Obong Nsima Ekere of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Akwa Ibom State was Wednesday absent at the signing of a peace accord by political candidates and their parties organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC in Uyo.
The immediate past NDDC, boss Ekere arrived Ibom Hall venue after Governor Udom Emmanuel was already seated, prompting security agencies to deny him access into the hall through the front door.
The actions of the PDP control government protocol made the APC governorship candidate and the party leaders leave the premises of Ibom hall in protest.
The INEC function was witnessed by the likes of former governor Obong Victor Attah, the Nigeria Police, Immigrations, other security agencies. Also present were religious leaders and traditional rulers in Akwa Ibom State.
Reacting to the development, State APC Chairman, Mr Ini Okopido in a press release said the party’s candidate was barred from signing the peace accord by the protocol and security officials of the governor.
Mr Okopido claimed that INEC erred by allowing the event to be moderated by officials and security agents of government, adding that the commission should ensure neutrality in its conduct.
He said, “Obong Nsima Ekere, arrived for the signing of a scheduled peace accord. On arrival at the entrance of the venue, Obong Ekere was stopped from entering the hall by the protocol and security officials and thugs of the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, who had arrived earlier.
“Obong Ekere’s entreaties to be let in to participate in the ceremony, including his explanations that he first had to attend a previously scheduled prayer summit for peaceful elections at the Methodist Church, Itiam Etoi, Uyo, were turned down by the government officials. Our candidate had to turn back.
“This incident is most unfortunate and demonstrates once again our position that INEC in Akwa Ibom State should show impartiality to all candidates and maintain neutrality in its conduct. We completely object to officials of the PDP State Government moderating and taking charge of security at an INEC function to which all political parties were invited as equals.
“APC will continue to reject, oppose and resist every attempt to mortgage the INEC’s independence and impartiality such as was put on display today”.
However, Governor Udom Emmanuel and gubernatorial candidates from other political parties signed the peace accord.
Speaking shortly after he signed the peace accord, governor Udom said he was committed to the peace accord and that anyone who goes against the peace agreement will be abandoned by God.
He called on security agencies to rise up to their responsibility of ensuring that politicians follow the peace accord as indiscretions committed by politicians are backed up by security agencies.
“If I was not committed, I would not have been here. Let me thank the Resident Electoral Commissioner and all the members of the Armed Forces including those who are here to enable this process to be done.
“I am made to understand that what is written is written. For the fact that there is a commitment in writing that will ensure peace, heaven bears us witness, anybody who goes against this, I think heaven will leave the person on his own.
“You see election is part of democratic process, which lead to free, peaceful and credible elections. I think in this case security agencies have a whole lot of role to play because the blame is so much on politicians but the politicians won’t do anything if they don’t have the support of the security agencies.
“I want to believe that if all hands are on deck, and we as stakeholders we talk to ourselves that we want a peaceful election, we will achieve it as a country. Let the interest of the country be bigger than the interest of one man,” he said.
Obong Victor Attah in his remarks accused politicians for being responsible for electoral violence across the country.
He urged the candidates to be true to the peace accord.
“There has never been any doubt in my mind that free and fair elections form the bedrock of democracy and that is why I am very impressed with what is happening here today, the signing of this peace accord.
“Listening to the Commissioner on how the collation will be done, I feel quite satisfied that there is a possibility as it has been demonstrated, as you say, elections will now return to the people.
“As politicians, we turn out to be our own worst enemies, we deny ourselves the right to chose our leaders and select those who represent us, we transfer that responsibility to judges and the tribunals.”
“Violence is caused not by INEC but the politicians. I know the security agencies are ready to deal with you if you play violence but I appeal to you, please let there be no violence so that we can have free, fair, credible elections, and we will be satisfied that those in position to lead us are those that we selected.
“And so as we sign this accord today, let us be sincere about it and I want to say to INEC, the stakeholders are coming out to sign the accord, that their covenant with the people and the electoral processes, please also be ready o confirm your covenant with Nigeria that you are in the position to conduct free, fair and credible election”.
Similarly the paramount ruler of Ibesikpo Asutan admonished the people.
“If my Oku Ibom was was here he would have said the same thing, if my chairman of traditional rulers council was here he would have said the same thing. I represent the entire elders. We don’t want blood of any single soul, even if it is a mad person. It doesn’t worth any election or winning of elections for anybody.”
For some other participants the INEC even was satisfying. Architect Nya-Etok Ezekiel governorship candidate for Young Democratic Party, YDP comments.
“The peace accord is commendable. I want to commend INEC and I believe that whoever is dishonest about it its up to the person. Because the institution has done what they ought to do and am very happy that it has been done.”
So far a concerning question remains, can INEC be trusted to bring up election results from ballot boxes and not otherwise?
The Uyo Federal Constituency, House of Representatives candidate for African Democratic Congress, ADC Mrs Edidiong John expressed her views.
“INEC has really stated that they are ready to do the right thing. With the programs INEC enumerated at the polls, if they stick to it, then election will be free and fair in Akwa Ibom State.”
In a comparable event, Divisional Police Officers had on 31st January 2019 signed Peace treaty against election violence at ward level with Ward leaders of major political parties, stakeholders, NURTW, traditional rulers and youths representatives.
The meeting also came up with a communique of unanimous decision on anti peaceful activities during election as well as intelligence sharing.