By Dapo Akinrefon
Opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year message to ensure next year’s elections are free, fair and devoid of violence, but listed conditions that must be met to achieve this.
Similarly, National Chairman of Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Olu Falae, eminent lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), and other stakeholders have all agreed that once the elections are free, fair and transparent, there will not be any basis for anybody to react negatively.
APC, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it welcomed the stated commitment of President Jonathan, in his New Year message, to the conduct of free, fair and violence-free elections this year, but urged the President to match the commitment with action.
According to the statement, “the party expressed satisfaction that the President and his party have come out publicly to join APC in pledging commitment to successful and violence-free polls next month.
‘’In a statement we issued on December 28, 2014, we assured Nigerians that we will do everything in our power to make the 2015 elections violence-free. Since then, PDP National Chairman Adamu Muazu and the President have joined us in making similar pledges.
“This is a welcome development that will gladden the hearts of our citizens who are very apprehensive about the forthcoming elections.”
How to achieve it— APC
APC, however, said the best way to make the elections free, fair and devoid of violence is for the Federal Government to ensure a level-playing field for all the parties by not tampering with the independence of INEC, not using the security agencies to witch-hunt the opposition and not deliberately disenfranchising all those who are qualified to vote.
“If an election is free, fair and transparent and seen to be so by all, it will be easy for all concerned to accept the outcome, and there will be no violence. Violence only occurs when there is a realization that the process has been skewed against some in favour of others.”
It restated its assurance to Nigerians and the international community that it will do all in its power to make sure that the 2015 general elections are violence-free.
APC said: “We also restate our stand that even with the little time left for the elections to hold, a meeting of the leadership of the two main political parties, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will send a powerful message to our compatriots and indeed the international community and douse the tension that is building up ahead of the elections.”
I agree with him,
Eminent lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, in his reaction, said though he agrees with President Jonathan’s speech to deal with all those who foment trouble during the elections, the President must ensure he conducts a free, fair and credible election next month.
Speaking with Vanguard, he said: “Those are the two points in the whole story. If he will not tolerate what happened in 2011, he must ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.
“If they are free, fair and credible, there will not be any basis for anybody to react negatively.
“Once he has agreed that the elections will be free, fair and credible, in other words, votes must count and the person that is declared winner is the one that received the highest votes, then honestly what he is saying is logical.
“In such a situation, what happened in 2011 cannot be tolerated because no one should resort to violence or anger against the wishes of the people. So, I agree with him.”
Deal with anyone found culpable —Falae
On his part, National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Olu Falae, said those found culpable of attempting to foment trouble during and after the elections should be dealt with according to the law.
He said: “The authorities should ensure that we have free and fair elections and that anyone trying to disrupt elections or cause violence should be dealt with according to the law. That is what civilized societies do and that is what we must have.”
We agree with Jonathan
Throwing its weight behind the President’s decision not to tolerate post-election violence, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, said it concurred with his decision.
Its National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, who spoke with Vanguard, said: “I concur with the President because the kind of statement emanating from these political actors is not encouraging.
“Sometimes they make statements and you begin to wonder whether they are truly Nigerians. The country is bigger than anybody: be it Jonathan or the opposition parties.
“We must not allow the country to be run as it if we are running a banana republic where there is no law and order and where people get away with evil. People must know their limitations.”
He need not pay
lip service— LP
Also speaking, the Labour Party, LP, urged the President not to pay lip service to his statement, but must follow it with actions.
Its National Secretary, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, in a chat, said: “I concur with his statements because the President owes all Nigerians the duty to ensure law and order.
“Whether we like or not, the aftermath of the 2011 elections was a breakdown of law and order and it is his duty to ensure that all Nigerians are safe.
“Labour Party was the first party that raised issues over inciting statements and that they must be stopped. I think the President need not pay lip service to it. He should follow it with action.”
In its reaction, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, said it was imperative for the Federal Government to maintain law and order during and after the elections.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “I think the two are linked. There is a need to conduct free and fair elections and also ensure that losers accept the results of the elections.
“But no serious nation will allow people take laws into their hands and begin to perpetuate violence in the name of elections.
“I have heard comments like rig and roast before the elections and I think there is no responsible leadership that should allow the lives of its citizens to be put in jeopardy because some politicians want power.
“People should vie for elective positions, but they should not shed the blood of Nigerians because they want power. I believe there is a need to maintain law and order. It is only those who want to cause trouble or mayhem that should be afraid of such directive.
“Those who want peace for the country have nothing to worry about and elections should not be about bloodbath. It should not be about violence or killing of citizens, who the politicians profess they want to serve.”