Abuja — In a move targeted at dousing tension in the country, the leaders of the National Peace Committee (NPC) met with former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, in Abuja yesterday. The closed-door meeting was held in Atiku's Asokoro residence.
Former military Head of State and Chairman of the NPC, Gen. ; the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah and other members of the group were present.
The meeting was convened barely 24 hours after Atiku rejected the outcome of the presidential elections
Shortly after the meeting, Abdusalami said the mission of the committee was to douse the tension that was rising as an aftermath of the presidential election.
Atiku's running mate, Peter Obi; Senate President Bukola Saraki; PDP Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and other PDP leaders were also in attendance.
Others in the meeting included Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Rev. Fr Atta Barkindo of the NPC Secretariat.
On Wednesday, Atiku had declared his intention to challenge the outcome of last Saturday's presidential election in court.
To also ensure peace, the presidency yesterday cautioned supporters of Buhari against anything that could incite the opposition to anger as they celebrate his election victory.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, gave the charge immediately after he met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He also urged candidates for the forthcoming governorship and House of Assembly elections to ensure that the polls are devoid of crisis.
Enang, who congratulated Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on emerging victorious at the polls, appealed to all those celebrating the success to be temperate and humble so as not to provoke the already aggrieved opposition.
He specifically told the senators-elect and the elected members of the House of Representatives to prevail on their supporters to work more at fostering unity with those who lost the elections.
"I will advise that all the governorship candidates and the House of Assembly candidates who are going in for the elections should measure their campaign words and should maintain peace better than was maintained in the presidential and National Assembly elections," he said.
Enang warned that in the forthcoming elections, there might be hostilities largely because the positions being contested are closer to the people.
The former lawmaker commended the security agencies for maintaining the peace during the exercise, craving that the situation be maintained.
Amid the moderation talks, the presidency has, however, said it would not fret over the decision of Atiku to challenge the outcome of last Saturday's presidential election in court.
The presidency advised the PDP candidate to toe what it called the line of decorum and approach the courts if he felt strongly against the results of the polls which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared.
Fielding questions from reporters at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday night, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said the country's constitution and the Electoral Act provide that whoever is not satisfied with results of election should take his grouse to the courts.
"We are not jittery at all because the process was open and transparent. It was a credible election and we will continue to savour the victory, but in the process too, we will extend the hand of friendship for the purpose of nation building and reconciliation," he said.
Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council expressed readiness to defend the reelection of Buhari with all the legal expertise at its disposal.
The Deputy Director, Legal Directorate of the campaign council, Prof. Mamman Lawan Yusufari, who convened a parley of legal experts, called on interested parties in the APC who are not satisfied with the results of the elections to challenge the same by following due process of the law.
Besides, the service chiefs yesterday met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, at the Presidential Villa Abuja. The meeting lasted for less than an hour.
The four military chiefs who met with Kyari were the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai; Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
Though the agenda of the meeting was not made public, sources said it might not be unconnected with the palpable security situation in the country, following the controversy trailing the outcome of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
It was learnt that the service chiefs first went to the office of the aide-de-camp to the president before proceeding to see Kyari. They were seen off by Kyari as they made to depart the Presidential Villa. They did not speak with reporters.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it had noted what it called "the illegal occupation and provocative besiegement of PDP states in the South South, namely Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states by the military ahead of the March 9, governorship and State Assembly elections."
According to the party, the illegal occupation "is to further militarise the South South zone, use soldiers to suppress voters and re-enact the massive rigging of polls for the APC, as was done in the widely discredited February 23 presidential election."
The party, which briefed journalists in Abuja through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, warned that "those who sow the wind should also be ready to reap the whirlwind."
PDP claimed that "after using military to unleash violence, alter results and muscle out fabricated 25 percent ballot for President Buhari across the South South states and other PDP strongholds, the APC now wants to use the military to fight our governors, suppress our members and forcefully take over our states."
According to the opposition party, "Nigerians already know how APC leaders from the South South are going around boasting that the military will use violence to give them governorship election triumph, the same way it did during the presidential election, where innocent Nigerians were brutalised and murdered.
"Nigerians are witnesses to how 13 persons were murdered in Akuku-Toru Local Government in Rivers State, in addition to those killed in Ahoada East, Ahoada West and Emohua Local Government Areas during the presidential election."
Lamenting the tragedies allegedly visited on the people during the election, the PDP said that in Bayelsa State, soldiers were freely used against the people, and in the process the photographer to the governor was murdered. The deputy commissioner of police in the state was even kidnapped.
"In Brass East senatorial district of the state, it was a war situation as the military took over the electoral process and even declared winners. Soldiers were deployed to the remotest villages where the voters were suppressed and results altered in favour of President Buhari.
"Now that it is clear to all that the 2019 election is not between the PDP and the APC, but a war between the state apparatus of power and the PDP, the PDP cannot continue to fold its hands in the face of this killings and suppression of voters by the APC," the party added.
The opposition party cautioned the APC and security agents to note that the people of the Niger Delta are already hurting over the killings of their compatriots during the February 23 election and any further provocation would be a clear recipe for crisis.
The PDP stated that it was committed to peaceful election but cautioned: "Nobody has a monopoly of show of strength. The people of the Niger Delta are peace-loving, but have never, in the history of our nation, allowed themselves to be suppressed or vanquished by oppressive forces."
"It is incontrovertible that the South South is a stronghold of the PDP and the people are fully mobilized for the March 9 election. Our members and supporters are in every polling unit, every collation center, all exit and entry points in the area and will use all legitimate means available in a democracy to defend themselves and their votes.
"In this regard, any person who yields him or herself as a tool in the hands of evil should, therefore, be ready to face the legitimate anger of the people."
The PDP cautioned the APC to be mindful of the fact that the Niger Delta region is the mainstay of the nation's economy and that any assault on the zone is capable of spelling doom for the nation.