• FEC okays bill to set up electoral offences commission
• No plan to postpone 2019 general elections, says INEC
• PDP hails verdict against president
President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly summoned the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, to Abuja yesterday over the latter’s rift with Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
A reliable source from the party told The Guardian that the APC Governors’ Forum urged Buhari to appeal to Tinubu not to disgrace one of their own.
Before the closed-door meeting between both men, the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, national vice chairman of APC, South West, Chief Pius Akinyelure, and others were said to have expressed concern over the conflict and its effects on the party’s chances of winning the forthcoming governorship election.
The media aid to the national leader, Mr. Tunde Rahman, however, said he was not aware his principal was summoned to Abuja on the matter. “Honestly, I am not aware,” he affirmed. Pressed further to speak on the rift, he said: “If the governor said there was no rift, it means there is none.”
Another source in the party disclosed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also making frantic efforts to intervene and had travelled to Lagos to meet the governor and Tinubu.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, however, said he would confirm the movement of his principal.
The state chairman of APC, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, meanwhile, told reporters yesterday that the party would be fair to the three aspirants seeking the governorship position.
He noted that the events in the Lagos chapter showed democracy in action. “You can’t trample on people’s right; you can’t stop anybody from expressing intention to contest as stipulated in the constitution. It is left for the party members to decide their candidate through direct primary. All the three governorship aspirants are going to participate in the primary. If three people have taken forms, it means the party will decide whom it wants. APC is a disciplined party,” he said.
The Lagos chairman of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Mr. Abiodun Dabiri, said: “Unless the citizens of Lagos move against godfatherism through their votes in the next governorship poll, some elements would continue to determine who governs them. This development is a pointer to the fact that our votes have not been counting, otherwise, I wonder why personal issues between two individuals will continue to determine the direction we go.”
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meanwhile has approved the transmission of three executive bills to the National Assembly, with a view to enhancing the country’s electoral process.
The bills are: Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Establishment Bill, Constitution Alteration Bill 2018, and Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018.
Briefing reporters after the council’s meeting chaired by Buhari, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami said the decision was the outcome of a report of the Electoral Reforms Committee headed by former Senate President Ken Nnamani.
The AGF, who was joined at the briefing by Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma, said the passage of the bills would ensure the independence of the country’s electoral body. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) will also no longer be subject to control by any authority, he said.
This happened as INEC yesterday declared it has no plans to postpone the 2019 general elections.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had alleged that the APC and the Buhari presidency were plotting to use the electoral body to manipulate the polls and cause a crisis in the country.
“Nigerians and the international community have noted the various ploys by INEC to frustrate a credible election, including its stiff opposition to the amendment of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly to check APC’s rigging plans,” the PDP said in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan.
But INEC ruled out the possibility of a deferred poll, saying recent remarks by its chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, seemingly suggesting such, had actually been made to underscore the importance of a peaceful atmosphere to successful elections.
The PDP’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also expressed worry over the credibility of the elections.
“Our major concern is that INEC and security agencies are working hand in hand to rig the election for the APC. What they did in Ekiti State in July and are still preparing to repeat in Osun on September 22 is enough evidence that they are not ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections,” he told a delegation of European Union officials who paid him a visit at the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
The PDP said further that independent reports by The Economist and multinational body, HSBC, that the PDP would defeat Buhari in the 2019 general elections confirm the rejection of the incumbent by Nigerians.
The Economist, a London-based magazine, had predicted: “Intra-party politics would be chaotic ahead of the poll and we ultimately expect the incumbent to lose power. The 2019 elections will be a close contest between the ruling APC and the PDP. We expect the PDP presidential candidate to win, but for the next administration to flounder against the same problems as the incumbent one.”
HSBC said: “A second term for Mr. Buhari raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, prolonging the stagnation of his first term, particularly if there is no move towards completing reform of the exchange rate system or fiscal adjustments that diversify government revenues away from oil.”
But not ready to budge, Buhari, in a veiled reference to the PDP, urged Nigerians not to allow those who “brought the country to its knees from 1999 to 2015 to come and take us back.”
He gave the charge as he submitted his nomination form at the APC secretariat in Abuja yesterday.
The president nevertheless urged members of the party “not to be complacent but prepare, strategise and win the 2019 elections.”