The All Progressives Congress, APC, has said the peace accord signed by the political parties on Wednesday ahead of the February elections would only work if the Presidency ensures the neutrality of the security agencies during the polls.
The spokesperson of the party, Lai Mohammed, stated this at a conference organised by the Savannah Centre and CSIS Partnership on polls, in Abuja on Thursday.
The theme of the two-day conference is “Nigeria 2015 Elections and Beyond, Stakeholders Conference on the Roles of State and Non-State Actors in Mitigating Violence in Elections.”
Mr. Mohammed, who was a discussant at the forum alongside officials of other political parties, said though the peace pact signed by presidential candidates of the parties, including President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari of the Peoples Democratic and All Progressives Congress, APC, respectively was desirable, it would only be effective if the operatives of the security agencies that would be deployed during the election were neutral.
He said the opposition party was already losing confidence in one of the agencies.
“It will not be successful if there is no sincerity of purpose. I think in this particular respect, the Presidency has more to do if it wants the election to be violent-free It has to ensure the neutrality of all the security agencies involved in the election,” he said.
“As long as there is a level-playing field and the umpires are really neutral then that removes areas of conflict.”
Mr. Mohammed added, “The credibility of the security agencies is at its lowest ebb. I don’t know how many of you watch the television two days ago when the spokesperson of Department of State Security went to demonize a particular party, accusing that party of being in the process hacking into INEC data base. What they sought to achieve by that I don’t know.
“You need to see the kind of humiliation they went through in the hands of DSS. They went through physical torture and mental torture. These young people arrested were called presidential enemies. They were called saboteurs; they were asked how can you working with a party that wants to destabilize Nigeria? If this is the mindset of a particular security agencies there is no way that party will have confidence in that agency.”
He recounted his experience with the security operatives who picked him up for alleged wandering during the August 9, 2014 governorship election in Osun State and asked, “Where do you draw the line between militarization and intimidation?”
He said some people were also arrested after the election and lamented that up till now, nobody had been charged to court.
While insisting that the APC did not commit the offence it was being accused of, Mr. Mohammed expressed worry about the role the PDP was playing in the matter. He asked the PDP not to be involved in the matter because it was already in court.
The spokesperson of the APC also noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had a big responsibility to ensure the success of the coming elections.
Stating that “what happens before the election is more important than what happens after,” Mr. Mohammed said it was worrisome that about 15 million Nigerians had not been able to collect their Permanent Voters Card, PVCs.
He lamented that majority of those who were yet to collect their PVCs were indigenes of the states and region, which he described as “APC strongholds.”
He said, “It starts with INEC. INEC bears a big responsibility in this respect. Election is a process. What happens before the election is often more important than what happens after. If 15 million people are not able to collect their PVCs, this is a source for concern.
“There is so much agitation in the minds of those who cannot collect their PVCs. Majority of those who have not collected their PVCs are from particular states and region.”
“The only party that stands to lose most is if elections are not held in the North East zone is APC. That is one of our major strongholds and we want elections to hold.”
On the Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Mohammed asked INEC to transfer voting point to their camps in other to ensure they participate in the exercise.
Also speaking at the forum, the National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Wale Oladipo, expressed satisfaction with the peace agreement signed by the parties.
“We as Nigerians should congratulate ourselves that for the first time a sitting president and an aspiring president will sit down together and in the interest of the nation have minimum agreement on the election.
“Secondly I want to commend INEC on behalf of millions of Nigeria for striving… INEC may not be perfect, but it should be commended for the professional input my senior colleague and his team, particularly Professor Lai Olurode are bringing.
“We Nigerians should start to appreciate ourselves. You will agree with me that INEC of today is not the INEC of eight years ago. The process we have in place is not the process we had eight years ago. Most of us were witnesses how FEDECO operated and attendant consequences that befell our country. We should learn to start appreciating our institutions.”
On the operation of the security agencies, Mr. Oladipo, a professor, from Osun State, said as far as he was concerned they did what they had to do in Osun State.
He added, “In Ekiti, my party won fair and square. In Osun State, Mr. President congratulated Governor Aregbesola when he was declared the winner of that election. That is the only way we are going to move from the circle of violence. The winner should be gallant, the loser should congratulate the winner and go back to the drawing board and do more.
“If we start doing that as a people there is no way we are not going to get there.”
The PDP scribe said there were issues in the election that brought former President George Bush of the United State to power but that because of the interest of the nation they allowed it to go.
He stressed, “The security agencies are needed on election days. We need them. We know this. We should learn to respect our own laws. I am from Osun State. I didn’t go to the state to address a press conference. It was not necessary. So, my uncle (Mohammed), if you were pick up for wandering maybe they picked you up for another thing, but…..” In any case, your party still won. That shows the level of neutrality of the security agencies involved.”
On the possibility of conducting election in the North East zone, Mr. Oladipo disagreed with Mr, Mohammed, insisting that the APC is not more popular than the PDP in the zone.
According to him, of the six states in the zone, four of them namely, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa are PDP states while “Borno and Yobe are APC states in theory.”
He stressed, “We (PDP) have more to lose if elections do not take place in that zone. But Mr. President has said it and I want to repeat it – his election is not worth the blood of a single Nigeria. The most paramount is the safety and security of the people; any other thing is secondary.”