The police in Imo state will have their hands filled during Saturday’s gubernatorial election in the state if the allegations and counter allegations of thuggery and other plans to unleash violence during the poll by the three leading political parties turn out to be true.
In different interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, the spokespersons of the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance accused one another of plans to use thugs, hired cultists from tertiary institutions, the state-owned security outfit, as well as the police and military to perpetrate violence during the polls.
Emperor Iwuala, the Publicity Director of the Campaign Organisation of the APGA candidate, Emmanuel Iheanacho, while expressing faith in the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a credible election, said his only worry is that the two other leading parties flourish by indulging in undemocratic means and threat of violence to get votes.
“The problems is that our opponents do not depend on democratic practice to win elections. They like rigging. For instance the PDP candidate has been going about deceiving people telling lies that the APGA candidate stepped down for him. That is far from the truth. The APC believes in intimidation thuggery and violence. But we are the only party that believes in democratic practice and electioneering process,” he said.
Similarly, the PDP alleged that the ruling APC has already put plans in place to disrupt the election by hiring thugs to perpetrate violence.
“We have concerns with the conversion of the buses of the Imo Transport Corporation buses to campaign buses by the governor and his people. Apparently he wants to use them to ferry thugs who are going to disrupt elections. His strategy is that he wants to frustrate election in as many units as possible and he believes that the election will be held when Buhari comes and so he will win.
“We have concerns over the rebranding of the vehicles of the illegal Imo Security Network into police colour to pass off at police and military vehicles. The vehicle are parked at the premises of the Emirate Hotel owned by Honourable Amuka, the representative of Ideato South, the governor`s home constituency,” said Eyinnaya Onuegbu, the Publicity Director of the Emeka Ihedioha Campaign Organisation.
In the same vein, the APC is alleging that in fact it is the PDP in the state which is known for the tradition of perpetrating violence during the election. He said they are already living up to that tradition.
“In the last election, PDP used thugs and security personnel to rig the election, alleged Chidi Ibe, Director of Information of the Rochas Okorocha Campaign Organisation.
He said the PDP is already indulging in widespread hiring of thugs that they intend to use to disrupt the election.
“What they have been doing now is that they have been hiring thugs. That has been PDP style of doing things.”
While the political parties accuse one another of plans to use violence to disrupt the election, the Imo State Police command said it has put everything in place to ensure that such plans do not see the light of day.
The Police is ready
The State Police Public Relation Officer, Andrew Enwerem, who said the force is in “high spirit for the election” told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the command has mobilised its men to all parts of the state to forestall violence during the poll.
“We are deploying over 6,000 police officers from the Imo command as well as other security agencies in the state like the army, DSS, National Security and Civil Defence, the NDLEA, Road Safety. We’re working together here to ensure peaceful, credible and free and fair election,” he said.
He said the police would pay particular attention to traditional flashpoints in the state to make sure the elections are held without clashes.
“Oguta and Egbema areas have been identified as vulnerable flashpoints within the state. From experience of past elections we have been able to intensify security within that area. We have rapid response teams stationed in strategic locations which is different from men that will be deployed which is different from the men that will be deployed at the voting centres. We have put adequate measures in place to checkmate any infiltration using the riverine areas to cause problem within the states,” Mr. Enwerem said.
He said the police have held several meetings with political parties to sensitise them on the need for a violence-free poll. He said party agents and supporters have also been lectured on how to peacefully resolve minor disagreements that may occur at the polling units to prevent them from snowballing into major fracas.
Just like the police, the Independent National Electoral Commission also said it is ready for the election as well.
Speaking on the state-owned radio station, Heartland FM, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Gabriel Ada, said INEC is ready for the election as both insensitive and sensitive materials are being deployed to the different local government in the state.
He called on the residents of the states to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner while casting their votes, and resist the temptation of indulging in electoral malpractices.