Islamic group demands the release of politicians arrested by security personnel in Osun.
Students in their hundreds on Wednesday defied stern looking security agents in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, to hold a rally in support of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
Mr. Aregbesola is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the August 9 election.
The security officials had laid siege to the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park , proposed venue of the rally where the students had planned to adopt the governor as their candidate in the election. Some mobile police officers and soldiers had on Wednesday morning turned back people who had gone to the Park.
The students under the aegis of Youth and Students Coalition for the re-election of Mr. Aregbesola took to the Olaiya Junction in the heart of the state capital and marched to Ogo-Oluwa axis of Osogbo before they converged on Fakunle area to address members.
The coalition comprised the National Association of Nigerian Students Joint Campus Committee, National Association of Osun State Students (NAOSS) and some other students associations on campuses.
The convener of the group, Abiola Oludele, asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to be fair enough to conduct credible election in Osun. He said youth in the state would not accept any excuse for failure to organise a free and fair election.
“We want to use this medium to charge INEC to conduct an election that will be seen by all as free and fair. Youth in Osun will take no excuse for their failure and any attempt to go against the popular wish of our people will be resisted,” Mr. Oludele said.
“Youth and students coalition wish to inform INEC and security agents deployed to the state that we bargain for nothing other than free and fair governorship election come August 9.
“People as the owners of votes, we do not need any clearance to monitor, safeguard and protect our votes.
“We wish to state it clearly that we are fully aware that various security agents and others (are) deployed for our protection and as such should not be turned to instrument of oppression and harassment before election.
“It is important for INEC to note that the duties of its officers are not expected to be carried out by any of the security agents in any of the polling units across the state,” the group said.
The Bureau of Communications and Strategy in the Office of the Osun Governor, while commenting on the development, said it was unthinkable that the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government could turn people back from the Nelson Mandela Park at this stage of Nigeria’s democratic journey.
“One is miffed by the audacity of the security agents who dared to stop members of the workforce of Osun and students who wanted to adopt the Governor today and tell the whole world that they are behind Aregbesola,” Semiu Okanlawon, Director of the Bureau, said.
“But we are consoled by the fact that the people have shown them their power. People have demonstrated that even in the face of intimidation, they are peaceful but resolute on the decision to vote for Rauf Aregbesola.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, said it was alarmed by reported arrest of a leader of the APC in Osun State, Yemi Oke, a few days to the election.
The group, in a statement by its Director, Ishaq Akintola, a professor, said the development would amount to political naivety to claim ignorance of the likely motive behind clampdown on the opposition a few days to an election.
“Whereas President Jonathan declared a few days ago that the days of election rigging are gone while the Minister of State for Defence claimed yesterday that the deployment of security operatives to Osun was “to prevent the breakdown of law and order”, the arrest of Hon. Yemi Oke indicates that the Federal Government is not ready to walk its talk.
“(The) arrest of leaders or members of the opposition is most likely to create tension, drive them underground and militarise them. This was the precursor of the famous ‘operation wet-e’ which turned the South West to the Wild, Wild West of the 60s.”
The group called tha attention of INEC, election observers and the international community to the alleged game-plan of the Federal Government, adding “Can anyone match FG’s declarations with its actions? When did election turn into war that soldiers in full battle gear must breathe down the necks of the electorate?”
The group demanded the immediate release of Mr. Oke and any other person who had been arrested in the past 48 hours.