Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse
The Tor Tiv, Prof James Ayatse, has warned politicians in the state against indulging in acts capable of causing chaos and other electoral malpractices during the forthcoming polls.
Ayatse, who is also the Chairman, Benue State Council of Traditional Rulers, warned that any politician involved in violence before, during or after the 2019 general elections would incur the wrath of the Benue lands.
The Tor Tiv gave the warning in Makurdi, during the signing of a peace pact by governorship candidates in Benue.
The peace accord was initiated by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in partnership with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The traditional institution is committed to peace because we are at the receiving end; whoever wants to cause chaos, the land will be against such a person,” he said.
He emphasised the imperative of peace and called on all candidates to conduct their campaigns with decorum.
The monarch commended the organizers of the programme which he said was ” the right step in the right direction”.
According to him, Benue desire peace more than any other state in the country, after all it had gone through in the last one year.
“We are here to talk about peace ahead of the forthcoming general elections; we have suffered a lot, that is why we are talking peace.
“We, as traditional rulers, live with the people and we know the pains they go through; we feel the pain when we are faced with violence; we are totally committed to peace in Benue and we are prepared to pay the price to ensure peace.
“That is why we have taken the step to be apolitical in our dealings. We have suffered long enough. The ceremony is important but the action that will follow is more important. The peace pact should not end on papers. It must be translated to real action.”
He urged all the candidates to base their campaigns on issues instead of attacking one another.
Ayatse also called on INEC and security agencies to ensure a credible, free and fair elections.
“We must be committed to playing by the rules, the political campaigns must be issue-based; the election umpire must be seen to be neutral.
“The security agencies must not be seen to take sides.
“There must be exceptional commitment to peace. We must avoid thuggery. Politicians must avoid thuggery.
“It is important that when elections are held, people will accept the results, when people do not accept the result, we will have challenges. So, there must be equity, fairness and openness in the conduct of the election.”
Earlier, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Benue, Dr. Nentawe Yilwatda, had regretted the loss of INEC staff to electoral violence in past elections, saying that the peace pact was necessary.
Also speaking, Mr Afolabi Babatunde, an official of the centre, said that it was the desire of the centre to see that elections were peaceful.
On his part, the Benue commissioner of Police, Mr Omololu Bishi, enjoined all candidates to adhere strictly to the electoral act, adding that they should also play the game according to the rules.
Gov. Samuel Ortom, while speaking, charged both INEC and security agencies to ensure that the polls were free, fair, credible and, above all, violence free.