Embattled National Chairman of the, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Iyorchia Ayu, was conspicuously absent as the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Cateriona Laing, paid a courtesy visit to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the main opposition party at Wadata House in Abuja.
The embattled National Chairman has been at the centre of the leadership crisis which has bedeviled the party since its May, 2022 Presidential primary election in Abuja that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its candidate ahead of the 2023 General Election.
Ayu was instead represented at the event by the PDP National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, as he told the visiting British envoy, Ms Laing that the PDP prides itself as the restorer of democracy after sending away the military and its found in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria where the party is loved and appreciated.
“Nigerians are waiting for our party to build on pure democracy, remember when the National Peace Commission asked our people to come and sign that we are going to do our campaign on issue-based, and we signed that documents, and we have maintained all the issues raised by the National Peace Commission,” he said.
The national chairman had also expressed concerns over electoral violence, as he pledged that the PDP would maintain peace by allowing other political parties to campaign in states controlled by the party unhindered.
“We believe that with the BVAS which INEC is able to introduce it is not going to be business as usual and that is why we keep praying for INEC to maintain what they have promised to Nigerians and when that is done we will find out that our party is in top gear,” Ayu said.
He expressed appreciation to the British government for their support over the years and is glad they are watching the elections unfold trusting that they will do all it takes to support Nigeria in conducting a free, fair, and credible general election in 2023.
Earlier, the British envoy Laing, disclosed that the United Kingdom and the International Community will monitor the forthcoming 2023 general elections in Nigeria, further stressing that the exercise ‘is very important to Africa and parts of the world, and with the spotlight on Nigeria, the UK would be watching closely as they want to make sure that the elections go well.’
Listing a number of issues to firm the focus of their interest in the elections, Laing said: “Number one is security, and we have been really concerned about the recent events, 52 election violence-related issues, in 22 states including an attack on the PDP convoy in Maiduguri, that is a real concern, and we want to exchange our thoughts on what you can do as a political party to ensure that the election are as peaceful as possible. When people feel intimidated, they can’t get out to vote, the election itself will not be credible that is why the violence is of great concern,” she said.
The High Commissioner informed the party leadership that for anyone who instigates or perpetrates electoral violence, the UK government will take action.
“Since we do have sanctions in the form of our Visa program. We will also be watching closely any individual who acts violently or just, insight people through the social media, we do have the possibility of using our Visas as sanctions by removing Peoples rights to visit the UK. We will be watching closely, these apply to all the political parties, not just the parties, but security officials and anybody who might be in that position,” she stated.
According to Laing said, it was important to ensure a high turnout of voters to ensure credibility and avoid voter apathy of 2019 thus making the 2023 elections credible.
“If the votes are high. It was low last time around 35 percent. There is also the issue of registration of young voters, which is a real positive and we hope that they would turn out to vote on the day of election because it will make the election much more credible,” she said.