Caution Your Supporters, Police Warn Presidential Candidates, Others
According to him, putting a punitive measure in place to checkmate violation of the electoral act by political candidates and their overzealous supporters is long overdue.
He said, “It is a welcome development for the police to rise against fifth columnists. People who deliberately want to foment trouble by attempting to ensure elections are never held in the country instead of losing to the opposition. There must be law and orderliness.
“Certain candidates and their supporters are already afraid, knowing that they stand no chance at the polls. I am not just an optimist. My optimism is buoyed by what I see happening in the country.”
The former Minister of Communications also noted that the result of the Kenya presidential election is a clear indicator for those still living in denial and believing that social media can make a change in the voting pattern of Nigeria.
“Just imagine how the man with the highest votes on social media was humbled. I am sure their eyes will clear now. Recall I once told you that the choice of Shettima and Tinubu is an unassailable combination hence people will always seek all means to run down their personalities.
“Otherwise, why would anybody cook up a fake narrative to implicate the Ghanaian president last week because they want to make Tinubu look bad the way they did? Is Nana Akufo-Addo Tinubu’s supervisor or what?” he stated.
But, the Spokesperson for the Peter Obi Support Network, Onwuasoanya Jones, in an interview with The PUNCH, Obi had been “an advocate of peaceful and responsible conduct both in speech and action and he has always encouraged his supporters and volunteers to toe the same path of issue-based engagements.
“Unfortunately, Peter Obi has been at the receiving end of very bad and tasteless blackmail against his person and even family, especially, from the angle of some ill-trained social media hirelings of Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress.
“We have seen many badly constructed fake news, outright falsehoods, and hate speeches targeted against Mr. Peter Obi, but in his characteristic tolerance and noble temperament, he has taken these with equanimity.
“If we a group, we wish to respond or take action against such, we know where and how to channel these complaints, we won’t overburden the Police with civil complaints like defamation of character when we know that the Police have a lot of criminal acts they are yet to tackle.
“The police must do their jobs professionally and patriotically by being non-partisan, especially, as we are about to enter the main campaign period. They should not become bodyguards and attack dogs for a political party or some candidates. The issue of defamation of character should be a matter of civil litigation, and Police shouldn’t allow themselves to be used to intimidate those who hold contrary views to certain “protected politicians”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Agbo Major, said, “The task of maintaining public peace rests with the police. We have always canvassed for the need to migrate from campaigns targeted at individuals or groups to that of issues as practiced in other democracies and so the warning is not out of place.
“As we head towards the elections, political parties and their candidates should engage voters based on issues and programs not on an individual basis.”
When contacted, the Spokesperson for the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Senator, Dino Melaye, stated, “The question of whether there should be peace should be channeled to those who make trouble. Everyone knows we are not a violent party. We and you know those who brought violence to the political laboratory of Nigeria.”
Defending the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, he stated, “We will continue to maintain peace. Atiku as a man of peace will have to tow that line. The quest for peace should be channeled to those who are violent.”
AAC advises candidates
Commenting on the situation, the African Action Congress said all Nigerians had the right to campaign and rally in any part of the country they deem fit.
The party condemned the use of “caustic, divisive and threatening statements” among supporters of other presidential candidates, stating that Nigerian youths should not lose sight of the goal to change the country in the forthcoming elections.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Femi Adeyeye, in a statement on Saturday, noted that the polity did not have to be heated up because of the 2023 elections.
He stated, ‘’It is a matter of fact that the Nigerian space has never been this polarised since it was established. No thanks to the nepotistic, clueless Buhari regime that has further widened the division among Nigerians, through very dangerous social and economic inequalities.
“Should we as people then continue to widen the trench through divisive rhetoric of violent threats to one another, all in the name of a “campaign”?
Meanwhile, no fewer than 27 deaths were recorded in 28 incidents of political violence in the country between January 2021 and August 2022.
Also, no fewer than 10 individuals were injured while one person was reportedly abducted. Houses and other properties were destroyed during the various attacks.
On January 13, the Peoples Democratic Party secretariat in Ekiti was attacked by suspected hoodlums. The Gombe PDP Secretariat, Atiku campaign office was similarly attacked on Feb 1 while sporadic shooting was recorded at Rauf Aregbesola’s campaign office in Osun state on February 3.
One person was killed while allegedly snatching a ballot box and a vehicle was torched during the Federal Capital Territory council elections on February 12.
Two persons were killed during the PDP ward congress in Osun on February 23 while two policemen and six others were confirmed dead after an attack by gunmen on some polling units in Enugu the same day.
On March 25, four persons were reportedly killed and many injured during the inauguration of the Kano APC executives by Governor Umar Ganduje.
Suspected political thugs were said to have torched a politician’s home in Ondo on March 19 while a victim was shot at the Rivers APC delegate ward congress on May 18.
Violence also marred the PDP primaries in Cross River on May 22 as a policeman and another person sustained gunshot injuries. Also, three PDP delegates were killed by suspected bandits in Niger state on May 25.
The latest incident was the clash between some political supporters in Osun where three persons died, one was kidnapped and the property was destroyed over election largesse on August 5.
A political analyst, Jide Ojo observed that electoral violence is a crime under the electoral laws, stressing that the laws should be vigorously enforced to teach those defaming others a lesson.
He added, ‘’It’s a warning sign to the political gladiators, particularly candidates and their loyalists to moderate their actions as we enter into the five-month campaign period starting next month.
‘’Hate speech, fake news, and defamation of character should not be the dominant feature of our elections. I implore political supporters to market ideas; what is needful at this point is an issue-based campaign, not character assassination, name-calling, defamation of people’s character, and slandering because these have consequences whether during or after the elections.
‘’Defamation of character, slander, character assassination and libel all have laws guiding and regulating them and people can be sued and heavy compensations including jail terms could be the punishment given to any of the guilty parties.”
A lawyer, Sunny Anyanwu, argued that the police warning was of little value, adding that the security agencies should be equipped to do their job.
“Equip them with fighting equipment and the rest. They should be up to the task,’’ he submitted.