Nigeria’s major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that all is not well with Nigeria’s democratic system, following the appointment of the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mrs Amina Zakari.
The PDP maintained that the appointment of a new Chairman of the commission had enervated the commission from carrying out its functions as stipulated in part 1 of 3rd schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended, putting the electoral system under severe threat.
A statement released by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, says that the intolerance of the APC and the glaring insensitivity of the present government, in spite of the outcries of well-meaning Nigerians against undemocratic leanings, raise fears about the country’s democracy.
The statement reads: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after a thorough review of the political developments in the country since the All Progressives Congress (APC) took office at the center, alerts all Nigerians and the international community that all is not well with the nation’s democracy”.
The party further said this fear was derived from the facts of some conscious actions and inactions of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government that undermined critical institutions of democracy, emasculate the constitution and ostensibly set the stage for a return of dictatorial regime in Nigeria.
Mr Metuh said despite claims of being a converted democrat, President Buhari had allowed, under his watch, an incessant violation of sections of the nation’s constitution, a development that has become a huge threat to democracy and the stability of the nation.
“For instance, how can this government explain the fact that a major institution of democracy like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been deliberately debilitated to the extent that it can no longer perform its statutory responsibility for lack of quorum?
“Nigerians are aware that before his tenure expired on June 30th, the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega wrote to President Buhari, intimating him of the fact that the tenure of majority of the national commissioners will expire before August, yet the President never acted, resulting in the present crisis in the commission, where more than 80% out of the statutory 13 members remain vacant, even as eleven states of the federation are also without Resident Electoral Commissioners,” the statement read.
The PDP said: “We note that this anomaly is in addition to the uncertainty surrounding the controversial appointment of an Acting Chairman of INEC in the person of a national commissioner whose tenure has since expired, not minding that there is no provision for an acting chairman of INEC in our constitution.
“This development has completely enervated the commission from carrying out its functions as stipulated in part 1 of 3rd schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended, thereby putting our electoral system under severe threat.
“We ask, if not for a possibility of an ulterior motive to inject a constitutional crisis and undermine the nation’s democracy, why should President Buhari wait to be urged before he upholds his responsibility of forwarding replacements to the Senate for confirmation so as to enable the commission effectively carry out its constitutional responsibilities to the nation?
“Could this be a ploy by the APC-led government to use a decapitated INEC to conduct the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa to pave way for their planned ‘capture’ of the two PDP states?
“Is the weakening of INEC not part of the plot to use the commission to put the PDP in precarious position in various electoral tribunals to the advantage of the APC?
“Furthermore, Nigerians are witness to the undue interferences of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the activities of election tribunals in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and other PDP states, where electoral officers are being harassed, intimidated and detained, ostensibly to influence judgments against the PDP.
“Akin to these are reported cases of abuse of security agencies by the APC-led government. Of particular note is the July reprehensible sealing of Rivers state local councils by the Police, who also barred members of caretaker committees that were duly appointed by the state government to take charge of the councils following the pronouncement of the court.
“Also, of grave concern is the adamant stance of this administration in running a government without the statutory components of a full cabinet as prescribed by the constitution, even when the negative consequences of this strange and totalitarian tendency are taking serious toll on the economy and the polity in general.
“The intolerance of the APC and the glaring insensitivity of this government, in spite of the outcries of well-meaning Nigerians against their undemocratic leanings, raise fears about the future of our democracy and the general health of our dear nation.
“For example, how can we begin to explain the venom and disparagement with which the APC has been attacking our highly revered national leaders in the National Peace Committee, which has as members, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, respected clerics; Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka, retired justices of superior records as well as others highly respected patriotic Nigerians, for daring to counsel Buhari’s government on some observed undemocratic tendencies and processes.
“The crass attacks are more astonishing, considering the much appreciated role these great Nigerians played in ensuring a peaceful and violence free 2015 general elections.
“This is especially as we have no reason to believe that such weighty attacks from the President’s party can come without his approval, more so as the APC spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who authored the statements was not part of the meeting between the President and the Peace Committee.
“The PDP and indeed all discerning Nigerians are therefore left with no other option than to conclude that there is a clear agenda to undermine critical institutions of democracy, intimidate Nigerians and pave way for dictatorship in the land.
“In view of the developments, the PDP, as a party that nurtured and sustained democracy in Nigeria for 16 years, beckons on all lovers of democracy within and outside the country, to rise up to the occasion and impress it on President Buhari and his APC to imbibe, in its totality, the tenets of democracy and the rule of law in the general interest of our dear nation.
“In raising this alarm about disturbing national issues, we however wish to reiterate our earlier position that the PDP, as a responsible and patriotic political party, is not in any way averse to the fight against corruption, as long as it is carried out within the ambits of the due process of the law.
“Our nation is a state built on the principles of freedom and social justice; the essentials of democracy, where ‘sovereignty belongs to the people, from whom government, through the constitution derives all its powers and authority’ for the good of all, irrespective of creed, class, political, ethnic or gender considerations; tenets that must be protected and upheld at all times.
“Finally, we call on some well-meaning Nigerians who have found themselves in the APC, especially, those who at one time or the other, were pupils of the teachings and visions of the founding fathers of the PDP, to rise above the shallowness of their temporary enclave and join in this major defence of democratic ethos”.