Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has constituted an anti-rigging committee to counter alleged plans by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to suppress votes in his stronghold in the February 16, 2019 election.
A source close to the former vice president told New Telegraph that Atiku’s major concerns about the 2019 presidential election are the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“In a free and fair election, Atiku is confident of defeating President Muhammadu Buhari. However, given the intelligence reports at his disposal, INEC and security agencies are the main obstacle to his winning the 2019 election. This informed the setting up of the anti-rigging committee,” the source said.
The identities of the anti-rigging committee are still being guarded.
Atiku is hoping to make a big haul of votes from South-South, South-East and North-Central geo-political zones in the presidential election.
But there are fears that APC might militarise the zones to whittle down the chances of the party in these areas to favour President Buhari.
The anti-rigging committee is to work directly with the presidential candidate, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council and the organs of the party.
Its duty is to, among other things, pre-empt any rigging strategy of APC, raise early rigging alert, check plot by the ruling party to rig the election, as well as mobilise local and international groups against electoral malpractice.
According to the source, PDP’s fears that the election might not be free and fair were heightened by President Buhari’s refusal to assent to the 2010 Electoral Amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly.
He further disclosed that the party does not have confidence that the electoral umpire will conduct free and fair elections.
“What happened in Ekiti and Osun states is clear to everybody. Buhari is not ready for free and fair election. That is why we are taking pre-emptive measure,” he stated.
Another source stated that PDP has uncovered plot by the ruling party to suppress the support base of its presidential candidate.
“We know that the Operation Python Dance campaign by the military is to help APC rig the presidential election.
“There will be heavy military presence mostly in the South-South, South-East and then, North-Central. These are PDP areas.
“That is why our party is rejecting it. We are not in a war situation. The military should go to North-East and Zamfara State where there are insurgents and cattle rustlers.
“There is no threat to peace in the South and North Central zones,” the source who asked not to be named, said.
Kola Ologbondiyan, Director, Media and Publicity of PDP, however, said he was not aware of any plan by the party to create anti-rigging committee.
He disclosed that what the party is demanding from INEC is transparency in the conduct of the election.
“We are demanding that international and local observers should be allowed into INEC’s situation room where the transmission of votes will take place.
“You recall in 1993, it was clear that Abiola was winning because of transparency.
“So, instead of INEC locking themselves in one situation room and manipulate the election, they should allow the European Union (EU) and United States (U.S.) observers to participate in the collation of results. That is how we can guarantee transparency,” Ologbondiyan stated, Spokesperson of APC presidential campaign, Festus Keyamo (SAN), said PDP is suffering from depression.
“They have ran out of ideas, ran out of what to say. They are now talking like demented fellows. They have said this million times without proof. That is sign of depression,” Keyamo said.
INEC said the position of PDP did not represent the general opinion of Nigerians.
Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the allegation has become the familiar song by the party, which Nigerians were tired of hearing.
Oyekanmi advised PDP that it is not compulsory for any political party to field candidates in the 2019 general elections, especially if that political party does not have confidence in the electoral body organizing it.
“If you are a student who wants to sit for the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and you don’t have confidence in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), then you don’t have any business sitting for the examination. You can go to Ghana, Sierra Leone or the Sudan to sit for an equivalent examination.
“There are 74 political parties taking part in the presidential election. Let those who have confidence in INEC participate and we will not disappoint them.
“Nigerians have confidence in the Commission and we are happy about the feedback we are getting,” he added.
Also, INEC said it is not considering the party’s demand at the moment.
INEC’s Director, Voter Education and Publicity (VEP), Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said that there is no country that allows international observers in its situation room.
Meanwhile, New Telegraph has learnt that disbursement of PDP’s campaign funds would be done at ward level and “not to an individual.”
“Other members of the ward will have to be present and the money has to be accounted for.
“We discovered that in 2015, many people collected campaign money and disappeared. We don’t want it to happen this time around.
“The national chairman has given orders that every party member must deliver his or her ward. If you are strong go to your ward and work. We don’t want Abuja politicians. Many of these people hanging around Wadata Plaza (PDP National Secretariat) are not known in their wards,” the source said.
Before now, PDP had declared “operation deliver your ward” to its members as basis for political reward.
Atiku, at a meeting with members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) immediately after securing the party’s ticket, insisted that reward system would be based on electoral performance of members.