A combined team of security operatives including soldiers and riot policemen on Thursday stopped the leaders of the All Progressives Congress from gaining entrance to the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja.
The leaders were on a peaceful protest march against the commission’s handling of the November 16 Anambra State governorship election and other forms of electoral irregularities in the country.
As early as 8.30 am, members of the party across the states had converged on its new secretariat in Wuse 2 in the Federal Capital Territory where a strategic meeting which lasted over three hours was held ostensibly to map out ways to go about the planned protest.
Although none of the rebel governors was present, the APC leaders took to the streets and embarked on a walk protest to INEC’s office in Maitama Distict.
They however met a stiff resistance from stern-looking security operatives from a combined team of the police, army, State Security Services and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
An Armoured Personnel Carrier with Registration Number NPF 6359 C measuring about 40 feet long was used to barricade the entrance to the commission’s office, while the driver of the truck (a police officer, with the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Police) was pelted with sachets of pure water by the APC youths.
But despite this resistance, the party members stole the show and left their message.
Those in attendance at the protest march included the party’s national leader and a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; a former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd); ex- Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; a former member of the House of Representatives and Executive Secretary of Anti-Corruption Network, Otunba Dino Melaye; and former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
Others are a former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima; a former national Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai; Senator Oluremi Tinubu; a member of the House of Representatives, Ms. Abike Dabiri; Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajiabiamila; Mr. Pally Iriase, among others.
In their separate speeches, Akande, Tinubu; Onu and Buhari demanded the sacking of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega with immediate effect because of his roles in the Oguta election in Imo State and the recent Delta State senatorial election.
In his speech, Tinubu said the party leadership came “to serve warning signal to INEC.”
He said, “As an institution, INEC does not represent the interest of Nigeria. They are all compromised electoral officers. They have committed criminal offences by rigging elections in Nigeria. The electoral commissioners represent 90 per cent of card-carrying members of PDP. We are calling for the dissolution of INEC immediately.
“With the amendment of the electoral law, they have never complied with the Uwais report. They rig, after rigging, because we condone them; they are used in sharing the election, and for the promotion of corruption. We are rejecting in totality the predetermined result of the rigging in Anambra State, the Delta State Senatorial election and the Oguta House House of Assembly election. They thought they would keep us lamenting. No, we are no more in lamentation.”
Tinubu also told the police to beware. “If the Nigeria Police have become the armed wing of the PDP, let us know. That is the way you are behaving. If the Nigerian Army is now demonstrating their patriotic sense to only one party, they should serve us notice and let us know. This nonsense must stop. APC will stop the rigging. From now on, you must rig and roast. God bless Nigeria.”
According to Buhari, APC’s letter to INEC was the party’s demand to the institution to “do away with the election in Anambra State that was conducted and calling for the cancellation of the election totally and fixing of another day for the election.”
For Akande, the letter was APC’s protest against the rigging of Anambra State election.
He said, “We are against the rigging of Delta State senatorial election. We are against the rigging of Oguta House of Assembly election. And our coming is to ask Nigerians to support us to stop rigging in Nigeria. There is poverty in Nigeria because of fraud.
Onu said, “The APC will put an end to this. We need free and fair elections in our county. Why is PDP afraid of free and fair elections? Why are they afraid of the people?”
The APC in its letter to INEC chairman signed by Akande stated that prior to the date for the Anambra State governorship election, “the ominous signs of an election that was pre-determined to favour specific interests against the wish of the electorate were already clear.”
The APC therefore demanded “an outright cancellation of the Anambra election, having been marred by serious irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.”
The party also called on INEC to, among others, “discard the present fake multiple voter registers and produce one authentic voter register that will not disenfranchise any voter and be published 30 days before any election can take place in Anambra State.”