President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said that the votes of the Akwa Ibom people allegedly stolen during the presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23 would be reclaimed.
Buhari said this during a town hall meeting held in Uyo to thank the people of the state for casting their votes for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the elections.
Recall that the APC lost all elections in Akwa Ibom during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
The APC, led in the state by a senator, Godswill Akpabio, however, claimed it was rigged out. The party and its leaders have repeatedly called for the removal of the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mike Iginni.
On Monday, President Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, encouraged the people to defend their votes during the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
He decried the circumstances, under which Akpabio lost his re-election into the Senate in spite of his popularity across the state.
He alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) robbed him and the party of victory.
He assured Akwa Ibom people that all the wrongdoings during the presidential and National Assembly elections would be addressed.
“What happened on the 23rd of February was robbery. The votes of the people were stolen, but we are not deterred.
“The president sent me to thank you today. We are going to make sure that everything that was stolen on the February 23 would be restored.
“It is not possible that Sen. Godwill Akpabio lost. We are in no doubt that Senator Akpabio is the elected senator of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
“I and Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the party have been in the opposition for long and we cannot be defeated anymore.
“Everyone of you should go out to vote on Saturday and defend your votes, we cannot be cheated; not only you but tell your neighbours to vote for Obong Nsima Ekere and all APC candidates.
“Wait for your votes to be counted. It is the duty of the federal government to provide security and we will do that. We will recover every one of our votes, ” he said.
The National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, said the party was not in the state to lament but to appreciate the people of the state for doing their jobs and voting President Buhari and Osinbajo.
He alleged that INEC colluded with some of the electoral officers to deny the state of its electoral victory on Feb 23, even though the people voted for APC.
“We have not come here to lament that our mandate was stolen on February 23. We have come to thank you that you voted for President Buhari and all members of the party. You did your job but some armed robbers in INEC stole your votes.
“You think that those who stole your votes will have peace? We have come to reaffirm our commitment with democracy.
“We have come to affirm that no robber will go unpunished, but when an electoral umpire is corrupt and collude with the opposition, we have the witnesses and we have lawyers to deal with that.
“On Saturday we are not going to wait for them to steal out votes. We call on Akwa Ibom people to protect their votes. We must maintain our sanity even in this hour of provocation.
“Those who committed democratic abortion would be brought to book,” Oshiomhole said.
The APC governorship candidate in the state, Nsima Ekere, encouraged the people not to be deterred by the Feb. 23 elections, but to go out and vote during the March 9 elections, saying the party was sure of victory.
He said that the people of the state were in need of change, as demonstrated by him during his campaign across the 31 local government areas of the state.
He assured the president that after March 9 elections, Akwa Ibom would not be in the opposition but would be reunited with the centre
“Thank you for what you are doing for APC. The people voted for you, that vote is a re-validation of what the people want. You put Nigeria’s economy back on track.
“We are here because we have faith in you and President, the opposition and INEC have no choice than to give us back our mandate.
“Whosoever shall attempt to work against the collective will of Akwa Ibom people, we shall collectively resist.
“We send a message to the electoral umpire and the other parties that they must respect the votes of the people, every vote must count. Akwa Ibom people love APC,” Ekere said.
Ekere is expected to be the main challenger to Governor Emmanuel Udom of the PDP in Saturday’s governorship election.