Good morning gentlemen of the press.
I have called this World Press Conference today to alert Nigerians and our international friends of the grave threat posed to our democracy and indeed the very survival of our nation by an increasingly-tyrannical federal government.
Less than 48 hours after I released an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, warning him to halt the impunity in Ekiti and not to plunge Nigeria into a political crisis, the federal government has now overreached itself and turned Ekiti into a war zone, where constitutional guaranteed rights have been suspended.
The final electioneering campaign of our candidate in the Ekiti election, Gov. Kayode Fayemi, provided the perfect setting for the Jonathan-led administration to bare its fangs with a series of arbitrariness and unconstitutional acts that threaten the very fabric of our democracy.
First, several APC Governors were prevented from attending the rally. The helicopter that was to ferry Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State from Benin to Akure was denied permission to take off by the aviation authorities apparently acting on ”orders from above”
Then while the plane bearing Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, was allowed to land at the Akure Airport, his convoy was stopped by soldiers at the border of Ondo and Ekiti state, and ordered to return to Akure by the leader of the troops, an army captain who said he was under orders not to allow him into Ado Ekiti and threatened to shoot him if he defied his orders.
Gov. Amaechi was detained along the road in the bush for as long as it suited the soldiers before he was forced to return to Akure. While the Governor was being detained on the road, the convoys of the Minister of Police Affairs and the Minister of State for Defence sped past and were not stopped by the troops.
But the worst was yet to come. On arrival in Akure Airport, he found out that the airport has been shut, leaving him stranded. By the time other Governors, including Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Ibikunle Amosun of Rivers, and party leaders including myself, Chief Bisi Akande and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu arrived at the Akure Airport for their onward journey to their various destinations, they discovered that the airport has been shut, apparently on the same nebulous ”orders from above”.
Thus, all the party leaders and supporters who came to the rally from across the country, including Sokoto, Abuja, Kano, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Lagos, were forced to travel by road back to their destinations, with the dangers inherent in such night journey.
Against the background of my narration, and the over-militarization of Ekiti State ahead of Saturday’s election, many questions come to mind
1. If one of the candidates in the election could be prevented from holding his final rally with the full compliment of his party leaders and supporters, a treatment that was not meted out to other candidates, can we honestly say that a level playing field has been provided for all the candidates in the election?
2. If a state Governor, despite the high office he occupies and the constitutional immunity from arrest which he enjoys, could be detained and ordered around by security agents, what fate will befall ordinary Nigerians under this administration that is increasingly sliding into fascism?
3. If key institutions of state can be abused so brazenly just to stop the opposition from moving freely because of a state governorship election, what will happen during next year’s general elections?
4. Where in the world are airports shut at the whims and caprice of the ruling party just to punish the opposition? Is it not true that in recent times, the airports in Kano and Gombe, among others, have been shut just to prevent the opposition from using them?
5. If an army captain and his troops can enforce unlawful orders, as was done when Gov. Amaechi and other key leaders of our party were denied their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of free movement, free assembly and free speech, just to mention a few, can’t the same troops be given orders to hijack ballot boxes or tamper with the electoral process in Ekiti on Saturday?
Doesn’t this give a cause for concern in view of the over-militarization of Ekiti State ostensibly to provide security for the election but now obviously to stifle the process and rig the election?
6. Is President Jonathan aware of the treatment being meted out to elected Governors under his watch? If so, what he is doing to stop this madness before it gets out of hand?
These are some of the questions agitating our minds and, indeed, the minds of all Nigerians.
Now, let us place the events of the past 24 hours side by side with the events of the past few days leading to the elections in Ekiti viz:
1. On June 8th 2014: Our supporters, armed with nothing but brooms, were engaged in a peaceful procession on the streets of Ado Ekiti when they were attacked by gun-totting policemen acting on ”orders” from above. One of them was killed and when Gov. Kayode Fayemi attempted to intervene, he was teargassed and threatened with arrest by the Mopol Commander
2. Within the past three days, two aircraft, one a Beechcraft 1900 and another a Hawker 900, made a total of three trips to the Akure airport ferrying cargoes of money for the Ekiti election. When one of these cargoes burst open, naira notes with wrappers bearing the name of a popular bank spilled out. The offloading of these cargoes, which were then loaded into bullion vans heading for Ado-Ekiti, was supervised by Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro, as widely reported in the media and yet unrefuted. Placed against the background of a statement credited to a PDP leader that huge amounts of money have been made available by the FG for the Ekiti election, this raises huge concerns.
3. Last week,over 200 boxes of electoral materials were intercepted by security agents in Ekiti. INEC quickly claimed that the boxes contained wasted materials, contradicting the story by the driver of the vehicle carrying the materials. To date, Nigerians have yet to be provided with full and credible information on these suspicious materials.
4. On June 18th, a pro-Fayose and PDP gang was busted in a resort owned by Fayose’s Campaign Manager thumb printing ballot papers ahead of Saturday’s election. The 22 young men, who were arrested, were also caught preparing INEC form EC8.
5. Under the guise of providing security for the election, Ekiti State has been turned to a war zone, with thousands of armed policemen and troops as well as fearsome armoured personnel carriers dotting the entire Ekiti landscape. Never before has an election been held under such armed invasion! The truth is that security for any election does not have to be so invasive, except it is programmed to achieve one thing and one thing only: to intimidate voters!
Against this background, my party, the APC, doubts very seriously whether a free, fair, credible and transparent elections can be held in Ekiti on Saturday .
Beyond the elections, we are concerned that the PDP-led federal government has grown so desperate to capture Ekiti State at all cost that it is willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to scuttle the electoral process and even threaten the very survival of our country.
In view of this, we have resolved to:
1. Alert all Nigerians to the antics of the federal government in witch-hunting the opposition through an egregious abuse of power as well as abuse of national institutions. We urge all the good people of our dear nation to speak out against this unprecedented acts of desperation and impunity. Never in the history of our democracy has a sitting Governor been so shabbily treated as was meted out to Gov. Amaechi on Thursday. Not even in the days of the abhorrent military rule were such brazen abuse of national institutions committed by the federal government.
2. We call on our international partners to condemn this growing impunity by the ruling party and the government it controls at the centre. Actions have consequences, and whoever fails to condemn the acts of impunity being perpetrated by the central government will not have the moral right to condemn the reactions that such actions may elicit.
3. We state clearly that our party will not accept the outcome of any election in Ekiti State that does not comply with the best practices. The people of Ekiti must be allowed to vote freely and without molestation for the candidates of their choice on Saturday, and the votes must not only be counted, but they must count.
Also, we want to call the attention of Nigerians to the fact that under the Electoral Act, troops are not supposed to be deployed to polling stations. Also, police personnel deployed to polling booths are not expected to carry arms. All these stipulations of the Electoral Act must be strictly adhered to on Saturday.
We also have it on good authority that a detachment of troops will be sent to the Ekiti State House on Saturday to escort Gov. Fayemi to vote and then put him under virtual house arrest thereafter. This is totally unacceptable.
Finally we need to ask: What is the role of the Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, in the Ekiti election? Is he now the chief enforcer for the PDP? It is important to clarify this issue.
4. We urge President Goodluck Jonathan to live up to his pledge, made several times over, that he would always ensure that elections held under his watch are free and fair, and that his ambition is not worth the life of any Nigerian. The President should call his dogs of war to order before they precipitate a serious crisis in Ekiti.
5. We remind the President not to allow Nigeria to unravel under his watch, through acts of omission or commission. We urge him to take a lesson from history, and to realize that the crisis of 1965, 1983 and 1993 all started from the South-west over elections that were either manipulated or annulled. Our country is still reeling from the effects of those crises and we cannot afford to plunge the nation into another crisis.
6 Finally, we urge the good people of Ekiti to go out and vote massively for the candidates of their choice on Saturday. They should not allow the overwhelming presence of security agents to intimidate them, if that is what their deployment was programmed to achieve. They must defend their votes to the hilt and reject any attempt by a band of desperadoes to choose their leaders for them. After all, ultimate power flows from the people.
Chief John Oyegun
All Progressives Congress (APC)