Nigeria: Elections - Obasanjo Doubts INEC's Neutrality, Asks Amina Zakari to Step Aside

President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo attending the African Union summit taking place at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
20 January 2019

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday expressed doubt over the neutrality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the forthcoming general elections.

Mr Obasanjo, who helped President Muhammadu Buhari to defeat the then incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, parted ways with Mr Buhari whom he has repeatedly attacked as having performed poorly in office.

Mr Obasanjo is backing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the February 16 election.

"I personally have serious doubt about the present INEC's integrity, impartiality and competence to conduct a fair, free and credible election," the former president said in a press statement he distributed to journalists at his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

"If the INEC is willing, will the ruling party and government allow it? From what we saw and knew about Osun State gubernatorial election, what was conclusive was declared inconclusive despite all advice to the contrary," he added.

Mr Obasanjo mentioned ways in which INEC could be used to rig the elections.

"The unnecessary rerun (in Osun election), if viewed as a test-run for a larger general election, would lead people to expect incidences of deliberately contrived, broken or non-working voting machines or card readers, confusion of voters as to their voting stations, inadequate supply of voting materials to designated places, long line to discourage voters and turning blind eyes to favour the blue-eye political party of INEC because the Commission's hands will be tied to enable hatchet men and women to perform their unwholesome assignment.

"The transmission and collation of results are subject to interference, manipulation, and meddling.

"If the INEC's favourite political party wins with all the above infractions, the result will be conclusively declared and if not, there will be a 'rerun', the result of which is known before it is carried out."

The former president also touched on the controversy surrounding INEC's appointment of President Buhari's relative, Amina Zakari, as head of the commission's collation centre.

Mrs Zakari's appointment, the opposition alleges, is part of "the plan" by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to rig the elections.

Both the presidency and INEC have dismissed the allegation as untrue.

"Amina Zakari has become too controversial a figure to be able to give assurance of free, fair and credible election for INEC," Mr Obasanjo said.

"President Buhari and her family have declared that there is no blood relationship but there is a relationship through marriage and that is more than enough for the good lady to step aside. A judge does not sit in judgment over a case once he or she becomes a cause for controversy or one side in the case has strongly objected to the judge.

"Madam Amina Zakari should, in honour, stay out and not be seen as a source of contamination of the election. Otherwise, it will be difficult to deny the rumour that she is being assigned to Collation Centre for one duty only - to write out figures that are not results of the voting in the field on fake results sheets without watermark or on genuine results sheets which she will have access to as a Commissioner.

"Amina Zakari is not the only Commissioner that can be in the Collation Centre.

"Let the INEC Chairman act boldly and impartially and prove his absolute neutrality and responsiveness to contribute to make the election peacefully free, fair and credible. His integrity needs to be transparently demonstrated," the former president said.

The former president said there have been reports in the past of INEC collaborating with officials of political parties to rig elections.

He said card readers was one of the sure ways to prevent rigging in the forthcoming elections.

"One way will be to only allow card readers to be means of authenticating voters and where there is no such authentication, it should mean no voting.

"The second is to use only identity cards with watermarks issued by INEC itself to party officials only for identification of political party coordinators, officials and agents and not political parties dresses or arm and wrist bands which anybody can wear for purposes of identification on election duty or function."

Mr Obasanjo appealed to the international community to be actively involved in checking the activities of INEC.

The former president, however, commended both the presidency and the national assembly for adequately providing funding for INEC.

"Funding cannot be an excuse for poor performance by INEC," Mr Obasanjo said.

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