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Muhammadu Buhari yesterday alleged that the votes of the people of Akwa Ibom State were stolen during the recent presidential and National Assembly elections, vowing that they would be reclaimed through proper channel.

Speaking yesterday through the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at a town hall meeting held by the elders and stakeholders of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Uyo, the state capital, the president called on the electorate in the state to defend their votes during Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly elections in the state.

Buhari said it was doubtful that the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio lost the election, alleging that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) robbed Akpabio and the APC of victory at the polls.

He maintained that all the wrongs done during the presidential and National Assembly elections would be addressed through proper channel.

“What happened on February 23 was robbery. The votes of the people were stolen but we are not deterred. The president sent me to thank you today. We are going to make sure that everything that was stolen on the February 23 would be restored.

“It is not possible that Senator Godswill Akpabio lost. We are in no doubt that Senator Akpabio is the elected senator of Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district. I and Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of the party have been in the opposition for long and we cannot be defeated anymore. “Everyone of you should go out to vote on Saturday and defend your votes; we cannot be cheated; not only you but tell your neighbours to vote for Obong Nsima Ekere and all APC candidates. Wait for your votes to be counted. It is the duty of the federal government to provide security and we will do that. We will recover every one of our votes.

Also speaking, Oshiomhole said the party was not in the state to lament but to thank the people of the state for doing their jobs and voting President Buhari.

He alleged that INEC colluded with some of the electoral officers to deny the state of its electoral victory on February 23, even though he claimed that the people voted for the party.

“We have not come here to brag that our mandate was stolen last week. We have come to thank you that you voted for President Buhari, and all members of the party. You did your job but some armed robbers in INEC stole your votes. “You think that those who stole your votes will have peace? We have come to reaffirm our commitment with democracy. We have come to affirm that no robber will go unpunished but when an electoral umpire is corrupt and collude with the opposition, we have the witnesses and we have lawyers to deal with that.

“On Saturday we are not going to wait for them to steal out votes. We call on Akwa Ibom people to protect their votes. We must maintain our sanity even in this hour of provocation. Those who committed democratic abortion would be brought to book,” he said. In his speech, the APC governorship candidate in the state, Nsima Ekere encouraged the people not to be deterred by the February 23 elections but to go out and vote during the March 9 elections, saying the party is sure of victory.

He said the people of the state were in need of change and proved it during his campaigns across the 31 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.

Ekere assured the president that after March 9 elections, the state would not be in the opposition but would be reunited with the centre

“Thank you for what you are doing for APC. The people voted for you; that vote is a revalidation of what the people want. You put Nigeria’s economy back on track.

“We are here because we have faith in you and Mr. President. The opposition and INEC have no choice than to give us back our mandate. Whosoever shall attempt to work against the collective will of Akwa Ibom people, we shall collectively resist.

“We send a message to the electoral umpire and the other party that they must respect the votes of the people, every vote must count. Akwa Ibom people love APC”.

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