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48 Hours To Bayelsa, Kogi, Imo Polls, Tension Heightens, Abdulsalami Committee Preaches Peace

in Imo State, the candidates of the PDP, Labour Party, and All Progressives Congress (APC) shunned the peace accord.

With about 48 hours to the November 11 governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, the National Peace Committee (NPC), led by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, has called for peaceful conduct during the off-season elections in the three states.

The call came amid growing tension in the states, and as candidates of the participating political parties signed the peace accord, organised by NPC, a non-governmental organisation. The candidates promised to ensure peaceful behaviour before, during, and after the polls.

Signing of the peace accord, called Abuja Accord, before major elections in the country has become a permanent political ritual since it was initiated in 2014 by some eminent citizens and elder statesmen in response to emerging threats occasioned by the 2015 general election. 

However, in Imo State, the candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), and All Progressives Congress (APC) shunned the peace accord.

The ceremony, which took place at Beland (Swiss International) Hotel, Owerri, was attended by nearly all the 17 political parties endorsed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the election. But the leading governorship candidates – Governor Hope Uzodimma of APC, Senator Sam Anyanwu of PDP, and Senator Athan Achonu of LP – all sent their parties’ state chairmen and deputy governorship candidates. But they were turned back, as one of the rules of engagement is that only the governorship candidates can sign the accord, not their proxies.

Earlier, before the actual signing ceremony began, Anyanwu showed up, but when he noticed that his counterparts from APC and LP were absent, he left the venue.

In his remarks, General Martin Luther Agwai, who represented the NPC chairman, said the candidates that shunned the exercise had till Friday, the eve of the elections, to visit the office of the NPC and sign the document.

The exercise was witnessed by Deputy Inspector General of Police Frank Mba and INEC National Commissioner for South-east, Mr. Kenneth Okeagu.

“By Friday, Imo people would know those who are interested in conducting a peaceful election, but we are optimistic that with the over 98-99 per cent attendance recorded, the candidates are interested in peace, we will announce on Friday those interested in Imo having a peaceful election,” Agwai told journalists.

The former Chief of Defence Staff noted that though the day was his birthday, he took time off to attend the event. He said the birthday gift he was asking from the candidates was a peaceful, free, and fair election in Imo State.

During the signing ceremony, Uzodimma’s running mate, Chinyere Ekomaru, and Achonu’s running mate, Tony Nwulu, were not allowed to sign, but their state chairmen, Macdonald Ebere of APC and Callistus Ihejiagwa of LP, respectively, signed their own parts of the agreement. The running mate of the PDP candidate, Jones Onyereri, was also stopped, but the state chairman was absent at the event.

Other candidates present included Tony Ejiogu of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Uche Ben Udunze of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNP), Jack Ogunewe of Action Alliance (AA), Okere Johnjude of Accord Party (AP), Okoroma James of Action Democratic Congress (ADC), Uzo Kachi Nwoga of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Clinton Chibuike of APM, Bright Obinna Ekwebelem of Social Demotic Party (SDP), and Emmanuel Ifeanyi of AAC.

Mba, who is leading the police contingent for the election in Imo State, assured that the police would be politically neutral, non-aligned and provide the enabling environment for the people to vote.

The ceremony was witnessed by heads of security agencies, including the State Comptroller of Immigrations, Nkechi Eze; Kingsley Njoku of the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCS); and Chairperson of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the state, Mrs Marjorie Ezei.

In Bayelsa State, the governorship candidates of PDP, Governor Douye Diri; APC, Chief Timipre Sylva; and the others were present at the ceremony. The event had many stakeholders in attendance, including Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, and INEC National Commissioner, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu.

Though the candidate of LP was conspicuously absent, flagbearers of other political parties were present, including top security operatives from the police, army, civil defence, Immigration, and others.

The immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Sylva, was one of the early birds at the event. He was there when the ceremony started. Diri, who came after the national anthem was sung, headed straight to where Sylva was and they exchanged pleasantries and later had a warm handshake to the admiration of the people in the commodious Lady Diami events centre in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Convener of the National Peace Committee and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church, Kukah, who stood in for Abdulsalami, set the ball rolling by advising candidates of the various political parties to ensure that the governorship poll on Saturday was free, fair and credible.

Kukah urged the contestants to behave themselves and give the right directions to their faithful to ensure that the poll was devoid of violence.

Kukah stated, “The contestants know themselves, know their communities, because they grew up among themselves. So, we should look at it as a family event.

“Bayelsa is not a very big state, Bayelsa is a community, eating almost the same food, with the same traditional dances, same language, and almost same culture.

“So, ordinarily this event should be a celebration of who we are and our trust in democracy. So on behalf of the chairman of the National Peace committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who is unable to be here physically, we have to sign the peace accord to show we are committed to this election.”

He added, “We also have members of the Peace Committee in Imo and in Kogi states. Please, vote to stay alive, vote to see a great Bayelsa and a great Nigeria. It is always tragic for anyone to lose his child or for you to be in hospital while the celebration is going on.

“Let’s conduct ourselves in a way and manner that will finally make the judiciary and lawyers out of the job. And the only way is to conduct free, fair and credible election.”

But the candidates of PDP and APC in Bayelsa State, while speaking with journalists, after signing the peace accord, accused each other of stoking violence in Nembe and Kolokuma/Opokuma local government areas, home local councils of both major players.

Sylva said the programme was a very good initiative.

He stated, “The APC today has come to demonstrate that we are committed to peace in Bayelsa. But we must say that we are not very comfortable with the disposition of our opponent. There has been a lot of violence perpetrated by the PDP in Kolokuma/Opokuma and this morning I was told that they were causing violence in other places.

“But I am hoping that the peace accord will, at least, make all of us to do the needful to avoid violence and reduce tension during the poll and after the election. We will certainly abide by the peace accord, as we are not a violent party.”

Diri appreciated the committee for the exercise, but lamented that many politicians saw the peace accord as a mere election ritual, because they usually failed to keep it. He said, “A lot of politicians do not keep to it, so it’s just a ritual we come and sign and then the bad politicians among us will continue the violence.

“I have just been informed that the former governor of the state whom you interviewed has accused me, Douye Diri, of stockpiling arms in Kolokuma/Opokuma.

“That is, indeed, the fattest lie of the year and that shows that this peace accord is going to be ineffectual.

“It’s going to be ineffectual because if a man chooses to be telling lies even in the face of this peace accord then something is wrong in our polity.

“I was really very embarrassed when I got that information. Everybody knows in this state those who are given to violence and the flashpoints in this state. Kolokuma/Opokuma has never been a flashpoint and I think that the candidate of the APC, Chief Timipre Sylva, may have stockpiled arms in Kolokuma/Opokuma.

“And I call on the security agencies to immediately swing into action to see if Timipre Sylva is bringing the devilish actions he has been taking in Nembe, where he has disallowed the people of Nembe to participate in democratic electoral peaceful processes and we in Kolokuma / Opokuma will never accept that from him.

“I am one person that all of you will attest that the peace in this state is because the body language of the governor is peaceful, the body language of the governor is security and so the issue or question of my commitment does not arise here. I am ever committed to peace and security.”

In her remarks, Agbamuche-Mbu reiterated the commitment of INEC to a free, fair, credible and violence free election in Bayelsa State come Saturday. She reassured all political parties and candidates of the commission’s neutrality and called on all Bayelsans to feel confident that their votes will count.

Agbamuche-Mbu said, “We, therefore, call on political parties and candidates to eschew violence and disruptive behaviours. As has been repeatedly said, without peace, our deployment plans, result management, the safety of voters, election duty personnel, observers and journalists, logistic arrangement, and, ultimately, the credibility of the polls, will be undermined.

“I would like to appeal to all parties, candidates and other actors to play their part in supporting the peace accord.”

Similarly, in Kogi State, Abdulsalami urged all stakeholders in Saturday’s governorship election to play by the rules to ensure peaceful, free, fair and credible election.

Bishop Cardinal John Oniayekan, who represented the former Head of State, made the appeal while speaking at the signing of the peace accord in the state.

Oniaiyekan explained that the people, citizens, and the electorate play critical roles in an election, appealing to them to play their part without fear or favour. He tasked the contestants to fear God, stressing that elections should not be a do or die affair. He urged them to warn their supporters to desist from acts inimical to peace and security of the state before, during and after election in the state.

Oniaiyekan called on INEC to allow a level-playing ground for all participants. He explained that the reputation of INEC was very low, noting that the electoral body must use the forthcoming election to regain the confidence of the generality of Nigerians.

The National Peace Committee urged the security agencies to do their duty of securing the social environment, stressing that they must be guided by high professionalism in their job.

Oniaiyekan also urged the judiciary to settle disputes arising from the election without biases.

The highlight of the occasion was the signing the peace accord by the 18 candidates contesting for the governorship seat in the state November 11.

APC Ends Campaign in Bayelsa as Shetimma Canvases Votes for Sylva

Bayelsa State chapter of APC on Wednesday ended the governorship election campaign for its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, with Vice President Kashim Shettima calling on the people of the state to rally behind the party and vote in the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in order to connect the state to national politics.

Shettima, who was in Yenagoa for the grand finale of the APC governorship campaign, on Wednesday, said President Bola Tinubu was ready to work with Sylva to tackle youth unemployment.

He urged the people to vote massively for Sylva to continue the good works he had started in the state during his first term as governor and later federal minister.

The vice president reiterated Tinubu’s commitment towards the overall development of the Niger Delta as well as other parts of the country. He noted that Bayelsa State, like every other state in Nigeria, remained dear to the visions and development focus of the Tinubu administration.

Shettima said, “My Principal, our President is a man filled with vision, willpower and total commitment to the Nigerian project. He is unwavering and in a rush to ensure the speedy development of the Niger Delta and all other parts of the country.

“What we owe him is our support and loyalty for him to succeed. This is the more reason why all Bayelsans must come out on Saturday and rally round our party and its candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, who is your own and known for his tenacity for excellence. It is high time the people of Bayelsa State joined the government at the centre. The opportunity is here and the time is now.

“The people of Bayelsa should allow themselves to be connected to the centre, President Bola Tinubu will work closely with the incoming governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, to address the problems of development, the problems of youth unemployment.”

National Chairman of APC, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, described Sylva as a refined technocrat and politician committed to transforming and redefining the political, economic and developmental landscape of Bayelsa State.

In his remarks, Sylva said given his track record of excellence and commitment to service, his blueprint was meticulously tailored towards total revamping of the fortunes of Bayelsa State. He promised to transparently utilise the resources of the state, when elected, adding that every part of the state would witness a transformation never imagined before.

Atiku Drums Support for PDP in Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi

Former Vice President and presidential candidate of PDP in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, on Wednesday, said despite the shortcomings of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the last elections, when democracy wins, the people invariably wins.

In his message to Nigerians, Atiku said the elections, which were classified as off-cycle, would be the first set of polls to take place after the 2023 general election in the country.

According to Atiku, “Although there is a groundswell of dissatisfaction and resentment about how INEC walked back on the promise of transparency in the last general election, but that shortcoming is not enough reason for us to give up on democracy.

“Despite our disappointments, I urge us all to derive wisdom in the immortal saying of former US President James Monroe that ‘the best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil’.

“Our objective of defeating anti-democratic elements in our polity cannot be successful if we refuse to go out en masse to cast our ballot on election day.”

Atiku said, “That is why I am appealing to the good people of Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states to come out in large numbers this Saturday to vote for candidates of the PDP in those respective elections.

“In Bayelsa State, Governor Duoye Diri has given a good account of himself as a leader who is directly responsible to the people. His giant strides in the areas of infrastructure and social development speak volumes about how his government has been able to touch the lives of the people positively.

“In Kogi, Senator Dino Melaye has shown great capacity to stand on the side of the people and, by so doing, using every opportunity available to him to drive speedy development to his constituents. Electing him governor will afford him a bigger platform to do even more.

“In Imo State, too, Senator Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu has a rich profile of a political leader who is not only in touch with the grassroots but is committed to protecting the interests of his constituents. Senator Anyanwu is a political leader who I believe has what it takes to take Imo State to a higher pedestal in good governance.”

The former vice president added, “While our great party, the PDP, has put forth visionary leaders whose main objective is to serve the people, it is a different story altogether with our main rival, the APC.

“In Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo, candidates flying the flags of the APC are known to be stooges of some godfathers within or outside of those states.”

According to him, “It is important for the people of Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states to come out in large numbers to vote for the PDP and to reject the APC that has brought us untold hardship and misery.

“These elections are more about the fortunes of the common people, and it is my firm belief that when the people vote and stand to protect their votes, democracy wins.”

Ododo Urges Security Agencies to Release APC Supporters in Captivity

The governorship candidate of APC in Kogi State, Usman Ododo, called on the security agencies to release chieftains of the party who were arrested in Kogi East on Tuesday.

Ododo said APC chieftains that were arrested were noble people with no questionable character, and had no reason to engage in thuggery or other vices. He said the raid on their residences and destruction of property were a source of concern for the party.

He stated, “Just this morning, again, about seven of my members were picked from my community. I don’t breed thugs because I don’t condone criminality. The security agencies should carry out their investigations and release our people with immediate effect.”

Ododo, who spoke to journalists in Lokoja, said from all pointers and with all the laudable achievements of the current administration, which the people of Kogi State had attested to, victory was sure for APC. He added that those who already knew they would lose were the ones stoking violence and levelling baseless allegations.

He called on the security agencies to be fair to all and ensure the security of lives and property before, during and after the governorship election.

The governorship candidate lauded the security agencies for the good work they had been doing in the state, promising that he would always be available to honour their invitations, as he has always done, if they need clarifications on the activities of the party or any of the campaign chieftains.

Ododo stated, “As a law abiding citizen, and as somebody that has worked on the field, somebody that carries out investigation, as Auditor General for Local Governments, I know what it takes to manage human beings. The people of Kogi State are looking up to the security agencies to ensure a peaceful election.

“My members have been arrested, some of my leaders, even in my community, this morning, they have picked, not less than seven of my members. I allowed them to do their work. I will not interfere with their investigation. I believe by the time they are done with their investigation and none of them is found guilty, they will be released. I have been invited severally by security agencies, I have been honouring their invitation, not once, not twice, and I’m ready to honour their invitation any point in time. I don’t breed thugs. I have advised my followers not to engage in any criminality because I don’t condone it.

“My members that they have picked, I still base it on allegations. Let them do their investigations and I believe they will do that without bias. As soon as they are done, they will be released.

“But in a situation where security agents are harassing and detaining my members without saying what offence they have committed, I want to call on them to release them and face those criminals that went to Kotonkarfe to kill an APC supporter and get them arrested.

“That is what they should focus on and not the law abiding members of our party. So I call on them to hasten their investigations and release our members with immediate effect.”

On allegations of witch-hunt by the opposition, Ododo said, “If you see somebody jumping from one TV station to the other desperately every day, leaving where he is supposed to be doing groundwork and courting voters, you should know that if nothing is chasing him, then he is chasing something. They know they don’t have a chance. They are just engaging in fruitless propaganda.

“As for us in the APC, we know we are winning. Governor Yahaya Bello has done the people proud and it is time to reward the party. The reward of hard work is more work and we are ready to serve again. We won’t join issues with losers who have only ethnic agenda and violence in their dictionary. The APC government has served all the zones equitably and there are ample results to show for it. We are coming to serve them even better.”

He urged his supporters to come out en masse on Saturday to vote for APC, saying a vote for APC is a vote for unity, peace and progress of the state.

IG Orders Probe of Kogi Killings

The Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday, ordered an investigation into the invasion and killings in Anyangba, Kogi State. Egbetokun gave the order when he convened a meeting with key stakeholders in Kogi State.

He said the meeting was part of his commitment to a peaceful and secure electoral process during the November 11 off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states.

The meeting, which was held in the state capital, brought together various stakeholders, including political leaders, representatives of political parties, civil society organisations, electoral officials, traditional and religious leaders, youth leaders, and security agencies.

At the meeting, the IG reacted to a trending video of an incident in Anyigba, where it was alleged that some armed men attacked the residence of a key official in one of the political parties. He charged the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) to take over the case for thorough investigation in order to ascertain the level of involvement of all parties concerned and ensure justice.

The IG reiterated that the police was committed to impartiality and neutrality throughout the electoral process, saying the Nigeria Police will take decisive action against any person who engages in any form of misconduct or violence. He also charged candidates and their followers to embrace peace, as the police and other security agencies would not spare anyone caught fomenting trouble during the electioneering process.

The primary goal of the meeting was to engage in constructive dialogue, share information, and strategise on measures to guarantee a free, fair, credible, and peaceful electoral process in the state.

The IG also encouraged political leaders to help in promoting a culture of non-violence among their supporters and ensuring that the electoral process was conducted without intimidation or coercion.

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