Preparations for the February 14 presidential election continued yesterday with indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced nationwide distribution of non-sensitive materials for the poll.
Meanwhile, former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, has warned the various groups threatening to perpetrate violence should their candidates fail to win the presidential election.
The warning came as the apex Igbo socio- cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by its President General, Chief Enwo Igariwey, has ended months of speculation over the 2015 presidential election as it yesterday endorsed the second term aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Ekiti State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Sam Olumekun, yesterday disclosed that he has received non-sensitive materials, including smart card readers, and INEC staff have been trained on how to use them.
“We have taken delivery of smart card readers, ballot boxes alongside
other non-sensitive election materials. We have also come up with a policy to make use of smart card readers for accreditation during the 2015 general elections.
“Necessary trainings have been given to our officials on how to handle the device to add credibility to the polls,” Olumekun said.
At a meeting held with the council of traditional rulers in the state, the Ekiti REC said INEC would improve on the record set during the June 21 governorship election. According to him, INEC as an election management body holds it a duty to ensure that information about electoral processes reach the people at the grassroots to reduce the level of apathy and number of voided votes through effective sensitization network that would include all critical stakeholders for the success of the elections.
The former military leader, Abdusalami, who called on political gladiators to call their supporters to order, warned that such threats would not be taken lightly.
Speaking after the National Peace Committee for 2015 Elections met with the Service Chiefs on Monday in Abuja, Abdusalami noted that even though the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, no group or region should threaten the peace of the entire country as there is a limit to freedom of speech.
“We are aware that some people are threatening violence, we are not taking all these threats lightly. We have noted the various utterances, there is freedom of speech but there is a limit to freedom of speech. We are calling on the political gladiators to call them to order”.
While calling on Nigerians to eschew violence before, during and after the elections, the elder stateman said: “I have been involved in a lot of peace process in so many countries, and it is sad when you go round Africa and see the kind of injuries inflicted on people as a result of electoral violence. It is not the politicians that inflict electoral violence but Nigerians. We appeal to Nigerians to eschew violence. If we get involved in violence, people are maimed and infrastructure destroyed, so we need to give peace a chance,” he said.
Earlier, the Service Chiefs led by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, briefed the committee on their preparedness to ensure a peaceful conduct of the elections.
Badeh told the committee that even though the Nigerian Army is very busy in the north east, it still has the capability and capacity to deploy enough personnel cross the country during the forthcoming elections. He pointed out that the Army is not directly involved in elections and electioneering, but before the elections Nigerian military will deploy its personnel across the nation to assist civil powers and the authorities to maintain law and order.
His words: “During the elections, as we have done in other states, we will also ensure that people are not used to cause trouble or mayhem after the elections. Should there be disturbances, we will assist the police. The military will deploy as much personnel as we can across the nation. The Chief of Naval Staff will be busy around the creeks, the Chief of Air Staff is working with INEC but will also deploy some personnel.”
Also, speaking, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu disclosed that they have commenced the airlift of materials needed for the elections, starting from Abuja, and that the process will continue into the whole spectrum of the elections.
In his remarks, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Kenneth Minimah, said that the Nigerian Army is aware of the need for security before, during and after the elections and therefore would support the civil authorities by deploying army personnel across the states of the federation, particularly in the areas we have discovered are prone to violence.
Rising from its well attended meeting at the group’s national secretariat in Enugu, Ohanaeze Ndigbo unanimously declared that Jonathan “remains the best option to take Nigeria forward from 29th of May 2015.” Affiliates of the group that participated in the meeting include Aka Ikenga, Igboezue, Izu Umunna, World Igbo Assembly, Igbo Kwenu Assembly and Igbo Delegates Assembly.
But reacting to the development yesterday, a splinter group in Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief Ralph Obioha, urged Ndigbo to discountenance the endorsement, saying that the Igariwey-led executive no longer has the authority to speak for Ndigbo, claiming that its tenure expired last month.
Igariwey who read the communiqué of the meeting which was signed by himself, the
Secretary General, Dr. Joe Nworgu and Chairman of South-East Traditional Rulers, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, said the decision was reached after several months of wide consultations with Igbo all over the world.
Igariwey said: “As a people, therefore, we may not have realized all of our expectations in the present administration. However, we must acknowledge that there has been a considerable improvement in our infrastructural development and a general sense of belonging in the present administration.
“We have carefully weighed our options in the present circumstances and are resolved to make a decision in the collective interests of our people. After several months of consultations with the Council of Traditional Rulers, the leadership of major Igbo organizations both at home and in the Diaspora, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has come to the positive conclusion that for the pragmatic reasons of continuity, a sense of solidarity added to the points canvassed above, President Goodluck Jonathan remains the best option to take Nigeria forward from May 29, 2015. We therefore have no hesitation in endorsing him for re-election on the 14 of February, 2015”.
Igariwey noted further that Ndigbo believed in fairness, equity and justice as essential ingredients for peace and stability, without which the country would not advance as a united entity.
Hence he added that peace is important for security and wellbeing of the people, particularly Ndigbo “as they are dispersed in all nooks and crannies of this republic and given the peculiar nature of our experience and history, it is quite clear that our interests are better served and protected when we act and speak with one voice”.
He stated that since history had placed on the shoulders of Jonathan, for once, from a minority section of the country to lead Nigeria, there is need for other segments of the country to allow him complete his eight years tenure.
“It is also noteworthy that south- south has sustained the economic development of this country through its natural resources and has, consequently, paid a terrible price through serious environmental degradation,” he said.
Obioha, who heads the “Caretaker Committee” of Ohanaeze said: “After going through the release issued by individuals who claimed to be officials of Ohanaeze, it is a common knowledge that their tenure expired January 12, 2015 and this massive pretence that they are still speaking for the organization calls into question the
seriousness of such a weighty issue. Nobody disputes their right to gather to issue an endorsement but to tend to drag the name of Ohanaeze is fakery.
“The caretaker committee is still in the process of serious consultation bearing in mind the heavy cloud gathering over Nigeria and shall in the nearest future issue a statement that will direct our people on how to discharge their democratic rights.”