By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Eighteen political parties, under the auspices of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) have raised the alarm about a planned crackdown of opposition parties in Kwara by the federal government in the build up to the forthcoming general elections.
The group, while addressing newsmen at the press centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ) in Ilorin, on Friday, fingered the Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed as being the arrowhead of the planned onslaught and called on stakeholders in the national polity to halt the alleged plans.
State Chairman of CNPP, Alh Adebayo Lawal, and Secretary of the group, Prince Olufemi Adeleke, alleged that the minister has been a frequent visitor to the new Inspector General of Police apparently to perfect the plan which would be a replica of what happened during the November 17, 2018 by-election in Irepodun/Oke-Ero/Isin/Ekiti Federal Constituency in the state.
The text of the press conference partly reads: “We have called this press conference to draw the attention of the fourth estate of the realm, civil societies, international community and the general public to the plans by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government to use security agencies to harass and intimidate opposition parties in the state with a view to destabilising them ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
“We are aware of the frequent visits of the minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed, who is the leader of a faction of the APC in Kwara, to the new Inspector General of Police, whom he has been mounting constant pressure on to do the biddings of the APC.
“We have it on good authority that the minister has compiled and submitted to the Inspector General of Police the names of influential members and grassroots canvassers of the PDP and other opposition parties in the state that are to be arrested and detained before, during and after the elections so as to give the APC and its foot soldiers free rein to carry out their planned despicable activities.
“It is instructive to note that this was the same tactic the APC deployed during the November 17, 2018 by-election in Irepodun/Oke-Ero/Isin/Ekiti Federal Constituency, where security operatives acting on the directives of Alh Lai Mohammed picked up and detained notable members of the PDP for no reason, which paved the way for APC and its thugs to manipulate the electoral process.
“Alh Lai Mohammed is a seasonal politician and serial election loser who had not won any election in his ward in his entire political career until the last by-election where he successfully manipulated the electoral process through the aid of security officials. Having realized that he cannot deliver his ward not to talk of the whole state to his party, Alh Lai Mohammed and his cohorts in the APC are embarking on another retrogressive plan to undermine the electoral process.
“This same Lai Mohammed is currently entangled in a corruption case that also involves the Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). We hope that this case will not be swept under the carpet.
“The planned clampdown on opposition figures by the APC controlled Federal Government is clearly undemocratic and constitutes a grave danger to the success of the elections. We, therefore, called on security agencies to shun partisanship and should carry out their duties responsibly in line with the provisions of the constitution.
“We also wish to call on the media, civil societies, observers and the general public to closely monitor activities, just as we will also continue to document developments leading to the forthcoming elections.
“We would also like to urge both the UK and the United States to effect their resolve to to deny visa to politicians who instigate violence or are involved in electoral fraud in the general elections, starting from Alh Lai Mohammed who is bent on using security apparatus to intimidate opposition figures.
“Finally, we appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to display a high level of professionalism and should provide a level-playing field for all parties to ensure a credible electoral process.”
State chairman of the PDP, Hon Kola Shittu who was also at the event, said there is a growing pattern of intimidation of his party members and called on stakeholders to become more vigilant.
He added : “Last Saturday the PDP campaign went to Baruten to campaign. Despite the fact that we had police permission some APC sponsored miscreants still came out to waylay us in Okuta. You would have expected the police to prevent such a thing but it was not done. They expected that we would react and then arrest our members. We also recall that in Offa the police also arrested some of our members, claiming that they tampered with posters of APC. It took efforts to get them released. The same thing happened in Isin when we went to campaign too. They are just looking for excuses to postpone the election here in Kwara so that they would repeat what they did in Osun. We must not allow that to happen.”