With the announcement of his intention to seek re-election in 2019, Nigerians want President Muhammadu Buhari to guarantee a level playing field for all political parties, Davidson Iriekpen writes
With the 2019 general election fast approaching, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, last week stirred the hornetâ€™s nest when he raised the alarm that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government was set to deploy security and anti-graft agencies to frustrate the opposition through blocking the accounts of hostile state governments.
He noted that the plot was aimed to cut off funding for the opposition ahead of the crucial 2019 general election. The governor said if the plot sails through, it is expected to weaken the financial base of these perceived â€œopposition governors and statesâ€ and make them ineffectual in mobilising its supporters for the crucial elections.
Wike said he had it on good authority that the anti-graft agencies; notably, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) would be used to freeze the accounts of those state governments after spurious examination of their local government accounts, the accounts of the ministries of work, special duties and the federal government intervention funds for workers.
â€œBut the real deal is to render the opposition financially incapacitated, so that they canâ€™t mobilise towards the polls. But this is dangerous for democracy. This will further heighten tensions in the country. We hope they jettison this evil plot. Elections should not be a do-or-die matter,â€ he said.
Recently, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had raised the alarm on the plot to frame its top chieftains and elected government officials, including Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Wike himself, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and many others.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari declared his intention to 2019 election, many Nigerians have been wondering if he would ensure that the processes leading to the elections would be free from encumbrances and manipulation from agency of the federal government such as the police, military and INEC. They think that with the president in the foray, it does not only give his political party advantage over others, but makes his aides, security and INEC to be more over-zealous and desperate to win the election at all cost.
Besides, before Buhari announced his intention to seek re-election in 2019, many of his aides and state governors had on several occasions boasted to Nigerians that should he decide to contest, he would win landslide. Even when electioneering has not commenced, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, has promised the president five million votes.
Many analysts believe that Wikeâ€™s apprehension might not be out of place because when Buhari assumed power in 2015, the first thing the government did to weaken the opposition PDP was to hound those who received and distributed money for the partyâ€™s mobilisation. While many of those standing trial today in various courts across the country were accused of receiving huge sums of money which they â€œreasonably ought to know were proceeds of crime,â€ the APC governors and chieftains who equally contributed large sums of money to their partyâ€™s presidential campaign were not even considered for criminal trial.
Moreover, since his declaration of interest to seek re-election, Buhari has not made any strong pledge to Nigerians that elections in 2019 will be free and fair. In 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan not only made this pledge but told the whole world that his ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian. Nigerians are witnesses to the mayhem unleashed on some persons when Buhari lost in some states in 2011 and when he lost some areas in 2015 elections.
While members of the opposition are alleging that one of the reasons why the president extended the tenure of service chiefs recently was to help the incumbent government rig elections next year, others have drawn attention to the conduct and body language of INEC which they said are far from being transparent.
For instance, until it was busted penultimate week, an internal memo by the commission on the introduction of Voting Point Settlements was said to have further revealed that it had targeted re-introducing the controversial 30,000 polling units that were rejected by the public before the 2015 polls. The move which many analysts interpreted was designed to help President Buhari and his party, the APC win the 2019 elections, sparked outrage among many Nigerians. The move, though has been denied by the commission, was clandestinely planned to re-introduce new polling units in the northern part of the country to give Buhari advantage, especially in North-east geopolitical zone. According to investigation, should INEC adopt the format used in 2014 when it attempted to create precisely 30,062 new polling units, with more units allocated to the states in Northern Nigeria than the South, this could compromise the integrity of the 2019 elections.
It is against the background that the PDP recently warned the ruling APC that any attempt to rig the 2019 general election would be a recipe for crisis. It accused the APC-led federal government of muscling the opposition and refusing to respect rule of law. The party alleged that APC and INEC have perfected ploy to rig the Ekiti State governorship and next yearâ€™s presidential elections and urged the international community to prevail on the incumbent administration to ensure free and fair election.
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke when he received the President of the International Republican Institute (IRI), Dan Twining, said Nigerians have lost confidence in INEC for attempting to cover its alleged complicity in the widespread impunity recorded in the recent local council elections in Kano State. He added that the major concern of the party was that INEC and the APC were not prepared to conduct free and fair elections in 2019. The PDP chair appealed to IRI president to meet with INEC to ensure that the conduct of next yearâ€™s general elections is free and fair. He decried the spate of insecurity in the country, noting that Nigeria is passing through difficult times since the APC came to power but said the PDP has been repositioned to reclaim the presidency it lost in 2015. He further cautioned that lack of free and fair elections is a major cause of crisis in Africa, saying “when citizens are deprived of their right to vote that will generate crisis that might be difficult to control.”
â€œOur major concern is for INEC to conduct a free and fair election, because if the 2019 election is being rigged it is a recipe for crisis. We have strategised and reorganised our party, and today we are happy that we are hitting the ground running. We have planned out our strategy on how to get to our people and our major target is the grassroots; we will get to the grassroots and to our supporters.
“Nigeria is an important country in the continent of Africa. The best we can give to our people is election that will be transparent, election that will be credible, election that all, both local and international will welcome. So we urge the governing APC that the best they can give this country is to offer one man, one vote. We did that during the electoral campaign in 2015 but they are not assuring this, which means that there is a great fear in the land that the election is not going to be free and fair despite all the promises made by INEC,” Secondus disclosed.
On his part, the partyâ€™s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on the alleged underage voting in Kano local government election, accused INEC of registering minors as voters and as such should not in any way attempt to exonerate itself of involvement in the electoral fraud, simply because it did not directly conduct the elections. It said this showed clearly that INEC under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was unreliable and cannot be trusted.
Also, Second Republic lawmaker and politician, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, has warned that there would be trouble if the APC rigs the 2019 presidential election in favour of Buhari, adding that Nigerians will no longer tolerate the administrationâ€™s misrule. The prominent northern politician also stated that it would be against the run of play if President Buhari was re-elected next year.
He said: â€œIt is against national interest, common sense, and rationality for Buhari to stand for election and get the kind of crowd that he got in Kano. Tell me one good thing Buhari has done for this country?â€
When asked what the next four years would be like if Buhari was re-elected, the vocal critic of the APC-led government stated: â€œThere are a number of scenarios. One scenario is possibly that he may not contest the election. If heâ€™s selected as the anointed presidential candidate of his party and he didnâ€™t win the election, it would be rigged in his favour â€“ and if that happens, I want to assure you that from the day they announced the election results, until the end of the four years, there would be no peace in this country. If the APC government goes ahead to rig 2019 elections, there would be trouble. I cannot tell you the nature of the trouble.â€
Mohammed added that with growing insecurity, grinding poverty, and corruption in high places, the president did not deserve a second term. According to him, Buhari is a glorified President under the control of a group of people and whose anti-corruption war is designed to make his relatives and friends rich.
â€œBuhari cannot win 2019 election on the basis of performance. Buhari has ruined the national economy; he has messed up the national security; he has lied through his teeth about integrity by promoting and supporting people who have no gravitas â€“those whoâ€™re related to him that have become billionaires overnight. On what basis did they become overnight billionaires? Simple: on the basis that they are related to him. Buhari cannot win a free and fair election in 2019. I challenge Buhari to tell me one thing he has done for this country. If he got re-elected, it might be because of tribal sentiments or geopolitical sentiments,â€ he pointed out.
â€œI will describe him as thoroughly incompetent. He has (always) been clueless. He is out of touch with reality. This President cannot do anything without the power of the group that has a stranglehold on him. He doesnâ€™t have any strength intellectually. The people he surrounds himself with are only looking after themselves. Weâ€™re in very serious trouble because of a man who is timid â€“ a glorified President who cannot explain himself well,â€ the former lawmaker claimed.
Even when electioneering has not commenced, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, has promised the president five million votes.