the 2022 political parties summit held in Abuja, said Commissioners of Police in the 36 States were directed to ensure that all parties were given an opportunity to campaign, threatening to redeploy any police commissioner, who did not obey the order.

“Unfortunately, some of the governors are not helping matters. They have not laid the foundation to give other political parties access to their campaign avenues..

“Some try to manipulate the campaigns. Some even sponsor thugs to pursue the opposition, remove their billboards, remove their posters and destroy their offices. We are aware and we have full reports.

“Based on this, the IG has categorically directed all commissioners of police that on no account should any serving or sitting governor stop other political parties from conducting their campaigns in their nooks and crannies of their states.

“This instruction was very clear both in writing and verbally. The commissioners of police have been directed to arrest all the hoodlums no matter where they belong to, whoever is sponsoring them, we will arrest them, charge them to court. That is a clear instruction,” the IG, who was representated by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) Operations, Dandaura Mustapha, said.

He said some governors should be commended for allowing opposition parties hold their activities freely, there were complaints about others.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, in Ilorin, Kwara State, while delivering the maiden distinguished personality lecture at the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, said police would not bear lethal arms close to the polling booths, saying the affected operatives could only wield batons.

The lecture was at the instance of the Centre for Peace and Security Studies of the faith-based varsity.

Speaking on the topic, “Engendering security and public safety among stakeholders towards peaceful 2023 general election in Nigeria,” Baba said men of the police at political gatherings would be limited to the maintenance of peace and order as well as enforcement of extant laws.

Noting that officers posted to venues of elections must be acquainted with procedures guiding the conduct of the exercise, the IG noted, “All security personnel participating in the election should have the knowledge of procedurals at the election venues. That is classification of inner and outer rings respectively to serve as a guide in deployment.

“On no account should personnel deployed to the inner ring of the venue of the political events or voting centres/polling booths be seen with any lethal weapon, except baton. Involvement of the Police at political gatherings shall be limited to the maintenance of peace and order, and enforcement of extant laws.

“Officers shall at all times exercise maximum restraint while covering political gathering or deployed at voting/collation centres. Force personnel shall not at any time turn themselves into spectators but shall at all times be conscious of happenings around them, observe precautionary measures, personal and public safety while on duty.

“Police personnel shall use tact and persuasion to resolve issues, when dealing with or confronted by agitated persons, avoid escalation, where there is tension.”

He disclosed that 10,000 policemen billed for passing out from Police Colleges nationwide at the end of this month would be deployed to augment the police strength already on ground for duties in the forthcoming general election.

Baba, who spoke through the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 8 Headquarters, Lokoja, Mr. Ashafa Adekunle, vowed that the force would not tolerate acts that could jeopardise the peaceful conduct of the polls irrespective of whose ox is gored.

He said the police under his leadership had ensured that stakeholders in the elections conducted themselves within the ambit of the law and promised that the force would not be partisan in all ramifications of the polls, while urging political parties to make their campaigns issue-based and avoid inciting violence before, during and after the elections.

In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Prof. Noah Yusuf, said threats of violence were becoming real everyday, particularly, since the floor was declared open for electioneering, thus making many Nigerians and the international community to be scared and jittery.

The acting Director, Centre for Peace and Security Studies at the institution, Dr. Ruth Abiola Adimula, said the lecture was convened to keep stakeholders abreast of their roles in the next year’s elections.

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