In the past four weeks the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been shouting from the roof top that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the federal government have engaged in acts that have the potential of derailing democratic governance in the country and plunging the country into authoritarian rule. PDP had alleged that the recent activities of the APC administration are gradually taking the country back to the dark days when impunity and abuse of democratic ethos was the order of the day before the electoral reforms initiated by the late President UmaruYar’Adua.
PDP had pressed the alarm button when President MuhammaduBuhari appointed Hajia Amina Bala Zakari as the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. PDP had argued that Hajia Zakari has very close family tie to the President and her neutrality in electoral matters cannot be guaranteed. The party also alerted Nigerians that Hajia Zakari worked under Buhari in the Petroleum Trust Fund during the administration of late General SaniAbacha.
The opposition party insisted that the appointment of Hajia Zakari as INEC Chairman will derail the country’s quest to have impartial individuals as INEC Chairman. The party cited the appointment of the immediate past Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, who was nominated for the job by former President Goodluck Jonathan, even without ever meeting him one on one.
As the presidency continues to ignore the alarm raised by PDP over the propriety of having someone that is related to the position as INEC Chairman, the leading opposition party vowed that it will not accept the outcome of any election conducted by the Acting Chairman of INEC.
Speaking during separate courtesy visits to the Resident Country Directors of the National Democratic Institute, NDI and International Republican Institute, IRI, the PDP national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said that the “APC influenced and appointed ‘daughter’ of the President as Chairperson of INEC. There is nowhere in the world where the electoral body is headed by someone with close affinity to the President.”
He emphasized that “because of the nexus between Hajia Amina Zakari and President Buhari she cannot be INEC Chairman. It is difficult for PDP to accept the outcome of any election conducted under Mrs. Zakari”, he said.
While the PDP is tackling the APC and the presidency over the appointment of Hajia Zakari the party has also alleged that the ruling party is venting its frustration over the outcome of the leadership of the National Assembly on the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu. The PDP alleged that the APC-led government is plotting to arrest Ekweremadu over allegations that he manipulated the rules of the 8th National Assembly to emerge the Deputy Senate President.
Since Ekweremadu emerged as the Deputy Senate President on June 9, he has been under intense pressure from the APC to resign on the ground that the position must be occupied by one of their own.
Addressing a press conference at PDP national secretariat, Abuja, the national publicity secretary said that following the refusal of Ekweremadu to resign, some members of the APC wrote a petition to the Inspector General of Police alleging that he doctored the Senate Rules to pave way for his election.
“As we address you today, our democracy is facing a serious danger. We are at the verge of a quick slide into dictatorship and the personal freedom entrenched in the polity in the last 16 years by the PDP is about to be obliterated.
“We wish to alert all Nigerians and the international community that there is indeed a clear and present danger of threat to the lives of key opposition leaders in Nigeria.
Metuh further declared that “Since President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement that Senator Ekweremadu’s election was ‘unacceptable’ to his party, the Deputy Senate President, who can only be removed by the Senate has come under threats and intense pressure from APC leaders to resign and allow a senator from the ruling party to take his position.
“However, having failed to get him to resign, the APC has now engaged in heinous plots to force him out of office, a design, which totally negates the independence of the legislature and the spirit and letters of the constitution of Nigeria.
“APC leaders must understand that no amount of threats, intimidation and blackmail will make the Deputy Senate President to abandon the mandate freely given to him by the Senate, or compel the PDP to abdicate its responsibility as an opposition party, a role we will continue to play with every sense of restrain, civility, maturity and patriotism,” Metuh said.
Reacting to the allegation, the APC debunked the allegations of PDP that it has a hand in the investigation of Ekweremade by the Police and dissociated itself from any petition written against the Deputy Senate President by some members of the party in the Senate.
APC said through its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the accusations by PDP are imaginary and outlandish and that the Police must be allowed to carry out its duties of investigating the petition against Ekweremadu.
”Forgery is a crime that is being regularly investigated by the Police, and it beggars believe that such investigation will now be interpreted to mean that Nigeria is descending into dictatorship or that democracy and the enjoyment of personal freedoms are now endangered. These claims by the scaremongering PDP are far-fetched and preposterous,” it said.
It cautioned against interfering with a Police investigation against anyone no matter his status, warning that such interference could plunge the nation into dictatorship, lawlessness and anarchy.
While Nigerians are awaiting the outcome of the Police investigation over alleged forgery by the Deputy Senate President, the PDP again came up with another weighty allegation and alerted the nation that the APC administration has engaged the services of the new Director General of the Department of State Security, Mr. Lawan Daura, to interfere and skew the outcome of the Election Tribunals in favour of the APC.
Addressing newsmen at the PDP national secretariat, Abuja after the weekly National Working Committee, NWC, the national publicity Secretary said the party has already received information that the DG DSS has invited some people that are involved in the election tribunals.
According to Metuh,”The NWC of the PDP has uncovered plots and plans by the newly appointed DG DSS to intervene and interfere on political issues, especially election tribunal matters.
“In that regard the NWC has been made aware that the new DG DSS has even invited some people in respect to Rivers election tribunal and other states trying to discuss such matters with tribunal members.
“The PDP alerts the national and international community that this is gross interference in democratic affairs and it can lead to enthronement of draconian.
“PDP decries the attempt to enthrone draconian regime where security forces and other apparatus of the ruling party decide to be influencing election matters and outcome on behalf of the ruling party,” PDP said.
While the DG DSS kept sealed lips over the PDP allegation, the APC denied the allegation and accused the PDP of engaging in brazen lies by alleging interference by the security agencies with cases before election petition tribunals, calling the allegation a futile attempt by the PDP to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians.
In a statement issued by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said not only did the PDP lie shamelessly in making the allegation, the party is also trying to muddle the waters on the true situation concerning the case before the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal “which precipitated the PDP’s frivolous accusation in the first instance.”
Apparently speaking on behalf of DSS, the APC Spokesman said that the invitation of some officials from the Rivers State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission was prompted by a petition to the IG and the DG, DSS, by the APC that the officials were colluding with the PDP to deny the APC access to key documents used for the last Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
The APC said that as a matter of fact, the Inspector General of Police had directed, upon the receipt of the APC petition, that the matter be investigated and that the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Rivers State should be invited.
”Therefore, the PDP’s wolf crying over a conspiracy it orchestrated with the Rivers INEC to deny the APC access to documents used for the said elections amounts to barefaced lies and a clear attempt at distorting facts,” APC said.
PDP has followed up its allegations with an appeal to the government of the United States to call President Buhari to order during his state visit to the USA. The PDP appears to be setting agenda for discussion during the Nigerian President’s state visit to the United States.
However, while the two leading political parties continue to trade words, accusations and counter accusation, the federal government appears to be distracted by the squabble and has not been able to hit the ground running. The economy is almost grounded with the Naira on all time low, investors are losing money in the Nigerian stock market on weekly basis while terrorists are having a field day in several states across the country. The government has not been able to make key appointments two months after inauguration while the policy direction of the government is still in limbo.
Political observers are of the opinion that while the PDP has a responsibility as the opposition party to keep the government in check, it must ensure that it does not cry foul where there is none and must investigate any alleged breach by the government and the ruling party before going public. On the other hand the APC must appreciate the fact that the expectations of Nigerians are too high with the innumerable promises they made to the electorates during the electioneering campaign. The APC must realize it is no longer in the opposition and must put its act together and face the serious business of governance.