Major political parties in the country on Sunday expressed discontent over the idea of exempting the Federal Capital Territory from their schedule of campaigns and rallies.
The Presidential Campaign Council spokespersons of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Labour Party and New Nigerian Peoples Party told The PUNCH in separate interviews that taking such action would mean capitulating to people behind the terror scare in Abuja.
As of Friday, a joint operation launched by the Department of State Services, the National Intelligence Agency, the police and other security agencies had successfully dismantled a terror cell and arrested five Islamic State West Africa Province commanders and 30 fighters.
The suspects were apprehended at their hideouts in different locations in Abuja, Mararaba and other satellite towns in the Federal Capital Territory.
The arrests were made amid heightened tension in the nation’s capital as the popular Jabi Lake Mall shut its doors to shoppers and visitors on Thursday, citing the security situation.
But the Chief Spokesperson of the APC Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, believed that it was not enough to suspend political campaigns and rallies over the security scare in the nation’s capital.
Keyamo advised that such a decision ought to be done in conjunction with the PCC security directorate like the one created by the ruling party.
He said, “It depends on the information available to them. As I speak with you now, nobody has the intelligence the people who raised the alarm possess. Whether they are credible or not, we don’t know. That’s why I said political parties can only act on the information available to them.
“I am not in a position to speak on whether it will be risky for the APC to cancel or postpone its campaign in Abuja. The decision can only be made by the party after due consultation with the PCC Directorate of Security. I don’t want to play to the gallery by making a wild comment.
“Don’t forget that we have not even brought a timetable for the campaign yet. So we cannot be talking about rescheduling the order of timetable for rallies because we don’t even have one yet.”
In a related development, the Chief Spokesperson of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, called for calm and vigilance.
According to him, the FCT should not be tagged a no-go area for people who have resolved to come together to effect a change in governance.
He also called for security agencies in Abuja to be proactive and strive to nip the terror scare in the bud and restore the masses’ confidence in their abilities.
“We have to be resolute and determined as a people. If they continue to instil fear in us, we will be unable to do anything. So I suggest that our people should be vigilant and steadfast and continue to do what they are meant to do. Let them move along.
“We also encourage our security apparatus to do what is right and protect the lives and property of the Nigerian people. But the idea of tagging Abuja a no-go area for campaigns is a big no for us,” he stated.
The NNPP campaign council spokesman, Ladipo Johnson, on the other hand, called on political platforms to make a conscious effort to work hand-in-hand with the Department of State Security.
Johnson also admonished parties not to be too overzealous in their desperation to garner political clout by putting their supporters in harm’s way.
He stated, “Each party must consult seriously and I think at this stage all the political platforms must carry along the DSS in planning their programmes. We cannot be cowed into submission by terrorists or bandits. It is what we have to face as a people, which is part of what these parts of elections are about. Insecurities are the failure of government to guarantee and protect the lives and properties of citizens in the country.
“We must all be responsible, especially to our supporters, so as not to put them in harm’s way. At the same time, we shouldn’t all panic and put the state in comatose. I think that each party will work on their security, go farther than they will normally and, at the same time, make sure the DSS and the police are on top of their game and give proper advisory at this stage.
“As I said the other day, we don’t want to lose anybody, whether they are in opposition or not. The lives of Nigerians are too important for that. But I don’t think we should put our hands up and say no more movement because of the threat.”