By Oki Samson
An advocacy group, Prayer and Support for Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies has made a passionate plea to Nigerians, young and old, to allow violence-free elections this Saturday 25th February presidential polls and on Saturday 11th March governorship polls.
This call was made when they took a Solidarity Walk for Violence-free Elections from Allen avenue to State House Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos on Wednesday 22nd February 2023.
The Solidarity Walk was joined by the President-General of Nigeria Football and other Sports Supporters Club (NFSSC) and President of Nigeria Boxing Board of Control (NBBofC), Dr. Rafiu Oladipo who also delivered a statement on behalf of the advocacy group at the State House.
Trek Africa Newspaper can further report that the Solidarity Walk had officers of the Nigerian Police, National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), journalists were well represented.
The good boys of Lagos were excited to join the walk, they collected the uniformed T-shirts, and promised to take the message to their colleagues.
The advocacy group, Prayer and Support for Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies, led by its Convener, Mary Abayomi Fatile was received at the endpoint of the Solidarity Walk by members of staff of the Lagos State Office of Civic Engagement, and CSP Elizabeth Opadola, the DPO of Alausa Division.
They presented letters to Lagos State Government through the Office of Civic Engagement.
Dr. Rafiu Oladipo shared: ‘Elections will come and go but Nigerians must remain as Nigerians.
It is not going to be a do-or-die affair but we must continue to remain united.
Nigeria must not be set ablaze because of elections.
We want politicians to see themselves as sportsmen.
Sportsmen will go for a competitive game and after the game, they will go out of the pitch and embrace themselves believing that there is another day.
You don’t have to lose your head if you lose a match.’
He recalled: ‘In 1996 Olympics, in our first match we played against Brazil and we lost.
Then in the semi final, we met them again.
At halftime, they were already celebrating and I told my group that the match has not ended so we can’t know who has won or lost until the referee blew the final whistle.
Some of you will be familiar with the song ‘He is a Miracle-working God’, God did marvelous work and we defeated them.
Same thing happened against Argentina in the final.
And for the first time in the history of the Black nation, we won.
That is why you don’t lose your head in a match. We appeal to politicians to see it as a game.
Two sides cannot win at the same time.’
‘I must thank the convener and the group for this walk.
They approached me that it is important for us to do a walk because all we have been doing for months will only work when we have peaceful elections.
When elections come, elections wil go. We will continue to meet ourselves and embrace ourselves as sportsmen.
If you lose today, don’t lose your head’, Trek Africa Newspaper gathered.
Dr. Ladipo warned youths who are fond of turning streets to football pitch on election day.
He said: ‘Nigerian youths should stay off the football pitch on election day.
If you are above 18 and you have PVC, go and vote and when you finish, go home and listen to the news’.
On her part, the Convener of Prayer and Support for Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies, Mary Abayomi Fatile pleaded: ‘We implore Lagosians in particular and Nigerians in general to shun violence of all forms.
This walk was necessitated by the rise of violence on parties in their campaign trail, INEC facilities, and orgy of killings in some states.
This has elicited fear and anxiety in the electorates.
We appeal to youths to not allow themselves to be used to snatch ballot or cause violence.
We are all stakeholders in securing our elections. We should endeavor to make the job of our security agencies less cumbersome for them.
We should all shun violence and any type of crime that will jeopardize our elections.’
‘I want to appeal to Nigerians, the Armed Forces and other security agencies are dear to me and I think they should be dear to all of us.
They lay down their lives for the nation, some have not seen their family for years, they shouldn’t be attacked.
When they talk, we should listen to them’, she told Trek Africa Newspaper.
Also speaking on the role of the advocacy group, Iloh Usman said: ‘the Solidarity Walk is borne out of the need for us to see all security agencies as our own.
Our work entails enlightenment of Nigerians about praying and supporting Armed Forces.
This people put their life on the line for us to have security, for us to sleep with our two eyes closed.
Some of them die, some of them don’t see their family.
What we came to do is an extension of what we do in our advocacy group. We have stages of life.
This is our teething stage as an advocacy group.
This is part of what we give back to our society. Everything is not about money.’
In her response to the great work by the advocacy group, Giwa Sulaimon Olabisi who represented the Special Adviser of Lagos State Office of Civic Engagement said: ‘On behalf of the Special Adviser, we are assuring that by the Grace of the Almighty, this election will be peaceful.
I implore us all, because it lies with us, we should not engage in violence.
We should think of Nigeria as a whole. We are one.
People who don’t have PVC should not go there.
If you have, come out and perform your civic responsibility.
It will be a free and fair election by His Grace. Desist from anything that will cause trouble.’