FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo Sunday said that with the general elections less than two weeks away, the international community is keenly watching evolving events in the country hence those in charge of the elections must play the game according to the rules.
Obasanjo, who spoke through Chief Idowu Abraham Akanle at a public enlightenment programme on electoral process organised by the Organisation of Tadhamunul Muslimeen (OTM) and The Muslim Congress (TMC), Ogun State Chapters at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, said the failure of the elections would ridicule the country globally. He said all eyes were also on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police and therefore they must ensure free and fair elections, adding that no excuse for failure would be acceptable to the people.
The former President said: “The elections are crucial and the international community is watching us. We should not disappoint them by ensuring that the elections are free and fair.
“This election is for progress and development of this great country and should be devoid on sentiments like religion, ethnic and nepotism. This election should be a unity election for all of us.
“We must not make mistake of allowing the international community to make jest of us, as such, those we want to beg are the electoral commission, who had just told us here on how the process would go, to assure us that it shall be well.”
Meanwhile, as Moslems world over mark World Hijab day, the national and international communities have been told to respect the religious sensibilities of the adherents of Islam and stop abusing their fundamental rights under the guise of secularism.
In a statement by National President, National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO), Kamal’ddin Akintunde to observe the day, the organisation charged government at all levels to allow Moslems practise their religion without hindrance and within the frame-work of law.
NACOMYO, which particularly referred to the court verdict in Lagos banning wearing of hijab by Moslem students as being biased and a conspiracy against Islam and Moslems, advised the Ummah (Muslim Community) in Lagos to pursue the matter to the apex court and seek redress just as it observed that the matter could turn to be an electoral bargain.
It also decried the loose and inflammatory statements credited to Asari-Dokubo and Tompolo on the forthcoming elections, saying that such unguarded statements have implications on the unity and corporate existence of the country, just as it also violates the spirit and wisdom behind the “Abuja Peace Accord” recently signed by the presidential candidates of Nigeria’s political parties. It called for a monitoring of the two militants and other self-seeking and sectional leaders as a way of restoring confidence in the minds of the electorate to exercise their franchise.
Obasanjo told INEC officials who were part of the programme: “You must be fully prepared. You must be up and doing. No excuse. You know all this terrain very well; there should be no delay and late arrival of voting materials. Where you are going to use boat to ferry on the water, you know it, where it is going to be bicycle, you know it.”
For the security agents, Obasanjo said: “You must do your job accordingly and professionally. You must not allow yourself to be used by any individual or group to disrupt the elections. As I said, the international community is looking at us, so we must be careful and thorough throughout the elections. We must get it right, this is the message from Baba to you.
The topic of the programme, “Ensuring free, fair and credible elections: Collective responsibility”, according to the former President, “is apt and timely, as we the voters also have to get the message. You must not sell your voter’s card, as this is selling your future permanently to the politicians who you may not see again after the elections.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) struck one of its political masterstrokes at the weekend as nine out of fourteen presidential candidates of other political parties may have resolved to step down for President Goodluck Jonathan.
As at press time talks were still going on in Abuja, while finishing touches were expected to be completed on the terms of the agreement under which they will quit the race and openly announce their support for Jonathan's candidature.
An impeccable source told Sunday Independent on Saturday night that the meeting and the negotiations were being handled by National Unity Group, (NUG), one of the Support Groups canvassing support for the re election of the President
However, the identity of the affected candidates, which is still being kept secret, will be made open if all of them are able to secure the mandate of their parties to drop from the race, today.
The National Secretary of NUG who is also the National Vice Chairman of the PDP (South-South), Cairo Ojougboh, confirmed the story last night.
He disclosed that the meeting with the nine presidential candidates was cordial and fruitful.
"We are still incubating the process. What has happened today is very encouraging, as we made appreciate progress. They have gone back to discuss with their political parties. The core of the meeting is collaboration for the unity and the progress of the country".
"For now, it will not be proper to start naming the nine presidential candidates involved but by tomorrow (today), we will be able to unveil their proper identities and their political parties" he said.
Ojougboh, who described the development as a boost for Jonarthan's re-election, declared that the PDP's candidate would win in the first ballot and urged eligible voters across the six geo-political zones to vote massively for Jonathan at the poll.