By Henry Umoru
President Muhammadu Buhari nominee as a Resident Electoral Commissioner from Osun State, Raheem Muideen Olalekan Tuesday told the Senate that he was a Card Carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Answering questions from Senators when he appeared before the Senator Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South led Senate Committee for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Muideen Olalekan said, “I am a member of APC. I am a member of APC and I contested for local government chairmanship in 2013.”
The 46-year-old academic told the committee that he is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In spite of efforts of the committee members to help him with leading questions on his membership being old and not in posesson of the party membership card, the nominee still maintained his loyalty to the APC.
His acceptance as APC member, however, confirmed a petition against his nomination by one Oyebade Adebisi Abideen, alleging that he has openly supported a particular political party which negates part of the constitutional criteria for INEC Commissioner.
Muideen who was taken off-guard by the last-minute surface of the petition against his nomination failed repeatedly to respond favourably to questions that may have offered him a soft landing as the Senators repeatedly sought to make him explain his membership of the party.
To help him out, the Senate committee asked the nominee to return in two days for more interrogation on his qualification or otherwise for his job.
In his contribution, a member of the Committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC) Ekiti Central said that the committee cannot be seen to be endorsing a violation of the Nigerian constitutional which clearly provides that occupant of the office of the INEC Commissioner must be apolitical.
On his part, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, APC, Kano Central had sought to know if the nominee was a former member of the APC and when he last appeared at her function?
While answering questions from the Senate Committee, the nominee faltered severally as he tried to remove himself from the allegation.
The nominee who claimed that he left politics in 2013 to return to school and study psychology at advance level but when accosted with pictures of his campaign in 2017 in support of a particular governorship aspirant, however explained that the group named “tiwa tiwa” was a band of members of multi-political leanings but favourably disposed to the candidature of its financier who belonged to a pool party.
He said, “I am a member of APC. I am a member of APC and I contested for local government chairmanship in 2013. In 2015, I left politics and moved on to the University of Ibadan to go and study psychology.
“I had the card then when I had the intention of contesting for election. On the question, if I was a DG of a contestant, Yes I was DG of a contestant in 2017.”
Members of the panel could not reconcile the claim that he left politics in 2013 but led the campaign of Al candidate in 2017.
On his part, Chairman of the Committee , Senator Kabiru Gaya asked him what the term “DG” stand for and if he was part of the campaign, he responded thus: “Director-General, Yes, I was part of the campaign.”
Speaking after the session, Senator Kabiru Gaya said: “Today the committee in INEC meet today and we’re able to meet the three committee sent by the President and referred to us in the committee to screen and report back to the Senate.
“All the nominee were invited to the committee and we were able to screen them.
“They were asked questions and they answered to the best of their ability, there were no petition for the two of the candidates Mr. Johnson Siriken and Alhaji Aminu Guram.
“There was a petition against Alhaji Muideen Olalekan from Osun state based on constitutional provision of the Act which said the President should nominate present Commissioners of INEC of people of integrity and good character and they should not be a card-carrying member of any political party.
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“For Mr. Olalekan there was a petition against him that he is a member of a political party and that he has ran through campaigns and that he has registered as a member of a political party.
“We asked him questions he defended himself to the best he could, there is still more to ask from him we have given him two days to come back to us for more discussions, Gaya stated.
Asked if the committee would refer the matter to the Department of State Security for Independent investigation, Gaya said that the committee will be guided by the Constitution and referred him back to the Senate for further screening.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had last week, written to the Senate, requesting for the screening and subsequent confirmation of three Resident Electoral Commissioners.
The letter read during plenary by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, written and signed by President Buhari is dated 28th October, 2019 and entitled, “Request for Confirmation of the Appointment of Three State Resident Electoral Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC was received 28th October 2019 by the Office of the President of the Senate.
The letter read, “Pursuant to Paragraph 14(3)(a) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999( as amended), I hereby write to request the confirmation by the Senate, the appointment of the following three (3) nominees as Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In the letter, President Buhari nominated three state Resident Electoral Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The nominees were Umar Muktar Gajiram (Borno), Alalibo Sinikiem Johnson (Bayelsa) and Raheem Muideen Olalekan (Osun).
The three nominees as RECs were referred to the Senate Committee on INEC chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano South to report back at Plenary in one week.