Politicians should stop seeing election as war —INEC •Rivers APC absent at mediatory meeting

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised politicians across the country to stop seeing election as a war that must be won by all means.

The national electoral umpire admonished that electoral contest should rather be regarded as a civic duty, in which only a set of winners must emerge at any particular time.

Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Rivers State, Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, gave the admonition while speaking at a mediatory meeting with leaders of political parties and their candidates in Port Harcourt, on Monday.

The meeting, held at the state INEC head office, was part of efforts at sensitising all stakeholders to allow for a peaceful, free and fair exercise whenever a date was fixed for the conclusion of the suspended legislative rerun election in the state.

The INEC mediator team was led by Reverend Canon Chris Eke, while other members were Reverend Father (Dr) Donatus Ukulor, Mrs Ngozi Ogbunna and Mrs Toyin Abegunde.

Speaking against the backdrop of the violence and killings witnessed during the inconclusive rerun exercise, last March, Ikoiwak urged politicians to allow voters to perform their civic duties by voting for candidates of their choice in any election in the state.

He said election could only be free and fair in a situation, where INEC officials were not forced to announce results at gunpoint, adding that stakeholders, including politicians must allow peace to reign during election periods.

The Rivers REC insisted that INEC should not be singled out for blame if and when elections were inconclusive in the state.

Rather, he said all stakeholders, politicians and security agencies inclusive, had a responsibility to ensure a conducive environment for a free and fair election to hold.

“The INEC Headquarters has gone ahead to set up a team to interact with us so that we can have an election that is violent-free. We must agree that election is civic duty and not a war.

“Election is not a war situation. It is an exercise where people should be allowed to decide because it is their constitutional right. That is why we must provide a conducive environment for people to vote.

“Most of the time, when people talk about free and fair election, most people think of INEC, but the truth is that you cannot have a free and fair election when INEC official is told to announce election result at gunpoint.

“As Nigerians, we have agreed that there were lapses in the last election and we must be ready to agree to correct our mistakes and not to continue to feel as if we are angels,” Ikoiwak said.

He also restated that though the date for the conclusion of the suspended rerun had not been fixed, only the disposition of the politician to peace would determine when the exercise would hold.

“The political parties, the electoral body and security agents should join hands so that we can achieve the goal of completing the election in this state.

“We must know that the date of the election has not been fixed and all what we are doing is to see whether we are ready to hold the elections,” he said.

The main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was conspicously absent at the meeting, while 11 out of the 28 registered political parties invited were present.