By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA — With the successful postponement of the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Presidency has launched a two-pronged war to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan wins the election convincingly.
The two strategies are to stop Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress candidate from contesting the election with Jonathan and the replacement of the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, with a less independent-minded person. Jega, it was gathered, had been described by hawks around the president of being too independent-minded and ‘uncooperative’ despite being given the job on a platter of gold by the president’s men.
Vanguard learnt that Jega might have unwittingly played into the hands of the forces arrayed against him by agreeing to shift the elections.
Legal war to disqualify Buhari
Competent sources said last night that the move to remove Jega and the legal fireworks against Buhari, would be taken up simultaneously with effect from this week given the timeframe made possible by the shift.
The retired general is to be prosecuted by a team of legal luminaries for ‘lying on oath’ that he had a school certificate with the Nigerian Army when he knew that it was untrue. The plaintiffs are said to have settled for trying Buhari for alleged ‘perjury’ instead of outright non-possession of certificate following legal advice that the latter would be more difficult to prove within the time at their disposal.
Vanguard learnt that although Jega reluctantly succumbed to pressure from the Presidency and its security chiefs to shift the polls, he might still not be allowed by the forces to conduct the rescheduled elections between March 28 and April 11. Vanguard gathered from competent sources that the Presidency was no longer comfortable with Jega and was, therefore, working tirelessly to get him out of the commission to pave the way for a more ‘trusted hand’ to conduct the rescheduled elections.
It was learnt that the forces arrayed against the INEC boss had convinced the President not to renew Jega’s tenure, which is expected to lapse on June 13 this year. The forces, it was learnt, felt that Jega was rather too ‘difficult’ to deal with, having not allowed himself to be dictated to by anyone since assuming office like other appointees of the government.
It was learnt that in a bid to sweep off Jega from his seat without raising any dust, he would be asked to comply with the civil service procedure by proceeding on his three months terminal leave with effect from March 1, this year since he is expected to retire on June 13.
S-West gov’s brother may replace Jega
Vanguard gathered that in his place, the Presidency was considering bringing in another academic from the South-West, who is currently heading a tertiary institution in the country. The professor of Political Science and International Relations is said to be a sibling of a serving governor in the South-West, who is a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan and his party.
Competent sources also told Vanguard last night that although the name of the academic had been made known in security circles, it was not clear whether the man had been cleared by the forces with a view to sending his name to the National Assembly for possible confirmation, as required by law.
Working against Jonathan’s interest
As a prelude to removing Jega from office, some close allies of the President had started accusing him of taking side with the opposition to undermine the success of Jonathan and his party in the next election. Earlier last week, Jonathan’s godfather, Chief Edwin Clark and other prominent politicians from the Southern part of the country had accused Jega of working against the interest of the president and the PDP and asked him to resign from the commission.
Although no evidence was adduced by Clark and his group to support their allegation, they nonetheless called for the arrest of Jega. Similarly, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, on Saturday, said Jega had lied about the state of the commission’s preparedness for the conduct of the election.
In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Olisa Metuh, accused INEC of working with the opposition to deny its members of permanent voter cards in some states. He called on the security agents to probe the commission over the development.