The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum has said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu is incapable of conducting free and fair polls in 2019 because the bug of nepotism and sectionalism that the current administration is renowned for has also eaten up the leadership of the commission.
The forum stated this at a press conference in Abuja on Sunday attended by Chief Edwin Clark, representing the South-South, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, South-West; Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, South-East; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd.), Middle Belt; Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, South-South, among others.
In a statement issued by the chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, the forum expressed fear that the 2019 elections will be rigged in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and therefore called for the removal of the INEC chief.
The Forum stated that President Buhari has been the first to appoint his relation, Mrs. Amina Zakari from the Northwest as acting chairman of INEC when he became president in 2015 before he appointed Prof. Yakubu from the Northeast as substantive chairman.
“The relationship between Zakari and Yakubu is so strong that it has the tendency to influence the outcome of the election in favour of the appointee.
“From 1960 till date, only President Muhammadu Buhari has been audacious to pick only people who are either his relations or of the same ethnic stock with him to lead the electoral body.
“The Balewa government headed by a northerner appointed Prof. Eyo Ita Esua from the South, who was in charge of the Federal Electoral Commission from 1960-66; Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba, set up the Federal Electoral Commission under Michael Ani (1976-1979). When Dr Goodluck Jonathan came in from the South-South, he appointed Prof. Attahiru Jega from the North-West (June 2010-Oct. 2015),” said the Forum.
The Forum said Yakubu’s choice as INEC chairman and the service chiefs, who ought to have retired, was very suspicious and tallies with the narrative that they were poised to play partisan roles in favour of the incumbent.
While stating that the INEC Chairman was yet to release the report of the committee set up to investigate alleged underage voting from results of the 2015 elections in Kano, he added that Yakubu may not be able to discharge his functions impartially since he comes from the same region as the president.
The Forum also cited the case of inspector general of police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, in relation to the 2015 elections in Kano when he was Commissioner of Police (CP) in the state.
It said the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) who would have been questioned over the outcome of the election was found dead with his wife and two children in a mysterious inferno.
“Idris, however, after being promoted to inspector general of police over his superior officers whose careers were abruptly terminated, explained away the deaths within a few hours without any serious investigation.
“Discipline has been eroded under the inspector general of police as we saw in a policeman who should be guarding a bank in Lagos getting recruited by a politician in Ekiti State where he shot people at a campaign rally,” it added.
On the bloodbath occasioned by murderous attacks armed herdsmen, the Forum called on the federal government to arrest the killer-herdsmen instead of shielding them.
It also berated the minister of defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, for asking states that had enacted the anti-open grazing law to scrap it, describing it as an obnoxious directive.
“The shielding of Fulani killer-herdsmen remains the strongest flashpoint of invitation to chaos and anarchy in our country as people would not continue to fold their arms forever as they are being killed with the government unwilling to lift a finger in their defence.
“We demand the immediate withdrawal of this obnoxious directive and for the federal government to stop the killings going on and promptly arrest those behind the killings so far for immediate prosecution,” it stated.