Fred Itua, Abuja
Constitutional lawyer and former president of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of being desperate over next month’s presidential election. He also alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is not exempted.
Agbakoba, who is the national chairman of Peoples Trust (PT), spoke on the sideline of presidential campaign flag off of Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim in Abuja.
While faulting the guidelines recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the lawyer wondered why president Buhari has not replaced all the service chiefs and appointed a new substantive Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
He explained why 61 political parties rejected the guidelines released by INEC. He said the perception in the public domain is that INEC is not independent and wondered why the electoral body is yet to prove its neutrality ahead of the general election.
He said: “The guidelines are not acceptable, besides, the main thing is the perception people have that INEC is not independent. I think that is the crucial issue and the chairman of INEC has to convince us on the commissions readiness to deliver credible, free and fair elections.
“The issue of this Amina Zakari woman, for me, is not really 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 we all can be happy. Nothing is lost. But keeping her there against major national public outcry amounts to being insensitive and, therefore, I’m not at all convinced that INEC has done all they should do to show their neutrality.”
Explaining why 61 registered political parties rejected the new guidelines, Agbakoba said: “Not only are we against the procedures, we are also, against failure to consult. Festus Okoye is going about on national televisions claiming we had inputs. A lot of us saw those guidelines for the first time last week, and we told INEC it was not acceptable. You have deceived us by clinging to 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.
“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 despite the misgivings, campaigns will continue.
“What are we going to do? To stop? We will absolutely be foolhardy enough not to campaign. You know, in those days when you say you’re going to boycott. Boycotting is not an option, you will have to engage all the processes. So, you will keep campaigning, but, keep also putting pressure on INEC in a hope that they would have the common sense, not only to remove Zakari, but, also, to revise the guidelines. We cannot sit down and do nothing.”
Agbakoba, while expressing doubts over the preparedness of the president and the alleged desperation on his part, noted: “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.
“There is, also, the failure to name a new IGP because, of course, they have already done a deal; the failure to change the service chiefs is another of such indications. If he is truly removed from the process, he shouldn’t care who the service chiefs are.”