By Eseoghene Emuke
A former minister of information and Ijaw National leader, Chief Edwin Clark has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately withdraw military men from participating in the March 9th Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections in the country.
Clark described the involvement of the military in the nation’s electoral process as not only unconstitutional and illegal but an attempt to intimidate and coerce the electorate from voting the candidate of their choice.
The elder statesman who spoke at a world press conference at his Kiagbodo country-home in Burutu Local Government area of the state of Delta State on Wednesday, condemned the widespread killings recorded during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections in some states.
Clark, who commiserated with the family of the victims particularly in Delta, Rivers, Lagos, Baylesa and other States in the last election, warned politicians against sponsoring violence for their own selfish political gains during the next election.
He stated, “First, let me express my concern and deepest condemnation in the strongest possible terms on the reported violence and killings that characterized the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday, February 23, 2019, in parts of the country, particularly in Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos and Delta States.
“The gory tales of violence at Okrika in Okrika LGA, Opobo in Opobo LGA, Bonny Island in Bonny LGA and particularly killings in Abonnema, Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State, the mindless electoral violence recorded in such places as Bassambiri, in Nembe LGA, Brass in Brass LGA, Agbere in Sagbama LGA and various parts of Southern Ijaw LGA, in Bayelsa State, is quite worrisome.
“As we prepare for the next round of elections for the Governorship and State Houses of Assemblies scheduled for Saturday, March 9, 2019, I appeal to every politician to play by the rules, and eschew action(s) capable of igniting violence and brigandage.
“It is rather very appalling to hear desperate politicians who do not enjoy popularity in their respective constituencies reportedly sponsoring of some of these violence and killings. There have been cases and reports of the military who intimidate every available person on their way to connive and cajole the INEC officials to perpetuate electoral fraud resulting in violence and deaths.”
The Ijaw leader and convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum also condemned in strong terms the killings of soldiers deployed for the election by suspected armed youths, describing the attention as not only satanic and barbaric but the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“I sympathize with the families of these victims, be they civilians or soldiers (because they are all Nigerian) who were cut down in their prime in those orgy of electoral violence; and I offer prayers for the repose of their souls. I demand that a full scale inquiry be conducted towards bringing all those immediately and remotely connected with the dastardly acts, irrespective of their status in the society, under the full weight of the law.
“The Presidential election has come and gone and February 28 deadline for the military Operation Python Dance has elapsed. I therefore strongly advise that the Army be withdrawn, to forestall further hostilities and unnecessary killings in the region. The Federal Government need to be reminded that deployment of the military on election duties is an aberration, and same as been pronounced upon and consequently laid to rest in the Court of Appeal, in the case of All Progressive Congress Vs Peoples Democratic Party&ORS CA/EK/EPT/GOV/1/2015 delivered on Monday, 16th day of February, 2015”, he added.
While speaking on the forthcoming governorship election in the state, Clark maintained that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa remained his candidate for the election, calling on Deltans irrespective of tribes to overwhelmingly vote for him on Saturday.
Clark, flanked by prominent Niger Delta leaders including a former Police Affairs Minister, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Dr. Alfred Mulade and host of others, urged the people of the state to maintain the rotational formula which had engendered peace among the three senatorial districts.
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