By Perez Brisibe
KIAGBODO – ELDER statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, has expressed worries that with the recent happenings in the preparations for the 2019 general elections, “it will be difficult to say if the elections will be free and fair.”
Chief Clark also condemned the involvement of a senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the production of sensitive materials for the 2019 general elections.
Chief Clark who is the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, also questioned the independence of the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, saying, “Even though it has been said INEC is independent, with the Nigeria factor, is INEC really free?”
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had last Saturday at Abuja while addressing stakeholders on the reason behind the postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections, confirmed that a senatorial candidate of the APC, Mohammed Musa, “is a contractor to the commission.”
The INEC boss while responding to a question by Osita Chidoka, former aviation minister who represented Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at the meeting, had said: “Yes, I am aware. That company has been working with the commission since 2011. I assure you that we have a strict system.”
Reacting to the response by Yakubu, Chief Clark during a press briefing at his Kiagbodo residence in Burutu local government area of Delta State, questioned the morality of using the same contractor who he alleged was blacklisted by the commission in 2011.
Speaking on his battles with the contractor in 2015, Chief Clark said: “I was one of those active persons who took on this man in 2015 when there was contest between Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the present President Muhammadu Buhari.
Contractor vowed Jonathan will lose in 2015
“We discovered from Facebook at that time, that he will do everything possible to make Jonathan lose the election. So we went into investigation why this man was so categorical. It was then that we discovered that this man has a factory in Maitama, Abuja where he was manufacturing these things (materials for INEC).
“We even went to the extent of videoing the place. When it came to their (INEC) knowledge, they subtracted the contract to a Chinese company and it took time for those materials to arrive.
“But in 2015, we were told about these irregularities and went in to find out. The Director General of DSS, police went into the matter and discovered that what we investigated was true.
“So both the man and his partner were chatting with the security agencies until the election was over. If true that this man was blacklisted in 2011, who lifted the ban? Why is he now using a company with a different name?”
Clark who also issued an open letter to the INEC chairman, said: “How do you reconcile the credibility of the election with the involvement of an APC candidate in the very election in producing sensitive materials for your commission?
“Is it morally and politically justified, and you did not believe that his incompetence and inexperience in producing these materials has not at anytime affected the credibility and the postponement of these elections?”
Accuses contractor of using proxy company
Citing a petition to the Inspector General of Police, IGP dated March 24, 2015 by Concerned Nigerian Professionals with the caption, “Planned use of Smart Card Readers by INEC for the forthcoming general elections: Critical security vulnerabilities and urgent matters arising”, Chief Clark accused the INEC contractor of using a proxy company to get contracts from INEC after he was allegedly blacklisted by the commission.
He said: “He (contractor) used the company’s proxy because his company was blacklisted by INEC during the 2011 presidential and national assembly elections when his company was unable to produce the sensitive materials for the elections, and the election has to be stopped even when people have started voting.
“He was even arrested and detained by the security forces, but certain prominent politicians intervened and he had to be released.
“So both the man and his partner were chatting with the security agencies until the election was over. If true that this man was blacklisted in 2011, who lifted the ban? Why is he now using a company with a different name?
“I am therefore surprised to hear from the INEC chairman whom I have a very high regard for to state that the said contractor who is now in the APC senatorial contest from Niger State, has been working with them satisfactorily since 2011.
“Perhaps, I could forgive him for the benefit of doubt that he was not in INEC in 2011 and 2015, but there are senior electoral commissioners who should, if they are honest brief the chairman of this fact.
“Finally, Nigerians will like to know from Mr. Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, whether the engagement of an interested party as contractor for the production of sensitive materials is morally and politically justifiable.
“We have been told that it is a process, it does not start overnight on Saturday, manipulation of election starts with the preparation of the election. If this man is working for them, and is a member of the APC, do you not believe that he must have done something to favour the APC? It is morally unjustifiable and that.
“Is it fair and just having regards to the above facts to shout to the heavens that the elections will be free, fair and credible? Having regard to all these, it will be very difficult to say that the election will be free, fair and credible. Please allow your conscience to ponder on these irregularities.”