New Telegraph

Ruling parties stifling opposition in states –Investigation

It is a mixed bag for the opposition parties as ruling parties have adopted the maxim of war by all means, as they stifle the opposition in order to gain upper hands in the build up to the general elections scheduled for Saturday, February 25 and March 11.

Sunday Telegraph checks revealed that the ruling parties have either destroyed opposition parties’ bill boards or charged prohibitive fees for the placement of billboards through the signage agencies. In some instances, the opposition candidates are harangued and harassed. A very good example was the PDP governoroship running mate, Funke Akindele, who was chased out of a market in Lagos.

She had gone to interact with the market women to campaign to them. From Sokoto to Niger, Ogun to Imo and Rivers States, the story is not different as opposition parties are finding it difficult to either get venue for campaign rallies or their bill boards destroyed by loyalists of the ruling parties.

Recently, the Ogun State government denied the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the use of the Moshood Abiola Stadium for its rally scheduled for Thursday, January 19. The PDP Presidential Campaign Council wrote a letter to the State Ministry of Youth and Sport, requesting for the use of the Stadium.

The Ministry replied that the Stadium was under renovation and would not be safe to have dignatries exposed to danger. They were tactically turned down. In Sokoto State, the PDP accused a serving APC Senator of sponsoring the attack on the convoy of Governor Aminu Tambuwal while the APC alleged that the ruling party in the state has breached peace agreements and frustrating the efforts of law enforcement agencies in peaceful conduct of campaigns. The State government alleged that miscreants suspected to be loyalists of an All Progressives Congress (APC) serving Senator in Sokoto State waylaid the convoy of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

According to it, the cars were coming back from the third leg of the PDP’s statewide electioneering campaign in Silame and Wamakko Local Government Areas, on a Sunday evening, when the convoy of the governor was waylaid. Tambuwal, who condemned the incident, vowed that he would bring the perpetrators to book. The State APC Chairman, Alhaji Isa Sadiq Acida, in his reaction to the attack, said it is now evident that all the agreements have been breached by the PDP, because of recent developments, as per the following examples. He said: “You are no doubt aware that the Peoples Democratic Party has commenced its campaign in a number of local governments in the state.

You are also aware that the campaign has raised a lot of dust arising from the negative outputs and impending failure that faces the PDP at the polls”. He noted that part of the efforts made by the security agencies was bringing political leaders together, to sign a peace deal, in order to ensure peaceful conduct of campaigns and the elections.

“It is now evident that all the agreements have been breached by the PDP, because of recent developments, as per the following examples”, “The convoy of the APC Governorship candidate, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, was physically attacked twice at different occasions by thugs sponsored by Commissioner for Local Government, Abdullahi Maigwandu at Sokoto Cinema Area, while on their way to attend events in Sokoto metropolis.

“A staunch APC supporter, Abdulmajid Yellow, who defected recently from the PDP, was attacked by an armed PDP thug, by name Junaidu a.k.a “Viera, and Aminu Rabiu a.k.a “Taliya”, the thugs were sponsored by some state government officials. “What is more disturbing is that the attack took place in the presence of Saidu Umar, the PDP Governorship candidate at Marafa Danbaba Road during a wedding ceremony”. According to him, the PDP has made life so unbearable for residents of Kofar Atiku area of Sokoto metropolis, that a delegation of Elders,mostly supporters of the APC and neighbours with the PDP governorship candidate, had to request for security presence to enable them live peacefully in their houses.

However, Governor Tambuwal on his part said: “It is unfortunate that yesterday on our way back from Wammako, at the Senatorial office of Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, some hoodlums attacked my convoy on our way to the Government House.” He said: “We cannot condone any culture of violence in Sokoto State.

We cannot afford to toy with the fragile peace in the state. However, the APC systematically booked all the available billboards especially at strategic locations. The Director of Communications, PDP Campaign Council, Niger State, Usman Yahaya Mohammed (aka Sai Baba) told our Correspondent that at the earliest stage, there were issues but with the intervention of the Police it was resolved. He said: “Yes, initially they were aggressive and were taking down PDP boards and creating fresh laws and regulations to hurt the PDP.

In fact, when issues got to the Headquarters, the Police had to come in and since then, there has been a little calm. “Even with the Bida flag-off, there was an effort to deny the PDP the use of the stadium by candidates of the PDP who felt intimidated but common sense from elders prevailed”.

However, the ruling APC told our Correspondent that it never denied any party and does not intend to do so. According to a Chieftain and former publicity secretary of the Party, Comrade Jonathan Vatsa: “We, the ruling party are not hostile; the spaces are there for everyone. If they (opposition parties) cannot pay or meet the guidelines, then we are not to be blamed. As a matter of fact, if we have more spaces for billboards we will not hesitate.”

He further added that, Minna, the capital city is flooded with the APC Governorship candidate, Hon Umar Bago, a lot of friends, associates, party members, associations and groups are scampering for space to project him. In Imo State, opposition candidates and parties have accused the State Signage and Advertising Agency (IMSAA) of victimizing them by charging them exhorbitant fees for spaces to hand their bill boards or branding their campaign materials.

While condemning the arbitrary destruction of their outdoor campaign materials and the alleged impounding of branded vehicles, the opposition in the state insists that no candidate of the ruling party is hounded the way the candidates of the opposition parties are treated. A candidate of the Federal House of Representatives in the Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency, Mr. Chinonso Uba, (Nonsonkwa) had raised the alarm that his billboards and campaign materials have been targeted and destroyed by IMSAA in spite of the fact that the advertising agency he contracted for the work, had fully paid IMSAA. Uba, in a statement said: “APC in Imo State is becoming desperate each passing day by attacking the campaign materials of opposition candidates.

“The state government, through her agency, IMSAA, has literally gone mad and criminal in her bid to clampdown on my banners, especially the ones at Nworieubi in Mbaitoli LGA and Akabo in Ikeduru LGA. “I have confirmed from the company I paid for such services and it does not owe IMSAA a dime.

So, why did IMSAA remove my banners? “If my banners are not remounted at Akabo and Nworieubi in the next two weeks, my campaign organisation will sue the Imo State government. “IMSAA has 14 days to put back my two banners on the billboards located at Akabo and Nworieubi or risk legal action!

“Reacting to several complaints from its members, the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) called on the Imo State Government led by Senator Hope Uzodinma to rein in the IMSAA, following its alleged clampdown on opposition political parties in the state as regards outdoor advertisement as IMSAA has been accused of removing signposts that belong to opposition parties in the state. Addressing newsmen in Owerri, the state Chairman of IPAC, Ichie Levy Ekeh, accused IMSAA of going round the state, removing signposts and billboards belonging to opposition political parties on the grounds of not being registered with them.

Ichie Levy said that such action will not in any way be tolerated by the leadership of IPAC in the state, stressing that it is undemocratic for political parties duly registered, recognized and supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to get clearance from IMSAA before it mounts signposts in their respective party offices across the state.

According to the IMSAA document sighted by our correspondent, the fee for House of Assembly candidate is ₦750,000; House of Representatives (₦1,500,000); Senate (₦3,000,000); Governorship (₦10,000,000) and ₦15,000,000 before any bill board of a Presidential Candidate is mounted. In a similar development, the state is intolerant to criticism and resort to hostile antics against the vociferous critics of the Imo State government.

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, who is also the candidate of the PDP for the House of Representatives seat of Ideato Federal Constituency, narrowly escaped the attack on his convoy by armed persons, allegedly led by the Special Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodinma on Special Duties, Mr. Chinasa Nwaneri, over his exposition of the padding of voters register in which he inferred Governor Uzodinma as the chief culprit. Before the attack, Nwaneri had earlier threatened him in a viral audio telephone conversation daring Ugochinyere to come back to Imo State.

The attack happened when Ikenga defied the threat. Also hit by the gale of hostility was Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, PDP candidate for the Imo East Senatorial seat, who had severally lampooned Uzodinma’s brand of governance on national televisions.

In response, the same Chinasa Nwaneri led an army of thugs to seal Onyeagucha’s campaign office. Reacting, Onyeagucha, through his media aide, MacDonald Enwere said: “The attention of Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, the PDP candidate for Imo East Senatorial District has been drawn to the recent sealing of his campaign office located at #23 Ihugba Street Owerri, by Governor Hope Uzodinma using his chief thug, Nze Chinasa Nwaneri and fully armed members of his infamous Ebubeagu militia numbering over 30.” The statement regretted that Uzodinma’s goons, who sealed Onyeagucha’s Campaign Office, a family house that was built in 1977, also demanded for building permits as well as other paperwork.

“This building is the same house where Uche Onyeagucha grew up as a child. It also housed his Campaign Office as a candidate when he ran for the House of Representatives in 2003 General Elections.” In Kwara State, the ruling party denied stifling the opposition. Rather, Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak has given them unfettered freedom to campaign without let or hindrance. State Chairman of the APC, Prince Sunday Fagbemi said: “All candidates have been carrying out their campaigns without any hindrance or deprivation of any kind. Some have excessively been insulting in their utterances against the government and even the person of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, but he refused to be provoked or distracted.

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