Temidayo Akinsuyi and Samuel Ogidan
Lagos / Abuja – Pressure from the international community, especially the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), and the European Union (EU) saved Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from being relieved of his job following the sudden postponement of the 2019 general elections, Daily Independent has gathered.
The INEC chairman had cited “logistics and operational problems” to postpone the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections to February 23, while the governorship and House of Assembly elections will now take place on March 9.
It was gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who was apparently disappointed by the postponement had in a meeting in Aso Rock contemplated replacing Yakubu whom he believed had “demonstrated gross incompetence” in the handling of the electoral exercise.
According to our source, “The pressure from the international community and some civil society organisations saved the INEC chairman. They believed that sacking him at this point will have huge negative impact on the conduct of the elections and its results.
“Though they felt the pains of the president and Nigerians, they believed that since the INEC chairman has promised to get everything done to have a successful election in one week, he should be allowed to carry on with the exercise. Appointing a new chairman now will no doubt give the elections credibility problems”.
Speaking with our correspondent, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said calls for the sack of the INEC boss are unreasonable.
According to him, given the logistic challenges experienced by the electoral commission in some days before the elections such as delay in budget passing and burning of sensitive materials, the best option available to INEC is to postpone the exercise in order to have a free, fair and credible poll.
He, however, faulted the timing of the announcement, saying it would have been done few days before the elections so that Nigerians who traveled far to vote wouldn’t have done so.
“Sacking the INEC chairman because of the postponement of election will be unreasonable. We have heard various things that have been happening. Card readers were burnt in different states, some never arrived as bad weather prevented aircraft from landing, therefore, prohibiting distribution of electoral materials.
“Also, there was the case of the delay by the National Assembly in passing the budget of INEC. So, the decision to postpone is better so that we can have a flawless election.
“My only blame is the lateness of the announcement. If INEC had announced it maybe two days before so that people will not travel from one point to the other or close their offices. The inconvenience caused by the last minute announcement is totally uncalled for.
“In fact, some people were already at the polling stations. That is where I blame the INEC chairman. So, postponing the election is the best option in the current circumstance. I don’t think he can be blamed for that”, he said.
In a related development, INEC will today meet to deliberate on whether political parties can resume campaigns before February 23, the new date for the rescheduled elections.
Following the postponement, political parties felt it will be wrong to stay mute for a week, as it may affect voter turnout for the rescheduled general elections.
It would be recalled that INEC, weekend, said there was no more room for political campaigns in spite of the postponement of elections by one week.
Confirming the meeting of INEC on the issue, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the chairman of the commission, said that “on campaigns, the commission will meet tomorrow and take a decision.”
Buhari To Attend APC Emergency Caucus Meeting Today
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has given hints that he would attend a caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled to hold today at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
The meeting, according to sources, within the presidency, may not be unconnected with the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Even though stakeholders have called on Nigerians to be patient with the electoral umpire and wait for the February 23 rescheduled date, the APC appears to be unsettled over the postponement.
Buhari had shortly after learning of the postponement, expressed his reservations against INEC management, saying he was disappointed by the agency.
The development had also compelled him to cut short his stay at his home town Daura, Katsina State, where he was expected to exercise his franchise.
Buhari had stated, “I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement.
“Many Nigerians have traveled to various locations to exercise their right to vote, and international observers are gathered.
“INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.
“This administration has ensured that we do not interfere in any way with the work of INEC except to ensure that all funds were released to the commission.
“We now urge INEC to ensure not only that materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands, but that everything is done to avoid the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.
“While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot, I urge all political stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to rally round INEC at this trying national moment in our democratic journey.
“I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from all civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development.”
APC, Buhari’s Govt Sabotaging INEC— PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday revealed that facts available to the party confirmed that elements of the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been sabotaging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in a well-orchestrated plot to engineer a staggered presidential election.
This, according to the party, is contrary to simulated stance by the Buhari presidency and National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
PDP further alleged that it has been reliably informed that Amina Zakari and another high-ranking INEC commissioner, played a pivotal role in assisting the APC and Buhari presidency in sabotaging the operations of INEC and scuttling the February 16 elections.
PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “Nigerians will recall that the PDP had vehemently protested the continued retention of President Muhammadu Buhari’s relation, Mrs. Amina Zakari, in INEC. We have been reliably informed that the same Amina Zakari and another high-ranking INEC commissioner played a pivotal role in assisting the APC and Buhari presidency in sabotaging the operations of INEC and scuttling the February 16 elections.
“The reason for this is that President Buhari is determined to have a staggered election where he can use security agencies to subvert the will of the people at the polls.
“These APC elements in INEC engineered actions that affected the distribution and delivery of INEC sensitive materials to designated locations, thereby frustrating the electoral process.
“We also have details of how a hired team of data hackers corrupted the voters register, with a view to cause mass confusion and voters’ suppression on election day.
“Nigerians would have been shocked that many registered voters in possession of their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) would have arrived their polling centers on election day only to discover to their amazement that their names have disappeared from the register in their units.”
The party also revealed how the Buhari presidency infiltrated the distribution system and ensured that sensitive election materials do not arrive at the designated locations, adding that there was a deliberate swapping of sensitive election materials between different states and local governments so as to muddle up the process and stall election in affected areas.