EDO GUBER BATTLE: DEPLOYMENT OF 3,500 SOLDIERS SPLITS REPS
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Kingsley Omonobi, Simeon Ebegbulem, Emman Ovuakporie & Daud Olatunji
ABUJA-THERE was chaos in the House of Representatives, yesterday, as rival party members took strongly partisan positions over the deployment of troops ahead of the Edo State gubernatorial election.
The uproar ensued as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar vowed at a stakeholders parley in Benin that this weekend's election would be used as a test run of the pledge to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
IGP Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar with Prof. Jega at the Stakeholders Meeting organised by Independent National Electoral Commission held in Edo State. Photos by Barnabas Uzosike
The chaos in the House was stirred by Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN members following Speaker Aminu Tambuwal's initial rejection of a motion proposed by a party member over the deployment of troops in Edo State for the election.
The gubernatorial campaign which is stretching into its final days had a temporary break as Jega, IGP Abubakar, met with the candidates to appraise security and other regulations concerning the election.
Jega and Abubakar on the occasion addressed serious concerns raised by the leading candidates, Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN and Charles Airhiavbere of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP over plans to rig the polls.
Among the observations raised by Oshiomhole at the stakeholders meeting were that the PDP was mobilizing fake soldiers and policemen and equally distributing fake voter's cards for the election.
Airhiavbere on his part accused Oshiomhole of erecting campaign signboards and posters around polling centres.
IGP appoints new Police Commissioner for Edo
At the end of the meeting as the IGP prepared to board a plane back to Abuja, he directed the Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mr. Femi Adenaike who came with him to take over as the new Commissioner of Police for Edo State. All the Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers, DPOs were also affected in the changes.
The Police Service Commission, PSC also, yesterday, said that it is deploying top officials of the commission to monitor conduct of policemen during the election. The commission has also released telephone numbers through which malfeasances by policemen could be channeled to.
The numbers are :08164183597 (EDO NORTH), 08071408009 (EDO SOUTH), 08167435347 ( EDO CENTRAL).
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, also warned the authorities that any plan to use the security agencies to rig the election would lead to strong reaction from the populace.
The development came as the PDP Chairman in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih boasted that its candidate, Airhavbere was now set for victory in the forthcoming election saying that the party had shaken off the despair of the populace and could now scent victory in the air.
The uproar in the House of Representatives came as Rep. Bimbola Daramola, ACN, Ekiti moved to raise a motion to consider the deployment of soldiers to Edo State. Once he rose to give a brief of his intended motion, partisan acrimony immediately crept into the chamber as members of the PDP muttered as he introduced the thrust of his motion brought under matters of urgent national importance. According to him, the constitution forbade the massive deployment of troops to any part of the country without legislative approval.
Uproar in the House
As he was about settling down to his motion yesterday, the chamber was thrown into an uproar as PDP members shouted at him to sit down.
Daramola was, however, undeterred as he struggled to raise his voice to get the consent of the Speaker to read out relevant provisions of the Constitution to back his proposed motion. But he was not successful as Speaker Tambuwal refused to grant him leave to read those sections.
The refusal further fueled the uproar as opposition members of the House raised mayhem shouting no, no, no.
As Tambuwal observed the uproar which lingered for some time, he then called for a voice vote on the decision to stand down the motion.
In the voice vote, Speaker Tambuwal ruled in favour of the 'ayes,' a decision that further angered the opposition members.
Upon the ruling by the Speaker, the House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila raised a point of order asking Mr. Speaker to call for division on the vote. The import of Gbajabiamila's request was that the vote should be counted.
Faced with the point of order, Tambuwal after some hesitation reversed his earlier decision and apologized to the members who in turn applauded him for his humility.
The Speaker, however, promised to give the motion a priority attention in today's plenary.
Edo guber poll, test case for others - Jega
Jega and Abubakar at the stakeholders meeting ahead of the election, yesterday, said INEC and the security agencies were determined to use the Edo election as a test case in the conduct of free and fair elections.
Reading the riot act to stakeholders, they vowed to deal ruthlessly with anybody who attempts to manipulate the election.
Among those present at the parley were Oshiomhole, Airhavbere, Solomon Edebiri (ANPP), Frank Ukoga (SMDP), Andrew Igwemoh (Labour) and Comrade Paul Orunmwensen (NCP) alongside their party officials.
IGP Abubakar disclosed that helicopters would be used to monitor the election and also to distribute election materials to different centers, adding that soldiers will assist mobile policemen in manning strategic points.
According to him, 'security officers will challenge the movement of anybody on the day of the election. To tell you how serious we intend to police the state during this period, I have detailed my Commissioner of Police in-charge of Operations here, we have the Commissioner of Police in-charge of Terrorism, we have a full investigation team from Abuja.'
Reacting to the fears raised by Governor Oshiomhole that the PDP had prepared Army and Police uniforms with a view to use them to rig the election, the IGP explained that 'we have some thing to differentiate between real police and Army officers on duty. The Army will be deployed on each of the senatorial districts to support the police.'
'I want to warn that our responsibility is to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible. It is you politicians that use thugs and I will advise that you talk to your supporters because we are prepared to deal ruthlessly with any one trying to foment trouble' he declared.
On the suggestion made by Oshiomhole that people should be allowed to stay around until the votes are counted rather than asking them to stay 300 meters from the polling units, Abubakar explained that 'those who voted have a right to wait as long as they behave themselves, but those who have no business there must not be seen around. We have done every thing in terms of training to caution our officers. They must not allow themselves to be used by any politician.
'This is not the time we should allow ourselves to be used by any body, people must not take us for granted'. On the issue raised about security men carrying arms to protect the votes, the IGP said that 'the law prohibits us from doing that. But we will ensure that no body messes with us that day'.
Oshiomhole at the parley produced a fake INEC Identification Card and Voters Card and urged INEC to be on alert, while Airhiavbere urged the commission to ensure that all bill boards or posters are removed from all polling units.
On his part, Edebiri urged the security agents to ensure thugs don't snatch ballot boxes and emphasized the need for the security agents to check the issue of thuggery, adding that' people have been imported and are being trained now to ensure that they disrupt the election.
'The voters also must not sell their cards because it is an offence and any body caught will be prosecuted. We have ensured that we put in place the best security arrangement. We are determined to make this Edo election the freest and fairest election ever conducted in Nigeria. We may be appointed by the Federal Government but we are here to serve our people. Our actions on the field will vindicate us that day' he stated.
Posters, bill boards to give way
On the comment made by Airhiavbere as regarding posters on polling units, Jega stated that 'all posters and bill boards around polling units must be removed or else it will be an offense. People without voters cards should stay away from polling centers. Only INEC has the right to announce results and we are warning state TV stations and the media to be careful as regards what they report.
The Chairman of the PDP in Edo State, was confident of victory yesterday saying that after campaigning round in 192 wards of the state that the party could scent victory in the air.
'We are looking forward to victory at the polls as we have been campaigning in all 192 wards telling voters and convincing them why Oshiomhole has to go,' Orbih told Vanguard yesterday.
'The only thing they want to do and what they know what to do is to write results, but even before this contest we have shocked them and people who were saying that this would be no contest, they are now shocked that there is a contest that they will lose.
'Yes, indeed, we can feel victory in the air and right now what we are praying is that God would give the incoming governor, Charles Ahiavbere the wisdom to govern the state well and for the outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to go quietly.'