As the presidential election inches closer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday held a crucial meeting in Lagos to perfect strategies for the election.
The meeting came on the heels of the call by the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation on the General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd)-led National Peace Committee, the United Nations and all world leaders to call President Muhammadu Buhari to order, insisting that there is no way free and fair elections could be guaranteed when his niece, Mrs. Amina Zakari, is heading the collation of presidential election results.
The over three-hour meeting, which held behind closed-door at the Lekki Phase I Estate residence of renowned South-west leader and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, had prominent politicians in attendance.
A source at the meeting told THISDAY, “It was a strategy meeting towards 2019 and how to give the country a fresh direction.”
According to him, “The discussion is not about South-west alone; it was a broad-based political arrangement that covers every part of Nigeria. It was a national thing. The basic concern is about how to give Nigeria a new lease of life by enthroning a leadership that will give the citizenry better lives.”
Obasanjo has been the arrowhead among those opposed to the second term ambition of Buhari and has maintained a cordial relationship with some leaders across the country to actualise his determination.
Apart from Obasanjo and Atiku, others present at the meeting were Chief Adebanjo, Saraki, Chief Olabode George, former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke; National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; and former university teacher and Yoruba leader, Prof. Banji Akintoye.
The only person in Obasanjo entourage was former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
After similar meeting in Lagos on July 3, 2018, Akintoye had said Obasanjo’s visit was to look for ways to stop Buhari, insisting that if he does not go now on his own, the electorate would stop him this year.
Zakari: PDP Reports Buhari to Abdulsalami Committee, UN
Meanwhile, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation has called on the Abdulsalami-led National Peace Committee, the United Nations and all world leaders to call Buhari to order, saying that there is no way free and fair elections could be guaranteed when his niece, Mrs. Amina Zakari, is heading the collation of presidential election results.
The PDP also warned that peaceful election cannot be guaranteed as long as the presidency continues to besiege, harass, intimidate and unleash violence and provocative acts of totalitarianism against opposition figures and persons perceived to be against Buhari’s self-succession bid.
The main opposition party accused the presidency of overheating the polity with its ‘’unending manipulations’’ of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), muzzling of free speech and escalated clampdown on opposition and civil society organisations, stressing that such must stop if the nation is to have peaceful elections this year.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the Director of Media and Publicity, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that Buhari’s insistence on having his relation, a National Commissioner of INEC in charge of collation of presidential election results – as indicated in his press statement recently, is completely provocative.
He described Buhari’s action as a direct affront to the sensibilities of Nigerians and expressed invitation to crisis of epic proportion, which is capable of truncating the entire electoral process and derailing the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
“We want the whole world to know that Nigeria is in a perilous time. President Buhari’s desperation for self-succession has become the major threat to our national unity, stability and peaceful electoral process,” Ologbondiyan stated.
He added, “We want the National Peace Committee and the entire world to know that as long as Amina Zakari is in INEC, a peaceful election is not guaranteed because she has the mandate to abuse the process and this will not be accepted by Nigerians.
“The PPCO, therefore, calls on the National Peace Committee to immediately speak out on the impropriety of having Amina Zakari in INEC as well as insist on her removal so that we can have a credible and peaceful presidential election.”
The PDP said it was aware of plots by the presidency to use Zakari, who has been mentioned as part of those involved in the rigging of 2018 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States, to plunge the 2019 general elections into controversies, truncate the flow of results and even render elections in some critical states inconclusive, to pave the way for allocation of fictitious votes to President Buhari and the APC.
Ologbondiyan stressed that having realised that Nigerians are rallying behind its candidate, Atiku, as their next president, the presidency is seeking ways to enmesh the electoral process in crisis.
The PDP spokesman said peaceful election cannot be guaranteed as long as the presidency continues to besiege, harass, intimidate, and unleash violence and provocative acts against opposition figures and persons perceived to be against Buhari’s self-succession bid, calling on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to take note of the extra-judicial acts of the ruling party and the presidency.
Ologbondiyan stressed, “Part of the plot is to charge such individuals before certain compromised judicial officers, in various states, who have been briefed to detain, silence and put such opposition figures and CSO members out of circulation until after elections are concluded.”
He said that particular cases at hand are those of its Presidential Campaign Director on Civil Societies, Senator Dino Melaye, who is being hounded for his outspokenness against the misrule of the Buhari presidency, as well as a civil rights activist, Mr. Deji Adeyanju, who is widely believed to have been held down in prison because of his scathing criticisms against the violations of the rights of Nigerians by the presidency.
The PDP said it was aware that the aim is to use the state apparatus of power to attempt to instil fear in Nigerians, stifle free speech, cow opposition and CSOs to silence so as to pave for Buhari’s self-succession.
Ologbondiyan noted, “This is a clear attempt to return our nation to the nightmares of the 1984 when draconian leaders forcibly subjugated innocent Nigerians under the grips of military Decree 2 and we urge the CJN to save our nation by insulating the judiciary from this ignoble scheme.
“However, the PPCO wants the Buhari Presidency to note that it is preposterous for anybody, no matter how highly placed, to think that our great party, the PDP and our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who enjoys the support of overwhelming majority of Nigerians, can be subdued out of the political space in our country.
“We therefore counsel President Buhari to tame his desperation for power. Our nation has had many presidents before President Buhari and there will be many more after him.”
Similarly, the Accord Women and Youth Initiative has condemned and rejected the appointment of Zakari as the Chairperson, National Collation Centre for presidential election result, saying that she is not only related to Buhari by blood but also married to APC senatorial candidate for Bauchi South senatorial district.
The women and youth group said its members aren’t against Zakari on the basis of her gender, but on the basis of her conduct.
It added that besides, she is not only related to the president Buhari by blood but also married to APC senatorial candidate in Bauchi South.
The Executive Director of the group, Ms. Esther Opaluwah, recalled that INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, had consistently maintained that he was committed to conducting a credible, free and fair election, saying the group expects nothing less than transparency and neutrality from INEC.
According to her, “Mrs. Amina Zakari who is not only a blood relative of the incumbent, President Buhari but also married to the senatorial candidate of Bauchi south. Therefore by consanguinity and affinity, her hands are tied.”
She said that the election is very important to them as Nigerians, hence, their refusal to fold their hands and watch a few individuals including Zakari to ruin the country’s democracy.