By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
A former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and National Chairman, Peoples Trust (PT), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has said there is desperation on the part of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari to retain power at all cost, and declared that the opposition parties will not boycott the forthcoming elections.
Agbakoba, a renowned human rights activist and member, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), made the assertion at the weekend during the official flag-off of the campaign of his party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, held at the Old Parade Ground, Abuja, at the weekend.
According to Agbakoba, “The APC comes across as absolutely desperate to do everything to stay in office.”
Speaking with select journalists on the sidelines of the event, he noted that the guidelines released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are not acceptable, stressing that “Apart from the guidelines, the main thing is the perception that people have that INEC is not independent. I think that is the crucial issue and I think the chair has to do a lot to convince us that they are ready to deliver credible, free and fair election.
“The issue of this Amina Zakari woman, for me, it is not really a problem that she occupies that position but it is the perception. If they say the job is not so consequential, why don’t you move her? Just move her so that we are all happy. Nothing is lost. But keeping her there against major national public outcry, is insensitive and therefore I am not at all convinced that INEC has done all that they should do to show their neutrality.”
He agreed that there is an apprehension that the president is not ready to create a level playing ground and conduct credible election.
“In spite of all his avowed good intentions; he (Buhari) keeps speaking about good intentions, but the contrary plays out because there are all kinds of things going on; failure to name a new Inspector General of Police (IG), because of course they have already done a deal; failure to change the service chiefs. These are indications.
“If in case, because of Boko Haram; the Armed Forces are not really part of the electoral process, it is the police. Why are you retaining Idris? What confidence do I have that a man whose job has expired is still there? It is a very big question mark. So, the president has to do more to show us that indeed he is truly removed from the process,” Agbakoba said.
On the rejection of the procedure for the election by 61 parties, he noted that “Not only are we against the procedures, we are also against failure to public consult.
“Festus Okoye is going about on national televisions claiming that we had inputs. A lot of us saw those guidelines for the first time on Sunday and we told INEC it is not acceptable. You have deceived us by calling us to discuss but you now presented us with this. So, a lot of us are not even interested in the content. That is not what IPAC stands for. It was a collaborated process so that both INEC and ourselves will have integrity process that we believe in.
“If 61 parties say there is something wrong about it, no matter how inconsequential you think they are, you should know that there is really something wrong.”
He said there is no plan on the part of the political parties to boycott the elections, but that instead, they would continue to engage the authorities to ensure free, fair and credible election.