Politics

2023: Renewed electoral violence sparks fresh fears

From Fred Itua, Romanus Ugwu, Ndubuisi Orji and Ada Nnamani, Abuja

Five weeks to the conduct of the presidential elections, fresh violent attacks and activities of political thugs, including suspected bomb blasts, are causing anxiety among the electorate and even leaders of the political parties.

This is even as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has assured that adequate security will be provided before, during and after the elections.

The Presidential Campaign Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the leadership of the Labour Party (LP), are worried that if not checked, the growing violence may mar the elections. Last Saturday, a motorcade conveying gunmen and arsonists stormed the residence of Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, who is also the House of Representatives Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Ideato North South federal constituency, at his hometown in Akokwa, where four persons were killed, including his uncle.

On Thursday, the PDP was forced to halt its campaign in the Edo Central Senatorial district, following heavy gunshots by suspected political opponents. The campaign was marred in the senatorial district.

The Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Marcus Onobun and other PDP leaders were evacuated to safety, while others ran for their lives.

Leader of the PDP faction loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Anslem Ojezua, flanked by other party leaders said the police investigation had commenced to unravel those behind the attack.

He said: “We had to suspend our campaign today. Today was supposed to be the final stanza of the campaign in Esan Central. We were in ward 7 and having a very peaceful really when we heard gunshots in the vicinity of the rally. In order to avoid injury and possible damage and loss of lives of people, we decided to evacuate immediately.”

A reported twin explosion at the venue of campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State on Thursday injured three persons. The explosion occurred at the Rumuwoji Playground in Port Harcourt. Two women among those injured were rushed to the hospital for medical attention. But the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, in a chat with Saturday Sun, assured that no amount of intimidation or plans will stop the conduct of the general elections

Okoye said: “We do not yet have the full report of what caused the explosion in Port Harcourt. We have to wait for the Police to provide the full details.

“However, the Independent National Electoral Commission has reiterated that the 2023 general election will hold as planned. We have assurances from security agencies that the environment will be secured. Besides, we have assurances from stakeholders and men and women of goodwill that the election will hold.

“We appeal to all aggrieved persons not to act unilaterally or take the law into their hands. Violence leads to more violence. The best way to resolve issues is to come to the negotiating table.”

The PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) told Saturday Sun that the spate of attacks on political campaigns, ahead of the 2023 polls, is not in the overall interest of the country.

Spokesman of the PDP campaign, Charles Aniagwu, charged security agencies to take steps to curb the attacks so that Nigerians can come out to vote freely in the 2023 general elections.

Aniagwu, also charged those behind the attacks to stop forthwith, noting that after the elections, Nigerians will continue to relate as brothers.

He said: “As a political party and as a campaign organization, we seriously condemn all forms of attacks, whether political or otherwise. That is because, it will not do us any good. Nigerians asked for democracy, because it provides them opportunity to be able to express themselves, allows them to choose their leaders, allows them to decide what kind of performance they expect their leaders to put through. That being the case, any form of attacks on any group must be condemned by all Nigerians, because it does not do us any good.

“So, we urge all those behind it , whether they are leaders or they are followers to know that after this election, there will still be a Nigeria. And as brothers, we will continue to relate. Those who will not win should know that after four years they have another opportunity of taking a short at whatever position they desire. And for that reason, let them democratically canvass for support.

He also explained why the PDP’s rallies were being attacked. “Those coming after the PDP and our supporters are thinking that by so doing, they will reduce the votes that the PDP will garner.

“We urge them, whether they are attacking PDP or other parties to stop, to desist from that because it does not help anybody. But for us in the party we will continue to reach out to Nigerians. We will not attack anybody.

National Chairman of LP, Julius Abure, told Saturday Sun that though elections are not a do or die affairs, the Federal Government must ensure that a level-playing field is provided.

He said despite the attacks and threats, many top politicians don’t have security details. He expressed displeasure over his repeated inability to get police security.

Abure said the attacks might disrupt the elections, unless government acts quickly and stops the attacks.

He said: “As at today, a lot of our candidates have no police protection, even me as the National Chairman, my application to have the police was approved, yet none has been drafted to me. As the Chairman of one of the most popular political parties, I still do not have security assigned to me. Our officers are exposed, our members are exposed and with the high level of insecurity now, we have become very vulnerable.

“This is important because with the series of attack on the Labour Party members, it shows that there might never be a hitch-free election. It is a serious threat to democracy. Democracy offers the citizens the opportunity to make choices and vote for candidates of their choice, so when they are being harassed, their leaders being killed, viable contestants being killed, including their supporters, it means that democracy is under threat.

“Those in government swore to uphold the constitution. I call on those in government to provide security across, so that our democracy will not be in jeopardy. It would not be in the interest of anyone, particularly those who will be in government tomorrow to allow the democracy to be threatened.”

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