By Olisemeka Obeche
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress of plotting to rig the general elections. Both Mr. Buhari and his party are desperately campaigning and strategising for his re-election and continued domination of power at the national and state levels.
Obasanjo, a former military head of state and two-term president under the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in an open letter titled: “Point for Concern and Action”, also alleged that President Buhari was acting like a former military dictator, late General Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria between 1993 and 1998, died in office while trying to perpetuate himself in office.
Mr. Obasanjo whose withdrawal of support from the former President Goodluck Jonathan and endorsement of General Buhari in 2014 was adjudged to have contributed significantly in the latter’s eventual triumph against the incumbent in the 2015 presidential election, has since withdrawn his support for Buhari, accusing him of incompetence and nepotism.
In the letter made available to newsmen at a press conference held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Obasanjo declared that President Buhari “has succeeded in deceiving us the first time and we will be fools to allow ourselves to be deceived the second time”.
According to him, “Buba Galadima, who knows Buhari very well as a confidant and national secretary of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari’s party before it joined in forming All Progressives Congress, APC, has warned us this time around that no matter what he promises, he cannot change his character and attitude.”
Obasanjo stressed that Galadima “describes him (Buhari) as inflexible, insincere, dubious, intolerant, never accepts responsibility when things go wrong and impervious to reason and advice for change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything is the assertion of George Bernard Shaw.”
According to Obasanjo, the president and his party are recruiting collation officers who are already awarding election results. “It is the sole reason he has blatantly refused to sign the revised electoral bill into law. His henchmen are working round the clock in cahoots with security and election officials to perfect their plan by computing results right from the ward to local government, state and national levels to allot him what will look like a landslide victory irrespective of the true situation for a candidate who might have carried out by proxy presidential debate and campaigns.”
According to him, the current plan is to drape the pre-determined results with a toga of credibility and also use violence of unimaginable proportion which will be unleashed in high voting population areas across the country to precipitate re-run elections. “We are monitoring them and we call on all democrats across the world to keep an eye on the unfolding anti-democratic agenda of President Muhammed Buhari. This is the time for preventive measures to be taken otherwise Nigeria may be presented with a fait accompli with impunity and total disregard of all pleas.”
The ex-president expressed doubts over the capability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver free, fair and credible elections in 2019. “I personally have serious doubts about the present INEC’s integrity, impartiality and competence to conduct a fair, free and credible election. And if the INEC is willing, will the ruling party and government allow it? From what we saw and knew about Osun State gubernatorial election, what was conclusive was declared inconclusive despite all advice to the contrary.
“The unnecessary rerun, if viewed as a test-run for a larger general election, would lead people to expect incidences of deliberately contrived, broken or non-working voting machines or card readers, confusion of voters as to their voting stations, inadequate supply of voting materials to designated places, long line to discourage voters and turning blind eyes to favour the blue-eye political party of INEC because the Commission’s hands will be tied to enable hatchet men and women to perform their unwholesome assignment.
“The transmission and collation of results are subject to interference, manipulation and meddling. If the INEC’s favourite political party wins with all the above infractions, the result will be conclusively declared and if not, there will be a ‘rerun’, the result of which is known before it is carried out. I know that I am not alone in being sceptical about the integrity of INEC and its ability to act creditably and above board. But we are open to be convinced otherwise.
“The joke about INEC would seem real. The INEC was asked if the Commission was ready for the election and if it expects the election to be free, fair and credible. The INEC man is reported as saying in response, “we are ready with everything including the results!” God save Nigeria! It is up to Nigerians to ensure that the redline is not crossed in safeguarding our fledgling democracy. And if crossed, appropriate action must be taken not to allow our democracy to be derailed”, he warned.
Obasanjo further alleged that there were sinister moves by the Buhari government to use the Permanent Voters Card and recipients of the N10,000 doled out under the ‘TradersMoni’ scheme to rig the forthcoming election? “With collusion of the INEC officials and card readers not made to work, anybody quoting the PVC number may be allowed to vote as the revised Electoral Bill was not signed. And if that happens all over the country, it will be massive rigging indeed.
“The chairman of INEC must stand firm and carry out his duties with competence and unbending neutrality. Card readers must be used without fail and accreditation must be completed and number ascertained and made public before voting commences as was done in 2015.
Obasanjo also took a swipe at the INEC leadership for the controversial appointment of Amina Zakari, stressing that it had betrayed the confidence many people have in the electoral umpire over free, fair and credible election.
“President Buhari and her family have declared that there is no blood relationship but there is relationship through marriage and that is more than enough for the good lady to step aside. “Madam Amina Zakari should, in honour, stay out and not be seen as a source of contamination of the election. Otherwise, it will be difficult to deny the rumour that she is being assigned to Collation Centre for one duty only – to write out figures that are not results of the voting in the field on fake results sheets without water mark or on genuine results sheets which she will have access to as a commissioner. Amina Zakari is not the only commissioner that can be in the Collation Centre. Let the INEC chairman act boldly and impartially and prove his absolute neutrality and responsiveness to contribute to make the election peacefully free, fair and credible. His integrity needs to be transparently demonstrated”.
“We should remember that there had been reports of INEC-sponsored rigging in the past, and also with INEC officials through collation and with officials being put in party coordinators’ dresses and working for the political party favoured by INEC and also putting the dresses of other parties on INEC-favoured parties and police uniforms on INEC-favoured parties to rig all the elections for the favoured party. Like all of us, INEC knows all these and it should devise means to make sure they do not happen.
He adds: “President Buhari and his hatchet men in the coming election think that the judiciary must be primed in their favour. Hence, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, has been harassed and prosecuted for non-declaration of his assets without following the constitution and the law, just to make him conform or set him aside for a Buhari man to take over or act, as President Buhari and his people believe no stone should be left unturned to rig Buhari in. It seems to be a ploy to intimidate the judiciary as a whole in preparation for all election cases that will go before them. Where and how will all these stop?”
On the repeat of Abacha self-perpetuation power play, Obasanjo claimed: “He went for broke and surrounded himself with hatchet men who, on his order and in his interest and at high costs to Nigeria and Nigerians, maimed, tortured and killed for Abacha. Buhari has started on the same note on the same path in mad desperation”.