Crowd at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City

By Kenneth Ehigiator & Gabriel Enogholase
LAGOS—NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and Action Congress chieftains, Thursday, boycotted the “One man, One Vote” rally in Benin organized by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State over the presence of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, and Senate President, David Mark.

This came even as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan,  identified the liberation of all Nigerians through transparent, free and fair elections as the quickest route towards strengthening the unity of the country.

Tinubu had flown out of Lagos for the Benin rally in company of Action Congress, AC, governorship candidates in Ekiti and Osun States, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, around 10:00a.m. Another aircraft was positioned to fly Fashola and his entourage for the event.

About an hour later, the aircraft that was to fly Fashola to Benin was withdrawn, while his advance party at the airport went back to Governor’s Office at Alausa.

Vanguard learnt that the governor received a security report that General Babangida and the Senate president were already in Benin for the same rally and aborted the journey.

About two hours after Tinubu’s plane took off in Lagos, it returned to the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport with the former governor, AC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, National Secretary, Usman Bugaje, National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as well as Fayemi and Aregbesola.

Edo women at the oneman one vote rally

Shortly after the plane touched down at the airport, the private jet which had Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on board, also landed.

Speaking in an interview with newsmen shortly after, Soyinka said: “Let me just put it this way, this is the last straw, pointing to a newspaper. I saw this and this is the last straw, the guest of honour, David Mark.

“That is all I will say to you right now. I think the people that gave me a ride will have a lot more to say, referring to Tinubu and his AC delegation.”

On the removal of Iwu, Prof. Soyinka lauded his sack, saying it was just the beginning of the electoral reforms.
He said: “We have always said this that the system is very important, very fundamental and also those who operate the system must be held culpable any time there is a flaw in the system to deliver to the nation.

“The little irritant, which, however, was a very big one has been removed, but we are still being confronted with the major issue, which is the adoption of the Justice Uwais reform. That is the crucial thing.

Removing of the bad driver

“I don’t want anybody to underestimate the importance of removing this bad driver who was given a rickety vehicle to drive and proceeded to smash it deliberately and virtually decimate all the passengers in that rickety vehicle. The removal of that driver and his punishment, these are also critical in sanitizing the rickety vehicle.”

Reacting to the boycott, AC National Secretary, Alhaji Usman Bugaje, said it was not possible for the party’s delegation to have remained in Benin to attend the rally with a  Senate president that destroyed recommendations of Justice Mohammed Uwais’ electoral reforms panel report.

He said: “We went to Edo for a rally on “one man, one vote,” meaning a rally on electoral reform so that we can press home the point that we cannot afford to continue with the kind of electoral system that we have seen, that we must have a free, fair, credible and transparent election.

“But when we went, we found out that a stage had been set for one of the presidential aspirants on a platform, which is not our party and we thought our participation will mean some kind of endorsement, which we were not prepared to do.”

Jonathan identifies route to unity

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, identified the liberation of all Nigerians through transparent, free and fair elections as the quickest route towards strengthening the unity of the country.

Also yesterday, former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida got a dose of what awaited him in his bid to contest the presidential election in 2011.

Acting President Jonathan who spoke in the Edo State capital during the One Man, One Vote rally organized by the Edo State government, said: “There is no doubt that our aspiration for liberty and protection of our fundamental freedom cannot be achieved when citizens have their rights abridged at will by undemocratic forces.

“The pre-eminent mission of this generation must, therefore, be to deliver on the promise of good governance through the process of election that is free, fair and acceptable. Any society or country that closes the vital valves of its democratic space cannot develop at a reasonable pace. For where there is no opportunity for one man, one vote, there will be no accountability and correspondingly no responsibility.

“We are gathered here, I believe, to denounce electoral fraud otherwise known as rigging or better still, vote stealing. To me, electoral fraud is the basest from of corruption and we must do everything in our power to bring this to an end.”


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