*Says PDP’s victory in tomorrow’s poll will send message to ruling party
*Ayu, Okowa, Saraki, govs, others in final campaign for Adeleke *State govt denies opposition party use of Stadium, creates tension *NSCDC deploys 11,226 personnel
Chuks Okocha, Michael Olugbode in Abuja and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, said with PDP’s sure victory in Osun on Saturday, an end has come to the reign of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the country. The former vice-president, who said Senator Ademola Adeleke’s win would send a clear message to the APC, adding that he was convinced by the popularity of the party’s candidate in the state.
Also, the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu; Vice-presidential candidate of the party and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and governors of the PDP, yesterday, led a final campaign for Adeleke ahead of Saturday’s election. But a mild tension erupted yesterday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, when the government reportedly denied the PDP a use of the Oshogbo township stadium for its planned mega rally.
The PDP was equally denied the use of the Technical College field and the Freedom Park. Yet, the APC and the Labour Party, were on Tuesday and Wednesday, allowed to use same facilities for their rallies.
This is as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr Ahmed Audi, has deployed 11, 226 officers and men to cover the 3,763 polling units, collation centres, flashpoints as well as critical national assets and infrastructure in all the 31 local government areas of the state during Saturday’s gubernatorial election. Speaking on the prospect of the PDP in tomorrow’s election, Atiku said, “Our victory in Osun, by God’s grace and the overwhelming decision of the electorate, will send a strong message to the ruling APC party that their reign has come to an end. APC’s loss in Osun is a win for the people of the state. It is when the people win that the PDP can truly boast of victory.
“And that is the promise that the PDP holds, not just in Osun but everywhere else. Thus, the election this Saturday is a battle between the people and the forces of darkness that has held us hostage. But it is a battle that I am certain that the people shall win.
“I don’t speak Yoruba but I understand a bit of it. Some members of my family speak the language fluently. Of course, the Yoruba people are dear to my heart as other tribes in our country. But the Yoruba language, has a unique quality that I admire in particular. It has the power of descriptiveness.” On the popularity of the PDP candidate, Atiku said, “By my understanding, the slogan of Imole as the brand identity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in the Osun State election could not have been more apt.
“Imole is not just light. Indeed, the closest English interpretation of it is ‘to illuminate’. And for that, it is no wonder why our gubernatorial candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke enjoys a groundswell of support amongst the esteemed people of the state across all localities and local governments.” According to him, “For the past 12 years, Osun that was once a shinning star of the West, has been thrown into a state of doldrums. But the good news is here, because the PDP is here.
“Imole has come on a rescue mission to return Osun to its state of glory and splendour and I, Atiku Abubakar, and all leaders of our great party will be on ground in Osogbo to mobilise support for the success of our campaign.” Describing the crisis in the party as a social media creation, Atiku insisted that the PDP was one united party, stating that he was open to meeting the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Fielding questions after the mega rally in Osogbo, the PDP presidential candidate said, “It is a social media drama. There is nothing like a Wike camp or Atiku camp. There is one PDP family.” When asked whether he was willing to meet Wike for discussion, the former vice-president answered: “Why not? I am open to that. Some people get angry, when things don’t go their way and so on and so forth. We will overcome that. I have every belief that we are going to do that.” Ayu, Okowa, Saraki, Govs in Final Campaign for Adeleke Despite denying the PDP the use of the stadium facility for its mega rally, yesterday, the party still held its rally at the state secretariat with a large turnout of members.
In attendance were Atiku and his running mate, Okowa, Ayu, who led other members of the National working committee to the mega campaign; Saraki, the Governor of Sokoto State and chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Waziri Tambawul. Other PDP governors in attendance were the Edo State, Godwin Obaseki; the chairman of the Osun State campaign council and Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, One after the other, the PDP chieftains spoke on why the electorate should vote for PDP, even as they described Osun as a PDP state, insisting that the stolen mandate must be returned back.
Saraki also posted on his verified Twitter handle, saying, “Yesterday, at the training of PDP Polling Unit agents in Osun State, I was proud to see the level of preparation of our party and Senator Adeleke. There, I called on all PDP polling agents to not be intimidated on Saturday and to protect all PDP votes! “We have learned from the Osun 2018 gubernatorial election. This time, we are more prepared. Our agents have been trained, using INEC guidelines and we are sticking to the letter of the law,” he said. However, for denying the PDP the opportunity to hold the mega rally, the state chapter of the party described the action as shameful and a sign of jittery for defeat.
According to the party’s Caretaker Chairman, Dr Akindele Adekunle, the party was denied the use of stadium, Technical College field and the Freedom Park, which it applied to use for the final campaign programme, adding that the action revealed the plan of the state government to incite violence and disrupt peaceful election on Saturday.
“After due consultations with prominent stakeholders in the state, including our highly revered royal fathers, the leadership of our party, decided to make do with the vicinity of our state secretariat for our Mega Rally.
“Our party considers the action of the state government as an affront of a dying horse and a deliberate attempt to provoke violent reactions from the good people of Osun State, thereby, instigating crisis in the state. It is a shame and a dent on the noble race of Yoruba nation that a governor living at the mercy of tax payers money would find it convenient to descend so low.
“It is elementary for any reasonable government to know that public facilities are meant for public use. The main bowl of the Osogbo City Stadium we applied to use for today’s rally, for instance, had been put in place and adequately maintained by successive administrations in the state for use of our people even before Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola retraced his history to Osun State from Lagos for political trading.
“We are not unaware that Mr Gboyega Oyetola by his refusal to grant our party, the required permission to use the facility, was just only testing waters of the large scale violence he is planning against the state. We want to assure him and his cohorts that he would be matched. Any attempt to subvert the electoral verdict of our people will be resisted as bonafide residents of the state. It will not be in his interest nor that of entire country to underestimate this resolve.
“While we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to be awake about the crisis Oyetola is brewing in Osun State, we call on our people not to be discouraged by the defeatist antics of Mr. Oyetola and his baby vuvuzelas. This election is not just about the PDP or Senator Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke, but for the good of our people and humanity in general,” he said.
But, in defence of the action of the state government, the Special Adviser to Oyetola on Political Affairs, Sunday Akere, said the party lacked organisation and failed to book the said venues until other groups did.
He stated that not using a venue has no correlation with deployment of thugs, calling on security operatives to take cognisance of the threat issued by the PDP. “It is unfortunate that the PDP, due to lack of proper organisation, decided to book the venues after other groups have done so. Other parties have used many public facilities, it does not determine who wins an election. A youth group booked for the stadium ahead of them, while the mini bus union is using the freedom park,” he said.
Meanwhile, a pro-election group, Yiaga Africa, has condemned what it described as the weak response from government in prosecuting those arrested in vote-buying amidst the increasing tendencies for thuggery in tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Osun. A statement by Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa and Ezenwa Nwagwu, a board member, Yiaga Africa, lamented the possibility of vote buying in the Osun election.
“Weak state action against vote buying mercenaries: Recent experience in Ekiti state reveals that despite rampant vote trading during the election, the Nigerian Police have continuously shied away from arresting political party agents that engaged in vote buying on election day.
“In cases, where arrests are effected, there is limited information on consequential actions taken by the police to prosecute these offenders. This seeming laxity by the Nigerian Police may embolden party agents to engage in brazen violation of electoral laws regarding voter inducement or vote buying on election day.”
On logistics deployment, Yiaga Africa said, it has noted the marked improvement in the deployment of electoral materials and personnel in the Ekiti election, which led to the relatively early commencement of polls. It said Osun state, with a substantially larger number of registered voters and polling units, might pose a bigger challenge to INEC if the logistics for the election were not managed properly.
NSCDC Deploys 11, 226 Personnel Director, Public Relations, NSCDC, Olusola Odumosu, in a statement, said the personnel were deployed from the national headquarters and nine state commands: Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Kwara, Kogi and Edo to supply manpower for the election. The CG stated that the objectives of the Corps in the forthcoming election was to create a secured environment for its successful conduct and enhance the general security in the state before, during and after the election.
He explained that personnel had attended various workshops on best practices during election and had been acquainted with the provisions of the Electoral Act as regards the Rules of Engagement, hence, must comply with the Corps’ Operational Code, Standard Operating Procedure and above all, display professionalism and high sense of discipline throughout the election. He noted that the robust operational order has been activated to ensure a hitch-free exercise and guide against molestation and intimidation of the electorate by hoodlums or party thugs.
Audi, therefore, hinted that, in readiness for the election, the Corps’ undercover personnel from the national headquarters had joined their counterparts in Osun for covert operations to nip any security compromise in the bud.
Audi has also assigned Deputy Commandant General (DCG) in charge of Operations, Dauda Mungadi, to oversee the election exercise. He also designated Assistant Commandant General (ACG) Operations, Philip Ayuba, Zonal Commander (Zone J), Fasiu Adeyinka and Commandant Special Duties, Oliver Ugwuja to serve as field Commanders monitoring each senatorial district of the state.
He noted that to ensure that critical assets of government were not vandalised by criminal elements before, during and after the election, there would be deployment of the Anti-vandalism Squad, Critical National Asset Protection Unit and other special forces to all key points in the state to protect them against vandalism, damage or arson. He also warned all personnel deployed to remain apolitical, stressing that whoever was found perpetrating unethical conduct would face sanctions.
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