Opposition political parties, yesterday, signed a pact that would facilitate the emergence of a common presidential candidate in next year's general elections.They also agreed to present unity candidates for governorship positions in the 36 states.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 38 others in a political alliance under the aegis of Coalition of Unity Political Parties (CUPP).
They resolved to commence work on a blueprint manifesto.The alignment is expected to result in a government of national unity.The chairmen of the parties took turns to condemn the APC administration. They accused President Muhammadu Buhari of being nepotistic and lamented growing insecurity in the country.
They admitted the battle would not be easy but expressed determination to give it all it takes. The grand coalition included Action Alliance (AA), Alliance for Democracy (AD), Africa Democratic Party (ADC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Peoples Party (DPC), National Conscience Party (NCP), New Generation Party (NGP), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Providence People's Congress (PPC), and the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC).
The meeting witnessed the return of the nPDP leader, Kawu Baraje, who is a loyal member of the Saraki political dynasty in Kwara State.His return fuelled speculations Senate President Bukola Saraki might have concluded plans to return to the PDP. Last weekend, Saraki visited Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, a PDP stalwart.
The Chairman of R-APC, Buba Galadima, vowed Buhari would lose the 2019 election.The terms of reference of the MoU, read by PDP member, Chief Tom Ikimi, states that the parties "shall promote a positive reaction to the failures of the present regime and give hope to all our people. The parties shall ensure that the coalition is committed to working together in support of the single presidential candidate to contest the 2019 presidential election to successfully enthrone a true democrat who will salvage the nation from the misrule of the APC government."
This came as the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, and a team of detectives, yesterday, stormed a printing press at the Gbagada area where Governor Ayodele Fayose was allegedly printing electoral ballot papers. Edgal said preliminary investigations revealed that one Eniola Fayose, an indigene of Ikere, Ekiti State, owned the company said to be in a contractual agreement with the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission to print the materials.He said laptops recovered were being scrutinised by police ICT experts, with a view to finding incriminating information.
But Governor Fayose dismissed the allegation, saying what was printed was mere specimen for voters' education."Eniola printed specimen of election materials for voters' education because of our people who are illiterates. The specimen has no security features and every other party printed its own including the APC. We challenge them to show the so-called election materials they are talking about. They should publish what they have. INEC printed their own specimen and we also printed our own specimen for voters' education. The fact that Eniola bears Fayose does not mean he is my relation," he said.
Eniola, who showed the samples, said: "They are just specimen to let the illiterates know how the ballot paper looks like. I have not done anything illegal. I don't know anything about ammunition. I am a law-abiding citizen and not a relation of the governor."The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, meanwhile, has assured the people of Ekiti State that their votes would count in Saturday's governorship election.
He made the disclosure in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, at the Election Stakeholders Meeting organised by the commission.Yakubu said the commission has taken note of concerns by political parties and would not take steps capable of giving undue advantage to any candidate.He said: "For transparency sake, all uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) will be brought to INEC's office in Ado Ekiti and warehoused for safekeeping until a new date is fixed to resume PVCs collection."
He explained that following last year's governorship election in Anambra State, the commission has introduced an additional measure of transparency."I wish to reassure that our officials are under strict instruction to remain neutral. We have also accredited credible foreign and local observers to monitor this election. We are confident that with the arrangements we have put in place, the Ekiti State governorship election will be another good example of free, fair, credible and peaceful election and a further affirmation of the maturity of our democracy," he said.
The Ekiti State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Abdulganiyu Raji, said accreditation and voting would hold simultaneously. Staff of the commission would not be requiring any form of assistance from political parties or their candidates, as INEC has provided funds and adequate logistics for its personnel, he said, stressing: "Even when our vehicle breaks down, don't help. It will only take five minutes to either fix it or provide an alternative."
According to him, 913,334 people registered for the election, 667,064 PVCs were collected, while 246,270 were uncollected. Also, 2000 people had multiple registrations.The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, urged the people to report misconduct by any police officer. "We will not tolerate the ignoring of restrictions to movement. Don't see election as a matter of life and death. Let me state that the police will not hesitate to deal with anybody, no matter how highly placed, found flouting electoral laws," he warned.
Candidates of the 35 political parties listed for the Saturday contest were given opportunity to interact with the INEC boss and the IGP but the session rowdy, as members of the two leading parties, APC and the PDP, threw jibes at each other.Efforts by Yakubu, Idris and Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, Chairman Council of Traditional Rulers, to placate the party members failed, which caused dignitaries at the event to leave the hall.
The meeting came to an abrupt end, without its planned question and answer session.Even as other stakeholders raise concerns about the heavy military seize on Ekiti State prior to the election, APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has endorsed the deployment of army and police personnel to keep the peace during the polls.
Speaking with reporters after a closed-door meeting with British High Commissioner to Nigeria Paul Arkwright in Abuja, he said: "I don't think you want to argue that over the years, since 2003, 1999, the armed forces have always been deployed. Don't forget that when I was in Edo State, I told people that I wanted the armed forces to be involved in the election because criminals who were hardened and who were often hired were servicing the rigging machine.
"Now, if you have criminals wielding AK 47s on an election day and the police are overwhelmed, you want to say the army should not be deployed? We shouldn't worry about who we deploy. I think we should all pray that however people are deployed, in the end we are not counting dead bodies."Arkwright said given his country's interest in Nigeria's democracy, the British High Commission would send a team to monitor the exercise to ensure "the people of Ekiti State are allowed to freely express their opinion, vote with their conscience, and do so in a peaceful manner."