The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the purported endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for second term by military generals, describing it as names dropping.
The main opposition party also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of approving the list of ad-hoc staff submitted by the governors and party leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the aim of rigging the elections.
But in a swift reaction, the electoral body said for the past 20 years, especially since 2010 and particularly from 2015, it has introduced many innovations to improve the electoral system, stressing that one of such innovations was to ensure that no member of any political party is engaged to participate in the conduct of elections.
The ex-generals were said to have been led by former military administrator of Lagos state, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) to the presidential villa Monday.
They included 13 Major Generals; eight Air Vice Marshals; two Rear Admirals; 12 Brigadier-Generals; nine Air Commodores; eight Commodores and 17 former military administrators.
PDP’s Director of Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing a press conference Monday in Abuja, said the endorsement was to create an aura that does not exist around Buhari.
He said, “we consider this endorsement as names dropping; just to create an aura that does not exist around President Buhari. Young officers are being killed and no general has spoken on how to curb the insurgency and banditry.
“Is it now that Nigerians are tired of the governance style of President Buhari that some acclaimed Generals will be endorsing him? When bandits are taking over Zamfara State and even Katsina the home state of Buhari? The PDP does not believe any General worth his salt will do that.”
Caleb Olubolade, a retired Navy Captain and Minister of Police Affairs under former President Goodluck Jonathan, was among the retired military officers who endorsed the president for another four years in office.
Marwa said if Buhari had failed in his duties, they would not have endorsed him.
Asked if the endorsement was out of fear, Marwa said: “Absolutely not.”
The most senior of the retired officers, Jubrila Ayinla, a Vice Admiral and former Chief of Naval Staff, said future generations would acquit President Buhari.
“On behalf of the generals here today, I congratulate you on the tremendous work done by this administration, and wish to state unequivocally that we are proud of you and fully behind you in the presidential elections next week. We pledge our full support and continued loyalty,” he said.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of approving the list of ad-hoc staff submitted by the governors and party leaders of the APC with the aim of rigging the elections.
The party alleged that INEC has been taking directives from the Presidency and the APC on how to manipulate the electoral process at various levels.
He said PDP was already privy to how the lists were populated with APC members and agents of the APC candidates, after clearance by the APC leaders in various states.
He added, “To this end, INEC has collected a list of people that will serve as electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff and returning officers at the polling units, from APC state governors and candidates, across the federation, on the directives of the Buhari presidency.
“The PDP holds that by following the directive of the APC in such dubious rigging scheme, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, has violated section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act (as amended) and shows that he is in clear deficit of the required political will to conduct a credible, free and fair election.
“This is especially in the light of the boasting by agents of the Buhari presidency and the APC to give the INEC Chairman what they describe as the Onnoghen treatment, and frame him, if he fails to comply with their rigging plans.
“In the light of the foregoing, the PDP demands that INEC, within the next 48 hours, publish the list of all officials and ad-hoc staff that will play any form of role in the election at all levels for verification by stakeholders.”
The main opposition party noted that it vehemently rejected the plot by the Presidency, which it said was tailored to ensure institutional manipulation of the electoral process, including accreditation, voting and collation of results at the polling units, which is the base of the elections.
Ologbondiyan said if Buhari believes he is popular, he should make himself available for a free, fair, transparent and credible election, noting that anything short of that is completely unacceptable to Nigerians.
Reacting to PDP’s allegation, the electoral body said one of its innovations in recent years was to ensure that no member of any political party is engaged to participate in the conduct of elections.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi said, “I, therefore, call on any political party or individuals with information on how the commission plans to or has engaged members of any political party as ad-hoc staff for the upcoming general elections to make such information public and mention specific names.
“It is not enough to make wild allegations. It is incumbent on those who make such allegations to also provide the proof. With less than two weeks to the general elections, INEC cannot afford to be distracted by baseless allegations.
“The commission is not a political party and will not allow itself to be dragged into unnecessary controversies at a time like this. INEC assures Nigerians that its overall commitment is to conduct free, fair and credible 2019 general election, for which it needs the support of all,” Oyekanmi added