Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, under the aegis of Buhari-Yemi Osinbajo Nationwide Supporters Group, have asked Nigerians for forgiveness for “blindly supporting” the All Progressives Congress (APC) and installing an administration which has brought so much anguish.
Members of the group, consequently, announced their decision to ditch the ruling party, join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and work for the success of the Atiku-Okowa presidential ticket.
National Coordinator, Danjuma Fachiwe Gwoza, disclosed this alongside other group members at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday.
He said: “The members of the President Muhammadu Buhari/Yemi Osinbajo Nationwide Supporters Group wish to officially decamp and transmute her operations to the Atiku/Okowa Nationwide Supporters Group, under the directive of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).
“Our group is a formidable conglomerate of political, sagacious and like-minded individuals made of different supporters groups. Our membership strength stands at 9,313,846.
“We contributed immensely to the votes recorded by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which saw the emergence of the Buhari/Osinbajo victory at polls in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.
“The members of this conglomerate sincerely apologise to Nigerians for our blind support given to the APC-led bankrupt government that has failed to deliver on its campaign promises to the electorates. This colossal failure has caused the nation unbearable quagmire.”
He added: “Our members are strategically located within the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory and 774 local councils and electoral wards spread across Nigeria…and have been given requisite electioneering training that would guaranty the desired win-win result for Atiku/Okowa in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election.”
This came as British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, reminded political actors ahead of the presidential election that the United Kingdom (UK) government will not renege on its decision to impose visa ban on anybody found inciting violence before, during and after the exercise.
Laing gave this reminder, yesterday, in Abuja, at the official opening of the Nigeria Civil Society Election Situation Room Hub for the 2023 Nigeria General Election.
According to her, the visa ban will be extended to politicians inciting violence through hate speeches, insisting that Nigerians must be allowed to vote for any candidate of their choice in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.
She said: “Violence is a crime and there should be consequences. People may have heard me say this yesterday in my various interviews that the UK has just issued a statement, stating very clearly that we will monitor this election very carefully.
“And anybody who is found to be inciting violence, including through hate speech, as well as, of course, actually conducting violent acts, can be subject to a travel visa ban to the UK.”
Laing added: “We also have potential sanctions through our human rights levels. So, we are watching carefully. We have used these tools in the past. We don’t disclose who is on our list for data protection reasons. But I can tell people and, rest assured, we are watching very, very closely.”
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Africa Youth Growth Foundation (AFGF), has expressed concern over decision by INEC to store sensitive materials with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), even as it advised the electoral umpire to explore other options.
It will be recalled that individuals and groups, in 2022, raised concerns about the sanctity of elections materials kept with the CBN, following news about CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele’s interest to contest the country’s presidential election.
As a result, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, on June 4, 2022, said sensitive electoral materials would, in the meantime, no longer be routed through the CBN.
But the Commission, recently, disclosed that it had no option but keep most of its sensitive materials, such as results and ballot papers, with the apex bank.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, AYGF Executive Director, Dr. Arome Salifu, said INEC must avoid anything that might dent the credibility of the entire process.
He said: “A lot of persons are already concerned about the motive and intention of the CBN to introduce the naira redesign policy at this critical moment in the life of the country.
“However, what we urge Nigerians to do is trust the process and believe that perhaps, the CBN will do the needful to ensure sensitive materials in its custody are not in any way compromised.
“But we also advise INEC that if it has other alternative means to guarantee the distribution and storage of sensitive materials across the country, it should explore these.”
Also, a lawyer and founder of Law FM Radio, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), called on the CBN to release cash to political parties for logistics, just as it did for INEC.
According to him, it will amount to hypocrisy if CBN releases cash to INEC and denies political parties – the ones contesting the elections INEC is conducting.
He said: “It is commendable that the CBN Governor appreciated the need for INEC to have access to cash for the purpose of the election. It is a demonstration of a sense of political reality. However, this is how far the commendation can go. If the CBN accepts that INEC needs cash for its election logistics, why would it shut its eyes to the needs of the political parties for cash, for their own election logistics?
“After all, INEC is not organising the elections for itself. No! The elections being organised by INEC are to be contested by the political parties. For example, there are over 176,000 polling units, over 8,000 ward collation centres, 774 local council collation centres, and 36 state collation centres in the country.
“The political parties are required to post agents to each of these centres across the country. Some parties post more than one agent to a centre. Do they not need cash for their logistics?
“The CBN would appear to be playing the game of a political ostrich, engaging in political pettifogging, by making cash available to INEC for election logistics while denying the political parties access to cash for their own election logistics. Are we not cutting our nose to spite our face?”
Still on the polls, the Nigerian Army has approved a list of hotlines for members of the public to monitor and report any suspicious act or acts of violence, as well as the conduct of troops deployed to provide security.
Army spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said: “This is part of the Nigerian Army’s move to support the lead security agency, the Nigeria Police, for the successful conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections.”
The army had earlier produced and circulated Codes of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Operation Safe Conduct to formations and units, to provide guidance and ensure troops operate accordingly.