Former military dictator and Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) has warned that the 2011 elections must not be rigged except the nation is prepared for a popular revolt as witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia recently.
Egyptians, through sustained mass protest that lasted 18 days, recently forced their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, out of power.
Buhari was quoted by Reuters to have cautioned in an interview that politicians, especially members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, to either be prepared to conduct free and credible poll or risk the ordinary people taking over.
He said, “With what is happening in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf states, I think the message is getting across to politicians, especially the ruling party, (PDP) that they either behave or the ordinary people will take over.
“Elections must be free and fair, that is the bottom line. If people chose bad legislators, let them freely change them. But if they can’t, what is happening in some parts of Africa and the Middle East is bound to happen.”
The ex-military dictator was a presidential candidate in both the 2003 and 2007 elections, botht of which were won by the PDP amid widespread condemnations that the polls were massively rigged and fell short of acceptable democratic standard.
Buhari in the past two elections contested on the platform of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party and was defeated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, also a one-time military dictator, in 2003, and late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007.
Yar’Adua at his inauguration on May 29, 2007 publicly admitted that the election that brought him to power was flawed.
Till date, judicial contests over the election that held almost four years ago are still raging while the results of the poll in several states had been upturned by the courts.
The courts, for instance, had sacked the PDP governors enthroned in Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Edo states, while the victory of many erstwhile members of national and state assemblies had been equally upturned.
In the April 9, 2011 poll, Buhari will be squaring up with incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and a former Chairman of the nation’s anti-corruption agency, Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, among other candidates.
However, Jonathan, at his campaign rally in Makurdi, Benue State, last week, warned that nobody should rig for him.
“Nobody should rig for me. I am assuring Nigerians that though I am contesting, nobody must manipulate vote in my favour. Our vote must count.
“We must vote the people we want. We no longer want the situation where people imposed candidates on us. Anybody that is not good enough, you vote out the person. That is democracy,” he told the crowd at the PDP presidential campaign rally in Makurdi.
The president said it was the cardinal objective of his government to deliver a credible poll.
Buhari, who ruled the country between December 31, 1983 and August 17, 1985, as a military dictator, said he was riled by the 12 years of PDP incompetence in government.
He said, “There is a problem about the PDP accounting for the 12 years it has been in power, the resources that were available to it, and the collapse of infrastructure and social services.
“To all intents and purposes, education has collapsed, healthcare has collapsed. Coupled with that, there is so much insecurity, so much abductions and assassinations, tribal and religious clashes, which can be traced to real government incompetence.”
Efforts by THE PUNCH to get the PDP for its reaction did not succeed. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof Alkali Rufai, did not pick calls to his mobile nor did he respond to our correspondent’s text, asking for his response.
Meanwhile the Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday in Abuja said there was no cause for alarm, assuring that any voter card purchased for the purpose of election rigging would be useless.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, Mr. Kayode Idowu, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the process of accreditation nationwide was designed to frustrate any attempt to rig the election.
He said that in spite of the fact that there would be no use of electronic device for accreditation processes as the law provided, “holders of cards other than theirs will not be allowed to vote’’.
Idowu added that the quality images captured during the voter registration was clear enough to detect any impersonation during the accreditation, which, he said, would be simultaneous across the country.
Idowu said , “I don’t know what the alarm is all about, since there is no provision for electronic voting, people will take their voter card to polling units where their names should be checked in the register to make sure they are correct.
“So what stops a person from using the purchased card is, when you present the card and you will be seen as not being the rightful owner, then you will be arrested.
“Your picture is already in the card and you can’t take a card that has my own picture to another polling unit, you will not be allowed to vote,” Idowu said.
Source: Punch Newspaper – www.punchng.com