•Back INEC chairman’s stay in office
By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Hundreds of protesters, under the aegis of ‘The Natives’, yesterday took to the streets of Abuja, the nation’s capital, in defence of the outcome of the 2023 general election, warning opposition elements against canvassing the imposition of an Interim National Government, ING, on the country.
While the protesters specifically told the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party, LP, Mr Peter Obi, to drop such advocacy, they also hailed the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for conducting a free, fair and credible election, declaring that nobody’s mandate was stolen.
The protesters, therefore, vowed to resist any attempt to institute an interim government, warning that the spirit of June 12, which saw the announcement of the late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola’s mandate, was upon the nation.
Addressing journalists before marching to INEC headquarters, ‘Supreme Leader of the Natives’, Smart Edwards, appealed to the international community and Nigerians to allow democracy grow by declaring their support for the president-elect, Bola Tinubu.
He said: “No mandate was stolen. It was either you (opposition parties) did not network with your people and Nigerians well, or your people did anti-party against you.
”Today, we have witnessed PDP suspending its national chairman, the man who campaigned for the party, that’s also democracy.
“It is our turn, The Natives of Nigeria to see a better Nigeria. It is our turn to see a working Nigeria. It is our turn to see a democracy that works. It is our turn to advance the country as patriots.
“Today, we are declaring absolutely that no mandate was stolen. INEC performed creditably and the election was free and fair.
”The election saw NNPP win in Kano state, APC though challenging the outcome but has decided to go to court, that’s democracy. PDP won the election in Rivers, Enugu, Taraba, Delta, Plateau states and others, and an APC candidate in Plateau has congratulated the winner, his party may choose to proceed to court, that’s democracy.
“In Benue, the APC has a reverend father who won the election overwhelmingly against the incumbent, that’s democracy. We saw Peter Obi win the election in Lagos State against the ‘landlord’, that’s democracy.
“We saw Labour Party win the election in FCT Abuja, that’s democracy. We saw an Okada man win the election in Kaduna State, that’s democracy. We saw a woman almost winning an election in Adamawa but was declared inconclusive, that’s democracy.”
While responding to a call for an interim government by some protesters aligned with the opposition, Edwards said: “Those calling for interim government are jokers because when Shonekan was brought in, in the past, the people rejected it.
”Africa’s base for democracy is Nigeria, we have Goodluck Jonathan, who is a symbol of democracy, we had late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, he was a symbol of democracy, we have General Gowon who is also a symbol of democracy.
”Other nations in Africa are learning from Nigeria. So, what I am saying is that The Natives of Nigeria are of all tribes and colouration, it is impossible for anybody to attempt an interim government. President Muhammadu Buhari has spoken clearly and that is why we came out today in solidarity with what the President said, that he will hand over to Asiwaju Tinubu.
“So, please I appeal, let us balance our emotions with progressivism. Let us banish bigotry wherever it is found, whether in the East, West, South or North. Let us work together and I also call on all parties to sheath their swords and proceed to court if they are still aggrieved or allow it to be.
“We are telling the opposition parties and their supporters that in the National Assembly, we are seeing six different parties that won elections and will form the 10th Assembly, that is democracy. I tell you, there are senators who lost their seats, and there are governors who lost the election.
“The people who were injured during these elections are Nigerian citizens. We are calling on the opposition, particularly because we want to correct the erroneous views of Peter Obi’s running mate, Datti Ahmed, that there is no President-elect.
”If he had said that in the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he would never appear in public again, but this is a government that supports democracy.
“We call on everybody, whether the young people who are hurt or the APC who is also hurt, or PDP who is hurt, or LP, NNPP and others, to allow peace to reign and be patriotic. The elections are over, but the elections are still in court, please give Nigeria a chance to grow.”
On the call for the removal of the INEC chairman, Edwards said Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was going nowhere.
“This same man who conducted the election where NNPP won, Labour Party won, PDP also won in some states.
”The spirit of June 12 is upon us. By June 12 this year, it will be 30 years. The same military that truncated democracy that time in ‘Agbada’ led by President Muhammadu Buhari has recognized this election. We believe that MKO Abiola’s soul will rest in peace on the day Bola Ahmed Tinubu takes over from President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I am also appealing in the name of the Almighty God to all Nigerians to please give peace a chance. We cannot continue to be protesting on the streets every day.
“We will be marching to INEC headquarters to tell the Commission that no mandate was stolen. Asiwaju won the election and it remains so. Only the tribunal and Supreme Court can change the decision of INEC,” he said.
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