From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Ahead of the February 16 presidential election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said its major fear about the poll is whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can truly superintend over a free, fair and transparent exercise.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Sunday Sun that this fear is as result of the guidelines for the 2019 polls released recently by INEC and the insistence of the electoral body to have its embattled National Commissioner, Amina Zakari, involved in the collation of the results of the presidential election.
Ologbondiyan noted that the decision of INEC to have accreditation of voters and casting of votes proceed simultaneously would give room for the manipulation of the polls.
“Our fears have to do with the credibility of INEC, particularly whether INEC can indeed conduct an election that will be free, fair credible and transparent. The guidelines released by the electoral umpire have heightened our fears. In 2015, you had a system where accreditation was completed before voting, results announced. But now, INEC is coming up with simultaneous accreditation and voting. We are opposed to that.
“We believe that the 2015 system gave INEC the applause of Nigerians. And elections were free and fair. It should be retained. We believe that Amina Zakari, who President Muhammadu Buhari has admitted before the world as his relation by marriage, should not be part of the election, because she has become toxin. “And her participation clearly shows that there is an intention to rig the election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari,” Ologbondiyan stated.
Although INEC had given assurances that Zakari would not be directly involved in the collation of the results of the presidential election, Ologbondiyan, who is also the Director of Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation insisted that the party could not trust the of INEC.
His explained: “This is because there is no way she can be a dispassionate umpire. She cannot. Her uncle is involved in the election. And her attitude in past elections in favour of APC has shown that she cannot be a dispassionate umpire. She is already partisan. And she is not the only national commissioner in INEC, so she can be replaced and taken to another position where she would be less seen.”
On security arrangements for the election, the PDP spokesman insisted that INEC must make public the number of policemen and other security agents deployed to the various constituencies for the poll. He said that way, it would be easy to check the incidence of fake security agencies during the election.
“Since INEC has taken responsibility and we have even gotten a new IGP, we insist that they must obey the electoral law, which places the kind of security agencies that will be deployed – their number, in the hands of INEC. INEC must also come out and announce the number of policemen or other security agencies deployed to each constituency. So that those in those states can do their calculation and know the number of security agents to expect. Anything outside that would give room to the fake security agents,” Ologbondiyan said.
Similarly, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said opposition political parties were worried about the involvement of security agencies in elections. CUPP spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, told Sunday Sun that the experience of the opposition during the last Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, left a sour taste in the mouth.
He said there are fears already that the government may unleash the security agencies on key opposition figures prior to the presidential poll.
Consequently, Ugochinyere said President Muhammadu Buhari and the electoral body must ensure that security agencies that would be deployed for the election play by the rules.
“The first thing that worries us is the security involvement in politics. And we felt that the experience we had in Osun and Ekiti, where police escorted thugs to the homes of members of the opposition, beat them up and arrested them on trumped-up charges portends danger for democracy. Two days to election, they started t arresting opposition leaders and charging them for one offence or the other so that nobody would be there to protect our votes at the polling units. So, our number concern is the issue of security.
“We urge the President and the election management body to ensure that the police play by the rules. You saw the by-election in Kwara State, where the police practically was carrying the ballot box and changing the results. All the elections that have been conducted under President Buhari have been a contest between the police and us, not even the APC.
“More still needs to be done. Because as at today, there is what is called Rapid Response Squad that they have set up in some states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Kwara, Imo and Kano. We are insisting that the new IGP should disband those special squads.
“We are also concerned about the army camps that they are setting up, with special commanders in the 36 states. There is no security situation in Abia, Anambra and Enugu, so why are you setting up military camps? By our intelligence, this is a rigging strategy. They are the ones that will surround the polling units and change the results. There is no need for that. There is enough manpower in the divisions of the army in the zones or in the police force.”
Ugochinyere added that the coalition was deeply disturbed by the decision of INEC not to allow party agents into the situation room where the main collation of results for the presidential poll will be done may give room for the manipulation of the election.