The police on Friday in Abuja tear-gassed seven of the 12 presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during a protest over the party’s loss of the September 22 governorship election in Osun State.
Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, defeated the candidate of the PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke in the election.
The presidential aspirants tear-gassed by the police included the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; and former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
Other aspirants at the protest were former Special Duties Minister, Tanimu Turaki; a former senator, Dr. Datti Baba Ahmed; Gombe Stats Governor, Ibrahim Dankwabo; and former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido.
Also tear-gassed during the protest were the Ekiti State Governors, Ayo Fayose; Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Sencondus and other members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
The protesters were tear-gassed at the main entrance to the Force Headquarters, following attempts by controversial senator representing Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye to rail-road the protesters through security barricade.
The protesters, led by Saraki and joined by a number of key party stakeholders, had earlier stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The party chieftains, riding in four open trucks and a convoy of cars, took off from the PDP campaign office, Legacy House, located in the Maitama District.
Taking turns to speak at the INEC headquarters, the party chieftains demanded the declaration of Adeleke as winner of the Osun governorship election.
Addressing INEC National Commissioner in charge of legal matters, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu who received them at the premises of the commission, they also restated the party’s rejection of the inconclusive verdict passed on the Osun election by the commission.
They warned that the PDP would not accept what they described as rigging and manipulation of the electoral process, which they said, characterized the recent Ekiti and Osun States governorship election.
Addressing the INEC commissioner, Saraki said, “We are here representing millions of Nigerians to speak to you, that INEC has a responsibility by law, by the constitution to do what is right to all Nigerians.
“Enough is enough of election that are not credible. Enough is enough of impunity. Enough is enough of harassment. INEC, you met a standard, don’t take us back.
“Nigeria has raised the standard of electoral processes, take us forward, don’t take us backward. The last two elections have been said all over villages, towns, Africa, other continents that it was a sham. INEC, enough is enough.
“Just last night, the Senate and Congress in the United States issued a statement saying enough is enough. We must have credible elections in Nigeria. You are not a department, or a division of the APC. You represent the entire Nigeria and Nigerians are saying give us free and credible elections.
“Be courageous and bold to stand for the truth because tomorrow history will judge you. We stand here to say we don’t want favours, just give us free and fair elections.
“Let me warn you INEC, Nigerians will not take elections that are not credible. Stand with Nigerians because you represent us. Stand and be impartial because you are an independent commission.
“We are here to demand that you do the right thing, free and fair elections in 2019 for the unity and peace of this country”.
Also speaking, Secondus said, “The country is sleeping on a keg of gun powder and you know it. If you feel that Nigerians are not aware of the activities of INEC and the police, you are deceiving yourselves.
“You are pushing Nigerians to the wall and when you push them to the wall there would be resistance. We hope we will not get there, but this will serve as a notice.
“Therefore we demand that INEC Chairman should resign, Amina Zakari should resign. She is the manipulator of all elections. Let me address Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, you cannot continue to give instructions to security agents to carry out your agenda, instead of protecting Nigerians.
“The hunger in the land is too much, the corruption in the country is too much. You are not fighting corruption, you are fighting your perceived enemies, you are fighting the masses.
“Nigerians have left you. You cannot change the will of the people by force, take note and stop directing the security agencies and INEC to rig elections. You must come out clean. What we expect from you is to conduct a free and fair elections”.
On his part, Fayose said, “We want to let INEC know a few things and remind them that the damage done to this country is enough. The damage done to our democracy and by extension the common man is enough.
“If the people cannot choose their leaders anymore, then we are in trouble. In 2014, APC won election in Osun state by 114,000 votes. But this last election, with all the rigging, APC won by 400 votes, that is a statement enough to say APC is no more in the demand in Nigeria.
“We are not asking for favours, this country and this INEC belong to Nigerians and Nigerians must be respected by allowing them to make a choice.
“If Jonathan had behaved this way, we would not have a Buhari in power. We had a Buhari in power because somebody thought the rights of Nigerians must not be trampled upon by INEC and everybody received the present administration with open hands
“I want to say again on behalf of PDP and the governors of PDP that rigging will not work in 2019. We say no to rigging. We are already contesting against police, security agencies, and the alibi of INEC always is that we are not in charge of security agencies. You cannot be a referee in the pitch, and be giving excuses while thugs took over the field
“We are saying again to the security agencies that enough is enough. Don’t take away the rights of Nigerians. We want a Nigeria that belongs to Nigerians”.
Tambuwal said the protest was meant to address the Chairman and members of INEC commission, on behalf of millions of Nigerians.
He said, “Our demand is simple; we demand for free, fair and credible elections all throughout this country. I believe that the chairman of INEC before this temporary assignment, you have a history and you have a record.
“Don’t allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to use you to undermine the will of Nigerians. You cannot suppress us, you can not intimidate us. Elections in Nigeria must be held freely and fairly, and whoever wins should be given the mandate. That is what we want and we shall take nothing less”.
Responding, the INEC Commissioner on Legal Matters, May Agbamuche- Mbu said, “I want to thank you, and inform you all that Professor Mahmood Yakubu (INEC chair) would have received you all.
“The commission takes this demonstration very seriously. We are happy that the protest is peaceful and carried out in civilized manner.
“INEC is up to this job, we are all here in INEC as professionals and not politicians. We are going to do our best come 2019. I must say we are a team and decisions are made by the commission and not by any individual. All your comments have been noted and it will be passed to the chairman and the entire commission”.
The protest kicked off at 11.45, shortly after a meeting of the party leadership with the presidential aspirants. No communique was issued after the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.
However, only six of the 12 presidential aspirants attended the meeting, with a former Sokoto State Governor and presidential aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa leaving the venue shortly before the meeting ended.
Five of the aspirants, Saraki, Tambuwal, Lamido, Turaki and Baba Ahmed reportedly signed an undertaking to accept the outcome of the convention in good faith.
They were also reported to have made written commitments to work with the party in projecting the eventual winner as the presidential candidate throughout the electioneering campaign.