Apparently responding to the growing condemnation of its forceful dispersal of supporters of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that gathered in front of Government House, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State for an address by the state Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, on Wednesday, the police Thursday said the action was a mistake that would not be allowed to happen again.
“I want to assure the good people of Ekiti State that such mistake will never repeat itself,” Habilal Joshak, a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), said on the state-owned Ekiti State Broadcasting Corporation, Television Service in Ado-Ekiti.
A crowd of PDP supporters awaiting the address of Fayose, prelude to a victory rally slated for the campaign headquarters of the PDP governorship candidate, Prof. Olusola Eleka, around Fajuyi area of the capital city, was dispersed by the police, using teargas.
The state governor had eventually shown up at the rally in neck brace, weeping, claiming that he had been teargassed and rough-handled by policemen who slapped and hit him with their guns.
He said he had been to the hospital for treatment and that in spite of that, was in pains, warning that if anything happened to him, the Inspector-General of Police (IG) Ibrahim Idris should be held responsible.
Fayose’s claim attracted instant rebuke from the public, leading to a nationwide protest Thursday by the PDP, which leadership marched on the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in Abuja, as well as all state commands of the Nigeria Police Force.
The police, however, stood down Thursday, lifting its siege to the Government House, Ado-Ekiti in an obvious remorse for its action a day earlier.
Police chief, Joshak, told the state-owned television that contrary to widespread belief, he did not order his men and officers to use teargas on the crowd.
He explained: “What I said was that those massing for the rally should be asked to leave because it is not good going by the mood of the state now to hold rally or street procession. I didn’t say they should use force.
“This is an election, and electioneering is a civil matter anywhere across the globe. So, police as security agents can’t use force on the people.
“But I want to assure the good people of Ekiti State that such mistake will never repeat itself.”
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Communications, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said Fayose had been discharged from the hospital and was stabilising.
“The governor is now better and stabilising fast. He is out of the hospital and I believe he will get well soon,” he said.
PDP in Protest March to N’Assembly, INEC
The PDP, which had on Wednesday asked its members to embark on protest marches to the state commands of the police to deliver protest letters to the IG through the commands’ commissioners, carried out its plan Thursday, protesting nationwide against the Ekiti incidence.
At the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, led all the National Working Committee (NWC) members and party supporters to march to the National Assembly and the headquarters of INEC.
Secondus, who handed over a petition to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said the police brutalised Fayose and locked down the Government House without any justifiable reason.
Secondus said: “Under the APC-led administration, a governor was brutalised and pushed to the ground. We are here to alert Nigerians that the APC government is a threat to democracy. Not only in Nigeria, but throughout the world. Security agencies are not above the law.”
The party members registered their presence with inscripted placards: “Enough of political tyranny; Nigeria is sliding into one party system; and Buhari stop the killings,” among others.
They called on the lawmakers to quickly intervene, through their oversight function on the executive arm of government, particularly on their excesses and assault on democracy.
Addressing the crowd, Secondus emphasised that the party was reliably informed that INEC and a section of the security agencies had prepared to rig the election in Ekiti.
He said: “That is why Ekiti today has been militarised and over policed with 30,000 policemen and women. The citizens of Ekiti are afraid, they are traumatised, they are harassed and they are being guarded not to come out from their homes. They arrest members of our party and citizens of Ekiti.”
The party’s former woman leader, also former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Kema Chikwe, said for the nation to achieve good governance, it must have true democracy.
She said: “We have come today in a nationwide protest to say that there is freedom in this country, freedom of association and speech.”
Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, who received the protesters, said the peaceful protest was within the context of democracy, adding that democracy was about free speech and free expression.
He said: “We will do everything possible to ensure that we will continue to work within the tenet of democracy. We have heard you. We are going to make contacts with all the institutions of democracy as it concerns the state.
“We shall make contact with INEC, police and other security agencies to ensure that they are neutral. I want to assure you that as soon as possible so that in Ekiti, there is going to be free and fair election.”
Meanwhile, the party, in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, charged Ekiti people to protect their votes.
The party asked the Ekiti people not to despair over the violence unleashed on them by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, but square up for their inevitable triumph over oppressive forces at the coming Saturday poll.
The party said the harassment, arrests, threats and Wednesday’s manhandling of Fayose by the police amplified the clarion call for the people of Ekiti State to march shoulder to shoulder with an unequalled vigour against the oppressors by voting en masse for the PDP on Saturday.
“We know that the whole essence of heavy security presence in Ekiti State is to attempt to frighten the people and scare them away from participating in the election, but such cannot work in Ekiti where the people are famous for their boldness, fearlessness and resistance in the face of repression,” the party said.
Also speaking during the protest at INEC, Secondus said intelligence information available to the party showed clearly that some INEC officials and some security agents were in collusion to rig election in Ekiti State.
He said: “We have been informed that what they did in Edo State, what they called result replacement is what they are planning to use to rig election in Ekiti State and we brought all these things to bear to INEC leadership that if they compromise and rig the election, the consequences of their actions they will bear because if you rig election, it is a recipe for crisis.
“Don’t forget that spot in Ekiti State, in those days when they rigged election you know what happened there, so we don’t want to rig the election in Ekiti State.”
An INEC National Commissioner, Mr. Adekunle Ogunmola, who received the petition from Secondus said the mandate of the commission was to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
“I assure you that we are not going to do anything short of that,” he said.
PDP Senate Caucus, House Condemn Incidence
The PDP caucus in the Senate and the House of Representatives joined the fray against the police action Thursday, condemning the incidence and calling for an investigation into why it occurred.
Leader of the caucus, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who spoke with journalists after a closed-door meeting of the caucus, condemned the reported slapping of a sitting governor by policemen.
He wondered what had become of the governor’s immunity as entrenched in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
According to Akpabio, who was in company with 15 other colleagues, including Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) and Hassan Mohammed (Yobe South), the caucus wants the reported attack to be thoroughly investigated by the federal government by setting up a commission of inquiry to look into the matter.
He said the perpetrators of the attack should not go unpunished.
In its reaction, the House of Representatives passed a motion directing all its relevant committees to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the incidence and report back in three weeks.
The resolution of the green chamber followed a motion of urgent public importance which was sponsored by Hon. Yusuf Tajudeen (PDP, Kogi) and Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) on the urgent need to intervene and save the country’s democracy.
Among other things, he noted with concern that only a few days to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, some men of the police and other security agencies completely barricaded and took over the Ekiti State Government House in Ado-Ekiti.
He said Nigeria was a democratic state and that the complete takeover and barricade of the Government House as well as the violent assault on harmless civilians, including a serving governor of the state does not fall within the contemplation of the general duties of the police under Section 4 of the Police Act and indeed the tenets of true democracy and the rule of law.
The lawmaker expressed worry that happenings in the state portend grave danger for all, particularly in view of the 2019 general election and the heightened insecurity in the country.
He said the action of the police was clearly an illegality and constitutional breach which must not happen or continue in a constitutional democracy.
Also reacting, a frontline PDP presidential aspirant, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki (SAN), condemned what he described as ‘’the brutal attacks’’ on Fayose and citizens of the state.
In a statement by his campaign Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Sola Atere, he noted that the Ekiti incidence was another low point in the litany of breaches of the constitution and indeed, the rule of law, which had become the hallmark of the APC-led federal government.
According to him, “Imagine a governor who has constitutional immunity and is also supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of his state being brutalised by security officers. His security detail are being withdrawn, while movement into his official residence is being restricted. What then is the hope of the ordinary Nigerian?”