The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Iyorchia Ayu, will on Monday (today) lead some governors elected on the platform of the party on a protest march to the Independent National Electoral Commission headquarters, Abuja, over the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
The development has, however, sparked apprehension in the Federal Capital Territory as residents feared the march may result in violence following the anger over the conduct and outcome of the polls.
Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Ademola Adeleke of Osun State are expected to participate in the march scheduled to take off by 10 am from the PDP headquarters, Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja.
The electoral commission had Wednesday declared the All Progressives Congress standard bearer, Bola Tinubu, the winner of the election after scoring a total of 8, 794, 726 votes, representing 25 per cent of the total votes cast in 30 states.
In separate press conferences, however, the PDP and Labour party rejected the outcome of the election, with both laying claims to victory and vowing to challenge the result in court.
But on Sunday, the PDP, in a memo signed by the Director of Administration on behalf of the Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Tambuwal, invited Ayu, the PDP presidential running mate, Okowa and other governors to the protest march.
Also invited were former Senate Presidents, David Mark and Bukola Saraki, Board of Trustees members, National Executive Committee members, National Working Committee members, Directors, Deputy and Assistant Directors of the National Election Management Committee, Presidential Campaign Council members as well as Persons Living With Disabilities.
It read, “I am directed to respectfully invite your excellencies: The National Chairman, Dr Iyrochia Ayu, The Vice Presidential Candidate and Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Okowa, Governors of Akwa Ibom and Chairman of PCC, Mr Udom Emmanuel, Sokoto state and DG of PCC, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and Governors of Bayelsa, Edo, Adamawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Osun states;
“Former Senate Presidents, Senator David Mark and Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, BoT members, NEC members, the PDP Senators and House of Representatives Members, NWC members of the party, DDGs, Directors, Deputies and Assistant Directors of NCMC; Members of the PCC; leadership of People Living with Disabilities and all other stakeholders to a protest match to INEC office.’’
Participants are directed to wear black attires in demonstration of the sombre mood of the party.
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Abdullahi, in an interview with The PUNCH, explained that the protest was planned to show the party’s disenchantment with the flawed poll, insisting that the election should be cancelled.
“It (the protest) is to register its grievances and disenchantment following the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections,” he said.
But the APC cautioned the PDP against inciting the people to break the law with its planned street march.
Reacting to the proposed protest, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, noted that it was unfortunate the PDP had to resort to a public disturbance instead of focusing on the court case it filed to contest the results of Saturday’s presidential election.
APC warns PDP
He said, “On a general note, the PDP lost the election to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. That is why he is the president-elect. The PDP has indicated an interest in going to court to challenge the election. One will hope that they stick to following a lawful part in expressing whatever they may feel as a grievance in the outcome of the election.
“I am quite sure the PDP understands there are laws that govern public conduct in this country, hence the need to do nothing to instigate a crisis that is needless in the face of an election that was won by our candidate, now the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”
In the same vein, the Director of Publicity for the APC, Bala Ibrahim, disclosed that for as long as the protest would be peaceful, nobody would complain.
Ibrahim also warned that if it turned out to be a veiled threat to the country’s democracy, the APC would respond ‘accordingly.’
He added, “I think it may not necessarily be a protest. It may be a press conference. But I will suggest we allow them to protest first. Then we will see what they say in their demonstration and their conduct. If it is peaceful and democratic, there is nothing wrong with that.
“But if it turns out to be a different thing, the ruling party will react accordingly. We are democrats and we want to play the game according to the rule of democracy, which allows the minority to have a say but the majority will have their way,” he said.
But some Abuja residents expressed fears that hoodlums could take advantage of the protest march to foment trouble.
They also observed that the situation could get out of control and lead to city-wide unrest.
Chiamaka Godwin expressed hopes for a peaceful protest, adding that she had been working from home for fear of violence since the election.
“I work in Maitama, but we are working from home tomorrow. We’ve not been to the office since the election, because of possible post-election violence. But I really hope and pray there isn’t any (violence) tomorrow. This country has enough problems as it is,’’ she said.
Another resident, who spoke to our correspondent but begged to be kept anonymous, expressed worry that things could go awry during the protest.
“People are angry. So, of course, some might turn themselves into a nuisance. But I hope they don’t attack the INEC office. There’s too much heat on them (INEC), and tempers could flare. I just hope the police secure the place as they did throughout the collation of results. I want to go to work.”
But another resident, Victor Ademola, called for calm among the protesters, while advising the police to be prepared to handle the situation.
“Did you see the weapons the police were holding throughout the elections and the video of those hoodlums that were shot down at a polling unit? I would advise everyone to just be calm. These security guys have orders. They’re not playing,’’ he noted.
But the Federal Capital Territory Police Command has said it will provide adequate security and ensure the security of lives and property during the procession.
The Commissioner of Police in FCT, Dr Sadiq Abubakar, gave the assurance in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Sunday.
He said, “Protests have so many categories. Ours is to ensure that a protest is peaceful. However, it is not in my capacity to determine whether it is right or wrong for them to protest.
“Ours is to ensure peace and tranquillity in the FCT. Our duty is to ensure that there’s the security of lives and properties of everyone, and we’ll protect everybody.”
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Rafasajani, Chairman of the Transmission Monitoring Group, has described protests as part of the democratic culture, and as such should not be discouraged.