By Anayo Okoli
Umuahia – OPPOSITION parties in Abia State have alleged that the state government has consistently refused to provide a level playing field for them to have a healthy campaign in the state.
This came as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, assured that it was ready to conduct credible polls in the state.
At a stakeholders meeting INEC held with political parties, the parties laid their complaints before the commission. They alleged that their campaigns and other political activities were being stalled by the refusal of the state government to grant them access to public places and the state-run radio.
Specifically, they alleged that the government passed a directive to all heads of public institutions, such as schools and stadia, banning opposition parties from using them for rallies.
Abia State chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Evangelist Cassidy Agbai, told the forum that there was no landing space for the opposition in Abia State as government had banned them from using school premises, stadia or any open space belonging to it.
The governorship candidate of Community Party of Nigeria, Rev Obioma Onyeaghala, also reinforced the allegation when he informed the forum that he was even being prohibited from campaigning in the markets, just as his supporters who paste his posters around the city of Umuahia, were allegedly always arrested by security agencies.
Onyeaghala condemned the acts he called “intimidation” and urged security agencies to rise to the occasion if they wanted peaceful polls in Abia State. He warned that if the opposition was pushed to the wall, they would react and that when they react, peace would be severely threatened.
All the speakers, including candidates for other positions, accused the government of not providing a level playing ground for democracy to thrive.
Action Congress candidate for Arochukwu Ohafia Federal Constituency, Chief Amah Abraham Nnanna, in his contribution, urged INEC to find the antidote to rigging of election at local government headquarters, ensure early delivery of election materials as well as tackle intimidation of voters by government officials and federal and state legislators during polling.
However, in his reaction, Action Congress governorship candidate, Prince Paul Ikonne, urged politicians to co-operate with INEC in making April polls credible.
He said: “INEC can’t rig elections without the connivance of politicians and political parties. It is the responsibility of politicians to educate the electorate on how to make their votes count by voting wisely. Abians will protest if there is any attempt to alter election results. Go back home, sensitise the people on how to bring about the desired change.”
Addressing the forum, Abia State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Austin Okojie, urged politicians in the state to play the game according to the rules.