…‘Direct primaries, ploy by Buhari to rig presidential poll’
…It’s part of change to make people participate directly – Ruling party
…Allegations unfounded, unfortunate – Prof. Yakubu, Electoral Commission Chair
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA — The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday said it has uncovered the ploy by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and the All Progressives Congress, APC, to use its direct primary mode of electing its candidates to rig the 2019 general elections.
The party said it was aware that the Presidency forced the direct primaries option on APC members to eliminate delegates’ participation and pave way for the allocation of millions of “conjured” votes, which it intends to use to realize its ambition.
Similarly, the PDP accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of anticipatory complicity, pointing at the now moribund 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, and an allegation that the Commission is planning to frustrate genuine voters from accessing their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, for the election.
But in a swift reaction, the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, pooh-poohed the allegation, saying the party is going the route of direct primaries to make its processes more inclusive.
By the same token, the the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, scoofed at the allegations, insisting that they are at once unfounded and unfortunate.
The PDP statement, signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that rigging was the sole reason even governors elected on the platform of the ruling party, have now settled for the direct primaries model.
“Having eliminated contest within the APC, the Presidency, which is now apprehensive of apathy against President Buhari due to his increasing unpopularity, plots to import non-members of the party to satiate the venue of the presidential primaries to create an impression of overwhelming popularity for Mr. President and use that to validate the fictitious votes they are conjuring for the presidential election.
“The PDP is reliably informed that this rigging plot is the reason APC aspirants to other positions, especially, APC state governors, are demanding for direct primaries instead of the indirect primaries earlier approved for them by their party.
“This rigging plot is the major reason behind the secret creation of 30,000 illegal polling units by INEC, in compromised areas, which we earlier alerted the nation about. This is in addition to plots by INEC to frustrate genuine voters from accessing their Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, so as to allow the cards in the hands of compromised INEC officials, who will attempt to use such to allocate fake figures for APC,” the statement read in part
It called on the commission to publish on its website, the number of accredited voters in all polling centers before the commencement of voting in all elections, particularly the presidential election.
APC EXPLAINS ITS POSITION
Responding yesterday evening to the allegation by PDP, the media aide to the National Chairman of APC, Simon Ebegbulem, accused the PDP of failing to move on having supposedly adopted rigging as its strategy.
Insisting that the APC was more concerned about improving its internal processes and safeguarding the country’s democracy through popular participation, Ebegbulem said:
“Because they (PDP) are used to rigging, they feel that every electoral process boils down to rigging. We want to internalise internal democracy within our party and that is why we are going this way and we believe that the people should be in charge of their democracy. We believe that by doing this, we will win more elections.
“Over the years they (PDP) – in fact for the past 15 years – have used rigging as their strategy; and rigging has become the norm for them and they have refused to move on. We, however, believe that this democracy must succeed and it behooves on political parties to ensure that their internal mechanisms are improved upon, so that our democracy is sustained.
“We want to make our party more attractive to Nigerians and we believe that the model of direct primaries is part of the change to make sure that people participate to be part of the change.”
The Commission Chairman, through his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in response to Sunday Vanguard’s request for clarifications, maintained that INEC “has since denied this old allegation that it was planning to create 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, and it is, therefore, surprising that the PDP is still talking about this at this time. INEC is not planning to create 30,000 PUs.
“Again, the new allegation by the PDP that the Commission was plotting to frustrate genuine voters from accessing their PVCs so as to allow compromised INEC officials attempt to use them to allocate fake figures to a certain political party is not only untrue, but unfounded and very unfortunate.
“On the contrary, the Commission embarked on the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise on April 27, 2017, with the sole intention of providing the opportunity for Nigerians who had attained the age of 18 years and all those who had never registered in previous CVR exercises to do so and obtain their PVCs. We are happy to report that as at 26th August, 2018, a total of 13,634,414 new voters have been captured. By the time the number captured as at 31st August is added, the figure might hit the 14 million mark.
“It is noteworthy to add that the PVCs of all those who registered between April 2017, when the CVR exercise kicked off, and December of the same year, have already been printed and made available for collection. Indeed, the cards are now being collected. Besides, the Commission has been making deliberate efforts, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to create more awareness about the over 7 million uncollected PVCs in our custody and to persuade the rightful owners to come and collect them. As at 26th August, a total of 854,362 PVCs have already been collected”.
Continuing, the Commission further explained that “when the initial decision was taken to suspend the CVR on August 17, the Commission consulted all the stakeholders, particularly the political parties. This was after the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at a stakeholders’ meeting, explained in detail the back end activities and other processes required to produce the PVCs for all those who registered during the CVR exercise. Yet, when calls were made for the Commission to extend the deadline, it obliged and gave a grace of two weeks, which extended the deadline to 31st August. And of course, all those who registered between January and 31st August this year will get their PVCs in good time before the 2019 general elections.
“It is, therefore, unhelpful for the PDP to make such spurious allegations that are capable of creating a bad impression in the minds of the general public. The Commission maintains an open door policy and all registered political parties are welcome to seek clarifications about any issue. The PDP will do well in taking advantage of this channel rather than make unsubstantiated allegations that will neither improve nor strengthen the electoral system”, the statement concluded.