By Akanimo Sampson
Nigeria’s main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has implored President Muhammadu Buhari to continue in his new found spirit of ensuring that citizens are allowed to freely choose their leaders at all elections.
President Buhari in a seeming departure from his partisan leadership style, on Sunday threw up himself as a statesman and a progressive democrat by congratulating Godwin Obaseki on his re-election as Edo State Governor.
Buhari who has been condoning tainted electoral process since his emergence as Nigerian leader in 2015, surprisingly commended the election process in Edo which led to the defeat of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
What happened in Edo appears to be a replay of history. In 2008, Dr Goodluck Jonathan as a sitting President lost Edo to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the coalition parties that formed the APC.
Twelve years after, PDP has regained the South-South state with Buhari as President. However, Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said his principal has congratulated Obaseki and urged him to show grace and humility in victory.
Interestingly, Buhari has reiterated his commitment to free and fair elections, pointing out that without free and fair elections, “the foundation of political and moral authority will be weak.”
“I have consistently advocated for free and fair elections in the country because it is the bedrock of true democratic order. Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with”, President Buhari adds
He has also commended the people of Edo, the political parties, governorship candidates, and security agencies for conducting themselves responsibly.
Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar along with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, have congratulated Governor Obaseki on his victory in the governorship election.
According to Atiku, “Edo has a rich history as the centre of Black civilisation, and to this, she is adding a new history as the bastion of Nigerian democracy. This double whammy of ancient and modern glories is a testament to a people who have for centuries set the pace as a beacon of light on the African continent. I look forward to the continuation of four more years of tangible development, and people centred leadership from Governor Obaseki.”
Wike has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police over their conduct during the election.
The strong man of Rivers politics who is the Chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council made the commendation while addressing a mammoth crowd of party supporters at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
While stating that the conduct of INEC and the police showed that they were ready to correct the mistakes of the past, he also commended the peoples of Edo for ending godfatherism with the re-election of Governor Obaseki.
‘’With the re-election of Governor Obaseki, the entire South-South region is now completely PDP. What this means is that the entire South-South can now speak with one voice on issues concerning us’’, Wike said and thanked Rivers people for their prayers.
At a brief reception by party leaders at Government House, Port Harcourt, Governor Wike said the with the conduct of INEC, there is hope for the country’s democracy.
While thanking the party leaders for their solidarity throughout the election period, he said the neutrality of the electoral body and security agencies will make one to say the election was free and fair, and accordingly urged stakeholders to maintain the spirit.
Chairman of the Elders Advisory Council of the PDP, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, commended Governor Wike for leading a successful campaign, pointing out that the victory at Edo has proved that the governor is always committed to any assignment that he is given.
In the mean time, PDP says “we belief that in spite of the Buhari administration’s failure in other spheres of life as well as in previous elections, if Mr. President can continue to toe this new line of allowing for electoral uprightness, history will be beckoned to be kind to him.
“Our party also notes the efforts of INEC under Prof. Yakubu Mahmood in ensuring that Edo election was conducted in a manner that was largely adjudged to be free, fair, transparent and credible. Nigerians hope that what we have witnessed in Edo state will not be an off-season procedure in the commission. We demand that this credible process applies to all our elections”.
The opposition also applauded the use of virtual portal by INEC to upload results directly from the polling unit, the base of the election, which the party noted, made it impossible for electoral violators to hijack this electoral process, and expressed hope that this new found image of INEC will gather more thresholds in future elections, particularly the October 10, 2020 Ondo governorship election.
PDP is however, calling on INEC to strengthen its processes, particularly in the area of card readers, to forestall the type of delays witnessed in accreditation of voters, noting the improvement in the activities of security agencies compared to past elections and therefore expressed the hope that the nation’s security organs will continue in this stead in future elections.
While saying that the Edo election has indeed shown that credible elections are possible in the country if Nigerians play by the rules, PDP applauds the international community for their keen observation of our electoral processes as well as profiling of those who are bent on undermining our democracy and making free and fair elections appear impossible in Nigeria.
The party is urging the international community and all lovers of democracy not to relent in providing necessary advisory to our leaders on the conduct of our elections, insisting that the victory of Governor Obaseki is historic and serves as a strong, viable and unambiguous lesson to leaders.
While also congratulating the people of Edo on the re-election of Obaseki, PDP celebrates the resilience and courage exhibited by the people in resisting the antics of the enemies of democracy, ‘’who, as vote buyers, patrons of lions and tigers, as well as beguilers, attempted to take over the political space of Edo’’.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, says the party is rejoicing with Edo people for helping to reset the political culture of Nigeria by casting their votes, protecting the votes, ensuring that their votes counted and following it, “bumper-to-bumper”, to the final point of declaration.
It is also commending traditional institutions, faith-based organisations, youth groups, market women, artisans, community associations, trade unions, traditional leaders and other stakeholders in Edo for standing up for their state during her critical moments.
PDP has accordingly restated its support for the actions taken so far by the US and UK in restricting electoral violators from visiting their countries and we urge them not to restrain on further sanctions against such individuals for their sinister roles in the country’s elections.
The party loudly appreciated its National Campaign Council Chairman, Governor Wike, for providing the right leadership that led to the victory in Edo and also commended the Chairman of its Governors Forum, Governor Tambuwal, Chairman of the South South PDP Governors Forum, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as well as all of its governors, National Assembly caucus, elders, leaders, critical stakeholders and teeming members for their efforts in the election.
PDP also appreciates the APC candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, whose participation in the election helped to deepen the country’s democracy and enabled the people to make their choice.
“We invite him, in the spirit of sportsmanship, to congratulate his brother, Governor Obaseki and join him in the onerous task of leadership in the general interest of all Edo people. Furthermore, our party thanks the media, the civil society groups and all Nigerians across board, for showing more than a passing interest in ensuring that the wish of the people of Edo for a credible and transparent election prevailed. We do not take your efforts in this regard for granted.’’
Ologbondiyan said the party has assured of a continuous partnership with all critical stakeholders in its collective desire to recreate a nation that will continue to be Nigerians’ pride.