With few days to the September 19 governorship election in Edo state, a civil rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has counselled President Muhammadu Buhari to play the role of a statesman by staying neutral in the course of the exercise.
This is as the party reminded Buhari that as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Nigerians expect him to champion a level playing field that would afford all participating political parties equal opportunity to test their popularity at the poll.
Addressing journalists on Monday in Abuja, Emmanuel Onwubiko, national coordinator of HURIWA faulted the alleged use of a Presidential jet by the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, campaign council for Edo election, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, describing the development as a breach of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
He said; “HURIWA wants the President, Muhammadu Buhari to be a statesman and not interfere in the coming election in Edo state to select the governor of the state. HURIWA says it is completely out of order for President Muhammadu Buhari to be seen extremely concerned about the outcome of the election when in actual fact as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is holding the office on behalf of the entirety of Nigeria as he is not the President of All Progressives Congress.
“The Nigerian President is by his oath of office expected to be above board and must not be seen actively promoting one-sided agenda but should be the champion of a pan Nigerian agenda.
“We have observed with shock and disappointment that the campaign council set up by the All Progressives Congress headed by the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, flew into Benin, the Edo state capital on a presidential jet belonging to all of Nigeria.
“If this trending news report is anything to go by, then we absolutely condemn this reckless display of political rascality and flagrant abuse of power which offends section 15(5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states that, ‘he state shall abolish all corrupt practice and abuse of power’ ”
By that singular action, the group noted that a clear instance of partisanship has been established by the Presidency.
He continued: “We, in HURIWA view this naked show of reckless executive power manifested in the illegal use of the people’s jet for a partisan affair such as conveying the campaign team of the APC to Benin City as reported which we believe is meant to tell the electoral umpire that the President’s mind is that the electoral process be manipulated in favour of the party that controls presidential power which incidentally is the appointing authority of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“We hereby warn INEC to ensure that the governorship poll is free, fair, transparent and peaceful. INEC must not be intimidated by the federally controlled security forces or should they out of intimidation already displayed by the fact that the presidential jet was deployed to convey campaign team of APC, to then manipulate the electoral process.
“We want to caution INEC that any attempt to rig the poll may not augur well for stability of Nigeria.”
Onwubiko further warned the two major political parties, the APC and PDP to play by the rules by ensuring that any form of harassment, inducement or intimidation of voters is avoided.
The group also called on security agencies to exhibit the highest form of professionalism, warning that they must not allow themselves to be used by politicians for their selfish gains.
In what appears a pointer to the possibility of a re-run, HURIWA charged INEC to do everything possible to conclude the election and produce a winner on first ballot.
“HURIWA wants the Edo state governorship poll to b a credible election. As stated by experts, we agree that inclusive elections provide equal opportunities for all eligible citizens to participate as voters in selecting their representatives and as candidates for election to government.
“This right to participate is a broad concept and can only be subject to reasonable restrictions that are provided by law.
“Authorities must take steps to assess and remove any barriers to the participation of all citizens.
“This includes removing barriers for traditionally marginalized populations such as ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities; women, youth or elderly citizens; and persons with disabilities.
“Reasonable restrictions on participation should be narrow, like a minimum age for voting and standing as an electoral contestant,” he added.
It further condemned the stationing of military vehicles in the residence of Adams Oshiomhole, until recently, the national chairman of the APC.