…Say votes of Nigerians must count •Call for arrest of INEC chair, Yakubu for subverting will of Nigerians
…Want Truth, Reconciliation Committee set up in Lagos, other states over threat, intimidation of voters
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Protesters, under the aegis of Free Nigeria Movement, yesterday besieged the National Assembly gate in Abuja, demanding the establishment of an Interim National Government, ING, pending the determination of all litigations arising from the 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25.
The protesters said the elections fell short of every electoral standard, even as they accused Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu.
Wielding placards with the inscriptions such as ‘Save our Democracy’, “INEC + Corruption, Politicians are killing our Democracy,” and “INEC killing the Nigerian Democracy”, the protesters called for annulment of the election.
The demonstrators were not granted access into the National Assembly premises by security men, as the Police Division Office in the national assembly said there was no written permission from the group or the relevant authorities to be allowed into the complex.
Addressing the crowd, the convener of the protest, Dr. Moses Paul, said the votes of Nigerians must count.
Vanguard gathered that the protest started on Monday at the Unity Fountain, from where the protesters marched to the headquarters of INEC.
Paul said the protest would also be taken to the court of appeal headquarters in Abuja, from the ministry of justice.
He said: “Today, we mourn the demise of credibility, the rape of trust, the abuse of will. Today, we stand in the ruins of transparency, on the embalming table of inclusion, equity and accountability. Today, we are voices, toneless, stripped of the music of choice. Today, we are Nigerians, broken, calling on INEC to count our votes.
“On February 25, 2023, Nigerians trooped to their polling units with one mission, ‘to cast their votes and choose their next leaders.’ They qualified for this exercise by participating in the yearlong Continuous Voter Registration which witnessed an unprecedented spike as has never been seen in any election since 1999.
”Months later, they returned to collect their Permanent Voters Cards and went home with a commitment to participate and engage with the process. The chain of apathy was broken, tossed to the belly of oblivion.
”We were free, free to experience the full potential of our Nigerianness. Our binding lines were unbroken: in ideology, they held us together; in trust, they washed us like water; in truth, they kept us alive.”
“We breathed the full breathe of what being citizens should be in a progressive, secular society. So, when the day finally arrived, we had no doubt in our hearts, in the portion that always questions truths that our votes must count. But nothing could bolster our belief like the assurances by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, and INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud.
”Recall that a little over a year ago, President Muhammadu Buhari appended his signature to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022. The fanfare that greeted that can well claim recognition as one of the most colourful in our recent history due to its unbroken allegiance to the Nigerian spirit.
”On that day, we were neither Igbo, Hausa nor Yoruba. We were not Efik, Tiv, or Urhobo. No, we were not Gbagyi, Kanuri or Ijaw. On that day, we were Nigerians full of the positive energies of our land.
“I hate to announce that today in the heart of some, all this has gone to waste. You may have seen the video of the diasporan who tore his passport. Some other Nigerians have done same to the fabric of our identity because INEC through Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud chose to silence their voice.
“So I ask, what is the value of democracy if the process that recruits its leaders consistently lacks credibility?
“Perhaps, the answer is at the International Conference Center where Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud began, sustained and concluded collation and declaration of a candidate as winner of the presidential election, based on falsehood, contravening its guidelines and the Electoral Act.
”It is most disturbing that this was done in the full glare of the world. Never has our democracy been so sorely abused by any citizen in either public or private service.
“Prof. Yakubu Mahmood has raised a bar in impunity that will cost our country many years of electoral excellence to correct. This was not the electronic transmission he promised Nigerians and the world at Chatham House.
”Prof. Yakubu Mahmood has lied to Nigerians and abused our right of choice. We pass a vote of no confidence and call for his immediate sack and prosecution. We cannot afford to continue the culture of performing lawlessness without consequences. We are as strong as our laws and as tall as our institutions. We cannot afford to descend any lower than this.
“As microcosm of our demography, the National Assembly represents our collective aspiration, desire, hope, and faith in a country that works for all. The laws you make device the path of our corporate engagement as individuals and institutions.
”The lawmaker should be on the side of justice, equity, and fair play. Our call to you is to take a stand with the people of Nigeria whosen place you hold in these hallowed chambers in their demand for a system that works for all and call on INEC to count our votes. This is the only way the laws you make can hold the deserved essence and effect.
”We, therefore, call on President Buhari, whose commitment to free and fair elections is engraved in the legacy of the Electoral Act 2022, to initiate processes and procedures that will bring Nigeria under the control of an interim government pending the resolution of all litigations pertaining to the conduct of the February 25 presidential election.
“Our country needs healing. It will be counterproductive to allow a fraudulent process to subsist as fraud will eternally birth fraud. We cannot grow our democracy on falsehood and suspicion. The holes in our national fabric must be woven shut.
”One way is to immediately establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Lagos State and other flashpoints of voter intimidation and violence during the presidential, national assembly, governorship and state assembly elections. This will help build trust, confidence and further ethnic cooperation among Nigerians.
“As concerned citizens, we believe that our country is destined for greatness and are hopeful that in no distant time, our faith will nudge our dreams to reality. This is our prayer as we nurse the bruises of hope.
”For though they force us to precipice, we will not curse our country or stand by those who curse it. We will not steal from our country whatever treasures it possesses in dignity. We will hold on to the promise of unity and faith, peace and progress.
“We are not stopping till they arrest Prof Mahmood and give us an interim government that will conduct credible elections.”
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