By Kingsley Omonobi
Fresh tension was building up in parts of the South West yesterday following the deployment of troops in the area ahead of today’s presidential election.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which swept the polls in last week’s National Assembly election in the zone expressed shock at “the reported plan by the PDP-controlled Federal Government to deploy troops to Lagos and other states in the South West as part of a sinister motive to intimidate voters in the region.
“We know that the PDP is totally distraught at the shellacking it received in the South-West in the hands of our party in last week’s National Assembly poll, and has thus grown desperate ahead of the remaining elections.
But we’ve got news for the PDP: The worst is yet to come, as the people of the region will totally reject the party on Saturday and in subsequent poll,’’ ACN said through its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed
ACN said it was particularly worrisome that some of the troops “were reportedly being mandated to occupy collations centres from the ward to local government and state levels, all in a bid to rig the presidential election for President Goodluck Jonathan and then portray last week’s result in the National Assembly poll in the region as a fluke.
The party said the decision to militarise the South-West runs contrary to assurances given by INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Azubike Ihejirika, that soldiers would not be deployed at polling units or collation centres and would only intervene to restore order if the need arises.”
We remain apolitical – Army
However the Army says the deployment of its officers and soldiers notwithstanding, it remains apolitical in the choice of Nigerian citizenry.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Rafael Isa told newsmen in Abuja yesterday, that despite the apprehension being expressed in some quarters about the necessity for the Army to be called out, “We (Army) will keep doing our constitutional duties the way we are meant to do it”.
Speaking on isolated incidents of skirmishes between army personnel deployed for election duties and voters or other officials, Isa said, “Our personnel have been trained. Our patrols are well positioned for the job of providing security.
Each and every one of them has the armed forces code of conduct for the elections. If there are problems, all you do is to explain yourself to them. And be patient with our patrol teams on the road.”
Asked to give the number of soldiers deployed for the election exercise, the spokesman said, “All I can tell you is that the Nigeria Army is adequately deployed. We don’t have any business with polling booths but we are to provide security to both INEC and security of the environment”
“In the last National Assembly elections, our patrols reported encounters with people who wanted to snatch ballot boxes and our men did very well. Our men apprehended several of the culprits and promptly handed them to the police for prosecution.”