…As INEC reiterates commitment to free and fair elections
By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday visited the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, headquarters, Abuja to demand assurances of credible and transparent governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
Addressing newsmen, national vice chairman (North) of the party, Senator Suleiman Nazif said the assurance of free and fair polls is sufficient for the PDP to head to the contests in confidence.
He said: “We have come here as a matter of urgency to demand free and fair elections in Edo and Ondo. There is the need for us to come and get first-hand assurance that the elections will be free and fair.
“We are all aware of what happened in Kogi, Osun, Bayelsa, Kano and the rest of them and we thought it wise to come here today to insist and demand that we have a free and fair election. That is what the Peoples Democratic Party is requesting and demanding.
“We have had a lot of assurances but at the same time, it is one thing to assure us and it is another thing for us to go and hear that something else is happening.
“So we don’t know what you are going to tell us today. People are concerned and worried about the way elections are being conducted in Nigeria.
“We believe that it is high time that the right thing is done and that is why we have come here to demand nothing other than free fair election.”
Also speaking, national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus noted that the outcome of a similar exercise in some states in the past leaves the PDP with no option but to insist on transparency in the conduct of the elections.
“We are deeply worried and in pain because of our past experience especially those of Kogi and Bayelsa.
“We are worried because the country is in crises, crises in economy, crises in the area of security, virtually in all facets of the life of the nation and the only way out of all these crises is to conduct free and fair elections which will at least, reduce the tension in our country today,” Secondus said.
The PDP boss also cautioned security agencies against allowing themselves to be used to manipulate the processes, saying though, their role of providing security is not questionable; past experiences, he noted, leave their professionalism in doubt.
“I call on all the security agencies, especially the Department of State Services, DSS and ITS Director General. We have been reliably informed that over 1,500 men and special squad are on their way to Edo to carry out their lawful duties.
“We agree, but the past elections have shown that some of the officers in plain cloth were used by APC to replace results.
“I believe that the situation in the country demands from all of us some level of responsibilities, to be law-abiding. Let them conduct free and fair elections according to the rules, the electoral laws. The securities are there to prevent violence, to help INEC.
“We pride ourselves as the most populated Black Country in the world and in our continent but if we cannot conduct credible free and fair election, what will be our position?
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“As you are aware, Ghana is setting the pace whereas Nigeria is supposed to be setting the pace for the rest of Africa to follow but today we are behind Ghana, it is a shame.
Responding on behalf of INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, National Commissioner, Election Observation and Party Monitoring Committee, Professor Antonia Okoosi-Simbine pledged the readiness of the commission to conduct free elections in both states.
“The commission is aware of your fears and we will do our best to deliver on free, fair, credible and safe elections,” she assured.
She continued: “The commission has just returned from a visit to Edo state, the chairman and members of the commission went to Edo state to check on the processes for the election-last minute processes. By the time we departed, we were very sure that virtually everything was on course.
“What remains is the distribution of sensitive materials and that is to take place today (Thursday). Just before you arrived, the process was concluded and all the local governments have received their materials.
“I want to tell you that on Saturday, we may not all be in Benin but we are going to operate a virtual situation room where we will be seeing all that is going on in all locations and we will be dealing with problems as they arise.
“For the second time, election observers, civil society organizations, the media will be allowed access into these virtual situation rooms.
“They will be given codes with which they can join and they can ask questions, we can respond to issues as they see them. I think that is already a very high level of openness of the process, so we have done our best.”
While the election is slated for tomorrow in Edo state, that of Ondo is fixed for October 10, 2020.