BY SULE TAHIR.
Former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mike Mbama Okiro, has urged journalists covering the 2023 general elections, to ensure they document electoral frauds taking place at the polling units for easy verification by concerned authorities.
Okiro, who spoke with a crop of journalists in Ikeja, Lagos State, also charged the current IGP, Alkali Usman Baba, and the service chiefs to take responsibility for any violent act that erupts in polling units across the country during the next Gubernatorial and States House of Assembly elections slated March 18.
The former Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), said it has become expedient to speak on the last elections, which were marred by irregularities as posterity will judge him as former security chief if he fails to speak.Okiro seized the opportunity to call on Baba to deal decisively with any policeman who stands aloof watching thugs perpetrating evil in polling units.
According to him, policemen are not posted to the polling units to watch hoodlums perpetrating crimes, but to take action against criminals.
Okiro advised journalists covering the elections, if reporting on the snatching of ballot boxes, destruction of ballot papers, or policemen compromising, should indicate the date and location in their reports, for easy verification.
His words: “Having closely monitored with keen interest the goings on before, and during the 2023 general elections which kicked off with the Presidential and National Assembly polls on February 25, 2023, it has become expedient for me to publicly air my views concerning the polls.
“This is in recognition of the fact that Nigerians, and indeed, the international community are equally watching with profound interest how open, free, and fair or the contrary the conduct of the election is turning out.
“Many critics, including international observers that monitored the February 25, 2023, Presidential and National Assembly elections, described the process as flawed and a travesty of democracy. Some of the areas fingered pointedly were that the elections were compromised and rigged and that the poll results were doctored or falsified.”
The former police chief stated that while the election was peaceful in some areas, it was marred by widespread violence, intimidation and forcefully preventing voters one way or the other from casting their ballots for the candidates of their choice.
“What strikes me the most in all of this, and which I considered objectionable is the election violence and voter intimidation, especially the use of gunmen and thugs to harass, and scare away voters and election officials, as well as the snatching of ballot boxes,” said Okiro.
He continued: “Sadly, some policemen were accused of watching helplessly while the violence was orchestrated. In some domains, certain persons were strongly accused of dishing out threats to voters to vote for certain candidates against their conscience or face dire consequences, like being driven away from the parts of the country they chose to live and do their business.
In some other areas, the properties of Nigerians are being wilfully destroyed ostensibly to cow them to vote for candidates that are not their choice. Should such conducts still be trailing Nigeria in the 21st Century? The answer is no!
“Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unanimously adopted by the United Nations Organisation in 1948, and which Nigeria is a signatory to, recognizes the crucial role free, open and fair elections play in giving effect to the fundamental right of citizens of any nation to participate in government.
For, article 21 of the Declaration states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government and that this ‘will’ shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or equivalent free voting procedures.
“And whereas Chapter IV of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended), which spells out the fundamental human rights of citizens consciously or unconsciously left out voting rights, those rights are, nonetheless, implicit in Section 77 of the same Constitution and all the nation’s electoral laws till date. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, as well as the freedom of any Nigerian to reside in any part of the country without molestation.
It stipulates the freedom to vote and be voted for in any part of the country. Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians and any Nigerian has the right to contest elections in any part of the country once such a citizen is qualified to stand for the election. Citizens should not be forced or cowed to vote for or pander to the dictates of any candidate other than the candidate of their choice.
“Therefore, as the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections hold on Saturday, March 18, 2023, I implore the social media to be very vigilant and aggressive in capturing video clips of any form of election violence involving armed gangs and thugs hired by their principals to disrupt the polls. Persons, no matter how highly or lowly placed, threatening or forcing Nigerians to vote for candidates that are not their choice are not exempted, including policemen who helplessly watch such irregularities and violence being perpetrated.
“Such social media reports should be explicit with the state, local government, ward, polling unit, or specific domain where such incidents are witnessed. The report should also be personally signed or bear the name tag of the reporter so that it will not be dismissed as fake news by investigators that may be detailed to probe further into the matter.”