“We will deal decisively with all sponsors of violence. I have given the security services clear directives in this regard. We will show that violence in any form will no longer be tolerated before, during and after the elections.”
With these belated but reassuring words, President Muhammadu Buhari signified the determination of the Federal Government to ensure that the rerun legislative polls in Rivers State billed for tomorrow will be conduct free, fair and safe manner.
We want to see these words matched with concrete action during these rerun elections in which many State House of Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives posts rendered vacant at the Election and Appeal Tribunals will be contested for by registered political parties.
In readiness for the elections, the Nigerian Police have sent the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 6, Mr Baba Bolanta, to take charge in addition to three Commissioners of Police already drafted. The Police have also mobilised 6,000 regulars as well as 16 units of the Police Mobile Force (MOPOL) who will join men and women of the Rivers State Police Command to provide security. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Commission (NSCDC) have also deployed 2,000 personnel.
These and other underground security and military officials were mustered in view of the tension and violence that pervaded the run up to, and during, the 2015 general elections as well as the build-up to the current rerun. The 2015 elections in the state were overshadowed by unprecedented spates of killings. For instance, a fact finding mission led by the former Chairman of the Nigerian Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), Prof Chidi Odinkalu, disclosed that 97 people were killed between November 2014 and April 2015.
While the All Progressives Congress. APC alleged that 32 of its members have already been killed since the date for the rerun polls was fixed, Governor Nyesom Wike, who launched a special security programme recently, however, insisted that those killed were cult members who died during clashes between rival gangs.
We call on all stakeholders, especially Governor Wike and the leader of the APC in the state, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, to stop their sabre-rattling and lead by example. All political parties must cooperate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies for the elections to succeed.
We urge the INEC and security agencies to do their jobs professionally and not see themselves as agents of vested political interests so as not to encourage anyone to resort to “self-help” and compromise the safety of voters, electoral officials and innocent citizens.
The Rivers rerun polls must be free, fair, credible and peaceful.