The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Iyorchia Ayu, has advised the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government against compromising the integrity of the 2023 general election, stressing that the major opposition party does not want to be short-changed again.
This is even as he called on the European Union to send a high-level and large-sized observer mission to Nigeria to observe and monitor the 2023 general election, given the country’s large population.
Ayu stated while receiving the European Union Election Exploratory Mission to Nigeria led by Mrs. Mette Bakken, at the PDP National Headquarters.
In a statement signed by, Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the PDP National Chairman, Simon Imobo-Tswam, Ayu said, “We are prepared as a party to do the needful as far as the 2023 general election is concerned. But we are worried about the tendency and capacity of the State to manipulate the critical technologies to our disadvantage. We need to pay close attention so that we are not short-changed again.
“There are security challenges in some states, I think six or so states. We hope the government will stamp out the insecurity there early enough for elections to be held there with transparent outcomes. We will no longer accept questionable harvests of votes from inaccessible areas.
“In the past, those were areas where the ruling APC did what they love doing best: bringing votes that subverted the will of the people. Even though we are going to police our votes, it’s important that the EU sends a large number of observers ahead of the elections.”
He went on: “We need a large EU Observer Mission here. We don’t want token missions. This is because Nigeria is such a big country, with some states being bigger than some EU Member-States. And we need, among the observers, people with technical capacities too. Election-observation has shifted from manual to technology. You need to keep talking to government and critical stakeholders so that the APC does not subvert the democratic will.
“We appreciate the efforts of the EU and thank the Observer Missions for their continued interest in the democratisation process in Nigeria which is close to 25 years. We want the world to know that what is happening in Nigeria is democratic, transparent and credible.”
Although Ayu said the PDP was prepared for the 2023 elections and was ready to police the positive outcomes, he expressed fears that the elections might be compromised, with the ruling APC allegedly bearing undue pressures on the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“We do not want to be short-changed again. We believe we won the presidency in the 2019 general election. We were injured in 2019, and we don’t want a second injury in 2023.”
On whether freedom of expression was being stifled, Ayu said, “To the best of my knowledge, Nigerians are very vibrant people. Even under military rule, we spoke our minds. It was through the process of speaking our minds that we formed this political party to make sure that the military handed over power.
“So, it is impossible to suppress the freedom of expression in Nigeria. The freedom space is still open. What the government in power is doing is denying us access to public spaces to hold our rallies. Even at our convention, we had to navigate and put pressure before we got a venue here in Abuja. That must stop.”
Speaking earlier, the leader of the Mission, Mrs. Bakken, said the EU Mission was in Nigeria to interface with relevant government bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations; and, in line with the EU Methodology, look at the possibility of deploying EU Observer Mission for the scheduled 2023 general election.
Besides Bakken, who is of the Democracy and Electoral Observation Division (European Action External Service), other members of the EU Delegation included Frederick Schumman and Kairi Kasmann, both of the European Commission Foreign Policy Instrument. Members of the Exploratory Mission, who arrived Nigeria on October 10, 2022 will be on the ground till October 25, 2022.
Other members of the PDP National Working Committee at the event were the National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu; the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba; the National Treasurer, Ahmed Mohammed, and the National Auditor, Okechukwu Daniel.