•Says the deployment of 73,000 security personnel was to favour PDP
The people of Osun State are still basking in the euphoria of last weekend election that saw the victory of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s second term in office. In this encounter with the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, he bares his mind on how he was abducted by security agents among other issues that transpired during the election.
By Olayinka Ajayi
Following the Federal Government’s deployment of about 73,000 security agents to Osun during the gubernatorial election, making sure it was free, fair and credible, how do you describe the victory of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who ran on the platform of the APC?
Our victory in Osun was hard fought for. That is why we all appreciate it this much. We give gratitude to Almighty God for making it possible. But the victory is mainly for the people of Osun, our candidate and our party at large.
But it is not correct as President Goodluck Jonathan would want people to believe that it was the security personnel that was on ground that ensured the kind of election we had. On the contrary, the over militarisation in Osun was designed primarily to favour the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
How do you mean?
I will give you practical examples: our concern has always been about the presence of the military personnel in Osun because we knew from our experience in the Ekiti election, that once there is such militarisation, it is the opposition, majorly the APC members, they are aiming at. In Osun, there are four to five instances how it was used to work against the interest of the APC. If you remember about two weeks to the election; there was this irresponsible display of power show by men of the State Security Service, SSS. They were all masked, in about 50 trucks, shooting sporadically into the air, terrorising and instilling fear in the residents of the state. Secondly, on the Wednesday before the election, the police and the SSS prevented the TUC and the NRC from going on a solidarity rally in support of Gov. Aregbesola which is clearly partisan. The selective arrest and attacks on only APC members clearly shows the partisanship on the part of security agents.
What actually transpired that led to your arrest by security agent prior to the election?
I was not arrested, I was abducted. On Friday evening, a day to the election, we got alarming reports about escalation of violence all over Osun being perpetrated by PDP thugs. This got the governor worried,because it might intimidate voters all over the state, which may affect their turnout on election day. So he decided to have a live broadcast that evening. We were on our way to the broadcast at the Governor’s Lodge when we ran into a roadblock with a police van and SURE-P bus parked at the side of the road. We were ordered to get out of our vehicle and also to identify ourselves, I told them my name and that I am the spokes person for APC. Immediately they bluntly told me to step-aside. I was even trying to question them on our offence before they pointed a gun at my head. They frog-matched me into their bus.
Getting into their bus, I saw about 11 armed masked men. They drove us around the town, seized our phones and finally took us to the head office of the SSS in Oshogbo. After hours of tireless waiting and dialogue, they said they were going to take us back to the spot they abducted us from, but I refused because I could not guarantee where they were taking us to following what I saw.
One of the officers later volunteered to escort us back to where our car was parked around 1 am. When we got to where our driver was, another argument ensued between the security men and the masked men asked whether we should be released or not. It took another 30 minutes of serious argument,before we were asked to get down from their bus. We were able to take refuge in the Governor’s Lodge.
Meanwhile, they were attacking the residence of Adeleke. Clearly the security men were sent to arrest and destabilise the opposition.
We were not so much bothered about the influx of security men parading Osun. But scores of miscreants were given military uniforms to wreak havoc in the state and they were being protected by the regular police and soldiers they claimed were on ground to make sure the election was credible.
We heard of a PDP big wig being given 50 soldiers from Enugu to come do what in Osun? When did the PDP big wig become a Commander! When you start bastardizing institutions because of election, it is something one should worry about. Moreover, nobody is yet to explain to us why security agents should be wearing masks during elections.
In a recent interview, the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, accused the APC of giving unnecessary excuses of millitarisation of election, while, in 2012, Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole commended President Jonathan for the influx of soldiers that made his election credible?
Were the soldiers in Edo masked? My point is, why would military men during election be masked? Secondly, did they engage hoodlums by giving them uniforms in Edo? I am a living witness to what transpired in the Osun election. I was abducted by hooded men in official uniform. I ran into a convoy of 25 vehicles and they were all in civil defence uniform. These boys were be tween 18 and 25 years old in all kind of cars, some even with foreign number plates. I challenge the defence minister, if these people didn’t enter Osun under the watchful eyes of the military. It means anybody can wear a police uniform, masked and kill anybody! Only terrorists wear masks. Why must our own security officer wear mask during election?
Following the Osun scenario, what is your expectation come 2015?
Come 2015,the people are ready for them, I can assure you of that. Whatever success we achieved in Osun, despite what the Federal Government put in place, if the people of Osun refused to be intimidated, then Nigerians are waiting for them.
There are reports making rounds barely 48hours after the election result was announced that the PDP are heading to the tribunal to contest the outcome, what do you make of it?
Let them go ahead, it’s within their right to do so. As a mater of fact, we were even surprised that we didn’t score more going by the popularity of Gov. Aregbesola. Sincerely, the PDP should not have had up to 20% of the sum total of the votes if some of our members were not intimidated.
What would you say transpired?
Many people were intimidated most especially in Ile-Ife due to so much violence on the eve of election. so they did not come out to vote. In Ife-south, our agents were intimidated that many of them did not even come. But we await what Omisore (the PDP candidate) is going to say at the tribunal. We heard they said Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was not fair. This is the first time a PDP candidate would complain about INEC!
How prepared is the Lagos APC to confront the candidacy of PDP as we heard Mr. Jimi Agbaje is coming on board on the PDP platform?
If you remember vividly in 2003, they used Koro (Obanikoro) to try to unseat Gov.Fashola but didn’t succeed. In 2007, Koro also came on board but did not succeed. Our records are there. We will make sure we project a formidable candidate that will deliver. APC starts preparing for elections from the day we are sworn in.
How do you react to the zoning of the office of the governor as being clamoured for by some people?
I am not aware of that. You know aspirants come up with all kinds of justification to have their way. But I am sure there will be a level playing ground for everybody.