Elder political leader and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, called on the Federal Government to obey the law and pull out the Army from the Niger Delta states in Saturday’s Governorship and House of Assembly polls to forestall further hostilities and unnecessary killings in the region.
Clark, who is also the Leader, Delta Elders Forum, in a press conference at his Kiagbodo country home in Delta state, enjoined Deltans to re-elect Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate because he has performed well.
His words; “The Presidential election has come and gone and February 28 deadline for the military Operation Python Dance has elapsed. I, therefore, strongly advise that the Army be withdrawn, to forestall further hostilities and unnecessary killings in the region.”
He said, “It is on record that the Army in January gave the impression that Operation Python Dance would last between January and February 28, 2019. I am informed that the purpose of this military operation is for the security of the area, particularly in the South-South and South-East and that it has nothing to do with the elections.
“By what I have seen, as earlier suspected, the military was more involved in the conduct of the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections than even the police. My concern mostly in the South-South and South-East is ridiculous.
“It is now clear to us that the involvement of the army was purposeful- to intimidate and prevent South-South and South-East voters from exercising their franchise and to aid and abet the manipulation of votes to favour the incumbent and to determine the general voting pattern in the country,” he said.
“The Federal Government need to be reminded that deployment of the military on election duties is an aberration and same as has been pronounced upon and consequently laid to rest in the Court of Appeal in the case of All Progressives Congress v Peoples Democratic Party and Ors. CA/EK/EPT/GOV/1/2015 delivered on Monday, 16th day of February 2015,” the elder statesman added.
Regarding the governorship contest in Delta state, he stated, “I am appealing to all Deltans, politicians and contestants of political offices in Delta state to distance themselves from anything that will cause bloodletting in the state. “
“Delta State under His Excellency, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa is peaceful and the government is performing. I have had cause to address an open letter to all Deltans, in my New Year Message, on the need to support Governor Okowa for his second term bid because of his satisfactory performance and the need for equity in Delta state.
“The governorship election of Saturday, March 9 2019, is not about Governor Okowa, as a person, but it is about the unity of the state, the need to sustain equity and justice so that every senatorial district can have a sense of belonging in peace, political relevance and economic prosperity. This unity is in each senatorial zone is having a taste of the governorship of the state to foster understanding and goodwill that translate to economic and political stability.
“This Saturday, March 9, 2019, Deltans irrespective of ethnic nationality will decide who the governor of Delta state becomes. We should collectively vote for Okowa to have a second term because not doing so is entrenching injustice, discrimination and promoting primordial sentiment that has held the state backwards. In all my years I have consistently fought against injustice and discrimination, during the Nigerian civil war I was one of the leaders who stood for the unity of Nigeria and I demonstrated that the Igbos are part of Nigeria,” he asserted.
Clark noted, “I have similarly fought several other battles, both in my home state and in Nigeria against discrimination, injustice and corruption among other vices. Today I cannot do otherwise but stand by the ideals that have defined my personality over the years.”
“Every rational mind should border why Delta Central under James Ibori should rule from 1999 – 2007, that is two terms of eight years and Dr. Emmanual Uduaghan from Delta South similarly ruled from 2007 – 2015, two terms of eight years. But Governor Ifeanyi Okowa from Delta North, who had spent a term of four years, should not be allowed to rule a second term as his predecessors.
“This is unfair and smack of mischief, and discrimination which retards any society. We must stand against this injustice in promoting the general good of all; Governor Okowa should be supported to have a second term as his predecessors as previously mentioned. This is the best way to promote the well being of the state,” he added.
On the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, he said, “First, let me express my concern and deepest condemnation in the strongest possible terms on the reported violence and killings that characterized the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on Saturday, February 23, 2019, in parts of the country, particularly in Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos and Delta States.”
“The gory tales of violence at Okrikain Okrika LGA, Opobo in Opobo LGA, Bonny Island in Bonny LGA, particularly killings in Abonnema, Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State, the mindless electoral violence recorded in such places as Bassambiri in Nembe LGA, Brass in Brass LGA, Agbere in Sagbama LGA and various parts of Southern Ijaw LGA, Bayelsa State are quite worrisome.
“As we prepare for the next round of elections for the Governorship and State Houses of Assemblies scheduled for Saturday, March 9, 2019, I appeal to every politician to play by the rules and eschew action(s) capable of igniting violence and brigandage.
“It is rather very appalling to hear desperate politicians, who do not enjoy popularity in their respective constituencies reportedly sponsoring of some of this violence and killings. There have been cases and reports of the military, which intimidate every available person on their way to connive and cajole the INEC officials to perpetrate electoral fraud resulting in violence and deaths.
“I sympathize with the families of these victims, be they civilians or soldiers (because they are all Nigerians) who were cut down in their prime in those orgies of electoral violence, and I offer prayers for the repose of their souls. I demand a full- scale inquiry to bring all those immediately and remotely connected with the dastardly acts, irrespective of their status in the society, under the full weight of the law,” he said.