By Clifford Ndujihe
SECOND Republic politician and a member of the Ime-Obi (inner caucus), of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Guy Ikokwu, has urged the Federal Government to ensure freedom of movement and speech, which he described as basic ingredients of democracy.
Ikokwu, who is also a member of the Southern and Middle-Belt Leaders Forum, spoke on the heels of the refusal of the Nigerian Air Force to allow the leaders fly to Makurdi, for the Middle-Belt restructuring summit, last week.
He also spoke on the need for the restructuring of the country and why the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must certify and issue election results at the wards as was done in the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Commenting on the Air Force clarification that the Southern and Middle Belt leaders did not obtain landing permit for their chartered flight to Makurdi, Chief Ikokwu, said it was a ruse to stop the Southern leaders from attending the summit in Makurdi.
His words: “They lied. We duly obtained landing permit. We sent them a certified copy of the landing permit; they refused to confirm it and kept the southern leaders waiting for five hours. These are prevarications to make sure that the Southern leaders did not attend the restructuring summit. It is a ruse.
“However, some the leaders in Abuja used their brain-power. The delegates in Abuja used their telephones to speak to the summit and what they were saying were broadcast live. It was very clear and many people applauded it. The issue really is the Middle-Belt people are now handling their affairs with their attitude to ensure they do not go into slumber.”
Picking holes in the advice of the Nigerian Air Force that politicians should not drag it into partisan politics, he said: “What do they mean by that? Are the Southern and Middle Belt leaders the only civilians, who use the Makurdi Airport? Other civilians, who use presidential planes, which are purchased with tax payers’ money, land at the airport. The airport was built with tax payers’ money; it is not just a military airport. A lot of people are going to Makurdi to see the governor and the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, etc. Why shouldn’t delegates, who are going for restructuring summit, go to Makurdi?”
Besides, he said there would have been no need to charter a flight to Makurdi, if the government had done its duty of protecting lives and property.
“In any democratic situation, there must be two cardinal things: Freedom of speech and freedom of movement. The function of government is to preserve lives and property. Once these tenets are not on, then one cannot say it is democratic and the citizenry will be very wary and careful about how they get on with government institutions.
“The situation in Nigeria is very brazen and many countries are looking at us and have asked their embassies to see if these things are true. The Southern leaders decided to use a chartered flight because there was not going to be freedom of movement. There are a lot of illegal checkpoints mounted by militias, and the moment they were told that those coming by road were Southern and Middle-Belt leaders, it became somewhat hazardous. There is no scheduled flight to Makurdi except by presidential or chartered flight,” he said.
On the controversies trailing the penultimate week governorship election in Ekiti State, he said, “We can say there is free and fair elections unless there is a certificate of the votes count at every ward as we have in foreign countries. The moment the votes are counted, they should digitalise it, total it and issue certificate to the agents of the parties, and within 10 hours, the full results of the ward, constituency, local government, senatorial district, state or country are known.
“So far, in Nigeria, the only electoral chairman that did the right thing, for the freest and fairest election, was Professor Humphrey Nwosu, using the Option A4. The results were certified at the ward level and given to party agents. I personally witnessed it in Anambra at the wards. I went round and saw the certification at the wards.
“The moment the results are certified at the wards, any candidate or party can add up the certified results and know whether it won or lost. This was what happened in 1993 and late Chief MKO Abiola knew he had won the presidential election even though the government did not want to broadcast the final result. But Abiola had the result. Alhaji Bashir Tofa had it and the two parties had it and there was nothing anybody could do to void or cancel the result.
“This was what happened. Why did Nigeria change? The National Assembly must get on with the task to get election results certified at the wards to check alteration of election results in 2019. “