Soldiers want to undermine democracy, says Oshiomhole

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A livid Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, on Saturday, accused the military of frustrating accreditation and voting exercises in some parts of the South-South state.
He said he could not understand why soldiers had to delay electoral officials for hours “until they were ordered to release
them by their superior officers”.
Freedom Online learned that some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were stopped by the soldiers from going to Edo North.
They were on their way to Ward 10, Unit 1, Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area when they were stopped by soldiers who forced them to sit on the ground, alongside their police escort, for several hours.
The governor said: “Yesterday (Friday), I addressed the media and I did say that Brigadier Odidi has chosen to frustrate this exercise in Edo North. Ironically, Brigadier Odidi is from Agenebode and he is the one who is giving this unlawful order. Why the Nigerian Army will be used in this manner, only God knows. So, I am surprised that they are restricting INEC officers from distributing materials. I have told the Brigade Commander and I am waiting to see what he is going to do but when you bear in mind that time is of essence, if we finally go and beg the General to please allow democracy, time is gone. First, there is no light across the country so we are going to have everywhere in the dark. Under such situation, nobody knows what happens but I refuse to be frustrated and I appeal to our people not to be frustrated, we will sort things out.
“It is clear they have serious problem taking off. As you can see, I am here and they say the card reader is not well programmed, it is not functioning and I got report from my Ward Headquarters that there are materials that are there and apparently, the returning officers are trapped there because the soldiers wouldn’t let them cross their barricade. From Apana, the Ward Headquarters, to this place, my voting centre takes about 10 minutes because of the good roads we have done.
“I have complained to the soldiers here. I have also called the Brigade Commander to draw his attention to it. This one is completely incomprehensible because I do not know what the briefing of the Army is but what Professor Jega said is that in the event of a machine not working, they have a spare to use and they have officers who would put them to work.
“Now, if the Army is blocking INEC officials from moving, this is a new dimension that we have not heard of before and I thought the business of the Army is basically to check people who are carrying offensive weapons. I do not know if card reader is now an offensive weapon. I have complained to the Brigade Commander, Major General Olaleye, and you have also heard me mentioning it to the Electoral Officer (E.O).
“Our people have a proverb that when you know that enemies are surrounding you, you do not go and rub yourself with an inflammable chemical such that when they just push you a little bit and you sit near fire, you get roasted. There is no doubt there are enemies of democracy, there is no doubt there are people who do no want free and fair elections and, therefore, I am not going to lend support by way of any comment that will readily suit the expectation of those who are anti-democratic.
“I have spoken to the INEC REC in Benin and I believe that Professor Jega, the Chairman, should be aware of what is going on in Edo where card readers are not working in many places. We have gotten reports from Benin and across the state and it appears the problem is rather widespread but it is my hope that INEC has sensible alternatives to invoke when we are in this kind of critical condition.
“I want to appeal to Nigerians, we have suffered enough. One more day of suffering will not kill us so let us exercise all the patience that we can, let’s refuse to be frustrated, let us not resort to a shouting match. By the Grace of God, God will not leave us hopeless.
“As leaders, we must provide leadership role, more so at this hour. I have faith in democracy, it is not a choice, it is the only option. All of us have to be ready to sacrifice the day. I am very impressed seeing ordinary people queue up patiently to vote. These are farmers who if they don’t work, they don’t earn. They are not like urban people who put pen to paper and steal money and earn even without working. If they sleep, their production will sleep. So, they donate their production today for Nigeria’s democracy and this is what they get, but I am happy that they are not fighting.
“It is already getting to a critical point, it is few minutes to 11:00am and some materials have not been able to reach here because the Army blocked up the roads for INEC, and where INEC has reached, the machines are not working. I want to hope that this will be solved. So, let us wait”.
Freedom Online learned that failure of card readers, late arrival of electoral materials and harassment of voters by thugs marred the exercise in Edo State.
As at 10:50am, accreditation of voters was yet to start in Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba Okha, Uromehe and Orhionmwon councils.
Many voters were disenfranchised in Edo North, the base of Oshiomhole.
The Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, expressed his disappointment, insisting that it was a deliberate plot to disenfranchise people of the state.
As at 10:10am, all the card readers in 10 polling units in Ward 5, Oliha Primary School, Benin, were not functioning.
As at 10:05am, no INEC official was seen in Ward 2, Egor in Edo South.
It was the same situation at Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government, Edo North, the home base of Oshiomhole.
Aside the intimidating presence of heavily-armed soldiers who cordoned off the governor’s residence, the governor was yet to be accredited as at 11:15am.
This is due to the faulty card reader sent to Iyamho Primary School where the governor was expected to vote.
As at 11:30am, when INEC officials were not seen at Ugboko-Numaebae ward, Orhionmwon and Iguododo community, some voters left.

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