President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday condemned the violence that had characterised campaigns in Kogi and Bayelsa state which are set to hold their gubernatorial elections on Saturday, November 16.
Jonathan, who handed over to Buhari in 2015, described signals coming from the two states as disturbing.
On Wednesday, one person was killed at the Peoples Democratic Party rally in Bayelsa State. Last month, a man was killed at Anyigba, Kogi State, after hoodlums attacked a convoy of the governorship candidate of the PDP in Kogi State, Mr Musa Wada.
He expressed concern about violence and killings in the two states, saying this would not have happened if Nigeria had got to a point where voter cards mattered.
On his part, Buhari asked security agencies to ensure that citizens were allowed to vote at tomorrow’s elections to be conducted in the two states.
The President further directed that all cases of ballot box-snatching should be handled by legal means.
Buhari stated, “I call on voters in Bayelsa and Kogi states to exercise their franchise in a peaceful and orderly manner and in line with the law in all situations.
“Law enforcement officials must ensure that citizens are allowed to vote without harassment and intimidation and any attempt to steal or hijack ballots must be stopped using all legal means.
“In all democratic elections, there are bound to be winners and losers and the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi will not be different.
“All candidates should be ready to accept the outcomes and wherever they are dissatisfied, they should follow due process of the law in seeking redress. There must not be a resort to self-help”, a State House statement quoted Buhari as saying.
The Presidency reviewed the campaigns ahead of the polls, noting that the cases of violence recorded in some areas were saddening and unnecessary.
The statement, which was signed by presidential media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, added, “On Saturday, November 16, voters in two states, Bayelsa and Kogi, will be left alone to decide who takes charge of the administration of their important states for the next four years.
“Since the ban on campaigns was lifted a few weeks ago, their citizens have been called to attend political rallies of various hues and were bombarded with advertising on billboards, radio, and TV; texts, tweets, WhatsApp and Facebook posts in campaigns that sadly, have so far recorded not a few uninspiring incidents of violence and of intemperate use of language.
But Jonathan described the signals from Bayelsa and Kogi states as worrisome, saying that only electronic voting process could stop thuggery, violence during elections in Nigeria.
Jonathan expressed sadness that people were already being killed when the election had not begun, adding that the only way out was electronic voting.
He spoke in Port Harcourt on Thursday during the presentation of a book authored by a former deputy governor of Rivers State, Sir Gabriel Toby, titled ‘In the Cause of Service: Memoir of Gabriel Tamunobiebere George Toby’.
The former President stressed that the people would be able to elect those they believed in should the country begin to vote electronically.
He expressed optimism that electronic voting would work in Nigeria, owing to the fact that several Nigerians transferred billions of dollars from one bank to the other through electronic means.
“Look at what is happening now; we have governorship elections in two states in Kogi and Bayelsa. The signals coming from both are quite disturbing.
“The use of thugs, shooting guns and our people are already being killed when the voting process has not even started is disturbing. This would not happen if we have got to a point in this country where voter card matters.
“That is why I have always advocated electronic voting. We must go into electronic voting. If people these days can transfer billions of dollars from one bank to the other, using electronic means, then I believe that we can do electronic voting perfectly and that will ensure that the use of thugs during elections would not come up again.”
Jonathan further noted that political offices in the country did not change their holders, rather, the people with low integrity were being voted into offices.
He added that when the country developed to a point where voter card mattered, politicians would mend their ways.
“My opinion is that people don’t change when they get into political office; we vote people that we don’t know into offices and it is difficult to know the true character of a person; it is hard to understand, but the fact is we don’t really vote people we know. People tend to use different means to get into office.
“When we develop as a nation to the point where our voter cards matter, where the people can vote, who they believe in, the behaviour of the politicians would change; politicians would stop recruiting group of boys and feeding them like dogs, calling them thugs to be used for elections while their children attend the best universities abroad,” the ex-President added.