Police barricade on their way and the sun blazing above, All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders marched yesterday on the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.
Leading the way were former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, APC Chairman Chief Bisi Akande, former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) former chairman Chief Ogbonnaya Onu and many others.
Their mission – to demand the cancellation of the November 16 Anambra State governorship election, resignation of INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega and dissolution of the management of the electoral body. In a scene reminiscent of the pro-democracy struggle between 1993 and 1998 during the military era, the leaders trekked for about five kilometrer from the APC National Secretariat in Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja to Zambezi Crescent in Maitama District where INEC is located.
The initial stage of the trek was piloted by Governors Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State) and many members of the National Assembly.
The “great trek” was later co-ordinated by a former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, Buba Galadima, an engineer.
But when the procession took off, Gen. Buhari and some top leaders of APC withstood the rigours of standing in an open lorry for the protest march.
Others in the lorry were Akande, Tinubu; Onu; a former National Chairman of the defunct All Peoples Party(APP), Alhaji Yusuf Ali; ex-Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima, ex-Governor Segun Osoba; ex-Governor Niyi Adebayo; Senator Nazif Suleiman; APC Deputy National Secretary Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Senator Abu Ibrahim; and former House of Representatives member Dino Melaye.
Others who participated in the hectic protest were Senators Oluremi Tinubu; Sola Adeyeye; Domingo Obende; Anthony Adeniyi; Ahmed Lawan and Gbenga Asafa.
House Minority Leader Femi Gbajiabiamila and Chairman of the House Committee on the Diaspora Abike Dabiri-Erewa were there.
Others were the Deputy Minority Chief Whip in the House, Hon. Garba Datti; Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Suleiman Kawu; Hon. Umar Bago; Hon. Adeola Solomon; Hon. Yakubu Balogun; and Hon. Pally Iriase; Hon. Munir Hakeem; Hon. Abayomi Ayeola; Hon. Taiwo Adelekan; Hon. Adeyinka Ajayi; Hon. Gafar Akintayo; Hon. Sunday Adepoju; Hon. Ajibola Famurewa; the APC National Women Leader, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, APC National Treasurer, and Hajiya Sadiat Umar Farouk,
Waving brooms – the APC’s symbol – the brought traffic to a standstill for about two hours on the ever-busy Ademola Adetokunbo Street in Wuse II. Revolutionary songs blared from mounted speakers.
Many workers in the business district abandoned offices to identify with the protesters.
They held leaflets and placards with the following inscriptions: “Anambrarians, Nigerians are with you”; “Anambra Election: Jega, not the INEC Messiah, Resign Now”; “2015, No hope with Jega”; “No Supplementary Election in Anambra”; “Cancel Anambra Governorship Election Now”; and “Election Fraud Must Stop Now”.
The procession, which started at about 10.30pm, berthed at the INEC headquarters at about 12.03pm.
The situation turned into a battle front with the protesters at one end and combat ready soldiers and policemen at another end.
Journalists were left in between as the protesters moved slowly towards the armed soldiers and policemen.
At about 100metres to INEC gate, 20 armed policemen, backed by a new Armoured Personnel Carrier with registration number NPF, 635 9C, formed a brick wall to restrict the protesters.
The wall was closely supported by a team of armed soldiers in a Hillux van marked ORS 0121.
For about five minutes, it was a tug of war between the protesters and the policemen and the soldiers.
The protesters succeeded in breaking only the first wall mounted by 20 policemen. Attempts to advance towards INEC’s gate were thwarted by the armoured vehicle and the soldiers.
The protesters opted to hold a rally at about 50 metres to INEC’s gate, having achieved their aim to assert their right to protest.
They also succeeded in sending the National Secretary of APC, Alhaji Tijani Tumsah, to submit a letter to the Office of the Chairman of INEC.
The letter, dated 28th November, 2013, was signed by the National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande and addressed to INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Firing the first salvo at the mini-rally, Akande said:
“If INEC is around to take this, we are ready to give it to INEC. The letter is our protest against the rigging of Anambra election. It is against the rigging of Delta State senatorial election. It is against the rigging of Oguta House of Assembly election. And our coming is to ask Nigerians to support us to stop rigging in Nigeria. There is poverty in Nigeria because of fraud. The rigging of election is the greatest fraud that any nation can have and we want to stop electoral rigging in Nigeria. This is because from our democracy our economy will develop, industrialisation will be established.
“So, we are here to say ‘no’ to election rigging and present the letter to INEC. Whoever can come forward, the letter is here.”
Clad in a cream kaftan, ex-Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, amid shouts of “Sai Buhari!”, said: “We are here mainly to give the letter to INEC on our representation to do away with the election in Anambra that was conducted and demanding the cancellation of the election totally and fix another day for the election. The reason we have put it in the letter, which will be handed over to INEC.”
Welcomed with a new appellation of Asiwaju of Nigeria, the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Tinubu, was more pungent in his remarks.
He said the rot in INEC must stop with the overhauling of the commission
He shouted: “The greatest Nigerian democrats!” We are here to serve warning signal to INEC. As an institution, they do not represent the interest of Nigeria. They are all compromised electoral officers. They have committed criminal offences by rigging elections in Nigeria. The electoral commissioners represent 90% of card-carrying members of PDP. We are calling for dissolution of INEC immediately.
“With the amendment of the electoral law, they have never complied with the Uwais Report. They rig; after rigging, because we endure them. They are used to sharing the election money and to promote corruption.
“We are rejecting totality the predetermined result of the rigging in Anambra, the Delta Senatorial election, the Oguta House election. They thought they will keep us in lamentation, no, we are no more in lamentation.
“We are determined for liberty- to liberate Nigeria, to change election thievery, change the electoral fraud, to change the institution here. Jega cannot manage the people, he should resign immediately. No one will accept this result from him. We have engaged him enough with excuses; we are no more taking them. This is our institution.”
Tinubu urged policemen and soldiers not to attack the protesters because they are fighting for their cause.
He added: “Police, your children are involved; your lives are involved. Nigeria police, your children’s life, your future lie here. We can obey you to the extent we are going back now. We have delivered the letter but next time, next time, we will not tolerate you to become the armed wing of PDP.
“If the Nigeria Police have become the armed wing of the PDP, let us know. That is the way you are behaving. If Nigerian Army is now representing their patriotic sense to only one party, they should serve us notice and let us know. We all join the army and dabaru (scatter) the whole thing. This nonsense must stop. APC will stop the rigging. From now on, you must rig and roast. God bless Nigeria.”
Onu said: “Is there anybody here who is happy with happenings in our country? Is there anybody here who is happy with the way INEC is conducting election in our country?
“The APC will put an end to this. We need free and fair elections in our county. Why is PDP afraid of free and fair elections? Why are they afraid of the people? You must have free and fair elections so that our people will elect those they like. It is only when we do such that we can elect people who will put the interest of our country first. We are saying no to election rigging. We want free and fair election in our country; we want competition in the political arena. Why should this government embark on privatisation? Why should they want competition in the economic arena but do not want it in the political arena? Why should our President promise us in Onitsha that Anambra State governorship election will be free and fair? And everybody knows that that election was not free and fair. Why is it that the President has kept quiet? We want him to speak up; we want free and fair election in our country. Enough of this. We want to make sure that we have free and fair election in our country. Nigerians, we must come out and make sure that elections are free and fair.”
Melaye, who did a yeoman job to ensure the success of the protest, said: “Once we have a sanitised electoral system, we will celebrate the obituary of PDP for ever. We are going to sing the old national anthem and we will be done.”