Niger Delta leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, on Wednesday appealed to the Federal Government to withdraw the military from all election duties.
Clark, who made this appeal during a press conference held in his home town, Kiagbodo, Burutu local government area of Delta State, said from experience of the last Presidential and National Assembly election it was clear that “the involvement of the army was to intimidate and prevent South-South and South-East Voters from exercising their franchise.
Clark who is also the Convener of the Pan Niger Forum (PANDEF) alleged that the military was also used to aid and abet the manipulation of votes to favour the incumbent and to determine the general voting pattern in the country.
He expressed concern and deepest condemnation in the strongest possible terms on the reported violence and killings that characterized the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday, February 23, 2019, in parts of the country, particularly in Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos and Delta States.
He said, “The gory tales of violence at Okrika in Okrika LGA, Opobo in Opobo LGA, Bonny Island in Bonny LGA and particularly killings in Abonnema, Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State, the mindless electoral violence recorded in such places as Bassambiri, in Nembe LGA, Brass in Brass LGA, Agbere in Sagbama LGA and various parts of Southern Ijaw LGA, in Bayelsa State, is quite worrisome.”
Clark said that now that the Presidential election has come and gone and February 28 deadline for the military Operation Python Dance had elapsed it is advise that the Army be withdrawn, to forestall further hostilities and unnecessary killings in the region.
“The Federal Government need to be reminded that deployment of the military on election duties is an aberration, and same as been pronounced upon and consequently laid to rest in the Court of Appeal, in the case of All Progressives Congress v People’s Democratic Party & ORS CA/EK/EPT/GOV/1/2015 delivered on Monday, 16th day of February, 2015,” Clark said.
Clark also appealed to every politician to play by the rules, and eschew actions capable of igniting violence and brigandage, adding that it was rather very appalling to hear desperate politicians who do not enjoy popularity in their respective constituencies reportedly sponsoring of some of these violence and killings.
He said there have been cases and reports of the military who intimidated every available person on their way to connive and cajole the INEC officials to perpetuate electoral fraud resulting in violence and deaths.
In another development, Chief Clark also appealed to Deltans to support the second term bid of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, saying the governor has done creditable well to deserve a second term.
Pa Clark said, “Delta State under His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, is peaceful and the government is performing. I have had cause to address an open letter to all Deltans, in my New Year Message, on the need to support Governor Okowa for his second term bid; on account of his satisfactory performance and the need for equity in Delta State.
“Delta State is made up of three Senatorial Districts, the Delta Central, the Delta North and the Delta South. Delta Central and Delta South Senatorial Districts have produced Governors who served two terms each in the persons of Governors James Onanefe Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan respectively.
“It is now the turn of Delta North Senatorial District to complete its turn of serving two tenures. This is not new; it has been the practice since the creation of Midwest Region on August 9, 1963, which received the round approval of the entire people of Midwest, which was a part of Western Nigeria.
“We must stand against this injustice in promoting the general good of all, Gov. Okowa should be supported to have a second term as his predecessors, as aforesaid.”
Clark said voting Okowa for second term was the best way to promote the wellbeing of the state, urging all Deltans to re-elect Okowa on Saturday march 9, 2019 as governor of Delta State.
Clark, also leader of the Delta Elders Forum, reiterates his believe on restructuring, saying, restructuring of Nigeria was the only way to give each and every group the opportunity of living on equity, justice and unity.
He added that without restructuring, the Niger Delta region would soon be wiped out in Nigeria or become endangered species.
“But with restructuring, we will be the owners of our resources which we will explore and pay revenue to the Federal Government. A group of persons presently believe that they own the country and by extension the oil. Thus, in Restructuring, Our Salvation Lies,” Clark added.