The Atiku can of worms

2011-01-29
THE SUN Newspaper- Vincent Ukpong Kalu

For the first time since he lost the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to President Goodluck Jonathan, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has formally alleged that he was rigged out in the national convention of his party.

In a petition he prepared for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which was expected to have been forwarded to the electoral body yesterday, Atiku said he did not lose the primary election “to the best candidate but due to the manipulation of the delegates’ list and the entire voting process.”

In the petition signed by Senator Ben Obi, director general of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, the former vice president gave INEC a low-down of what transpired before the convention and on the convention ground to ensure that he lost the election.

He said that as far back as December 22, 2010, the director-general of his campaign organisation, Senator Obi, had raised issues over “confusion and obfuscation regarding the format of the presidential primary election and the non-composition of the Presidential Screening Committee.”

According to him, two days after that, Obi wrote to Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, who, at that time was national chairman of the PDP, on behalf of his campaign organisation, requesting him to provide the comprehensive guidelines for the conduct of the presidential primary election.
Atiku said that his aide had told the PDP chairman that openness was “a necessary condition for achieving transparency and trust among PDP stakeholders, including Atiku Abubakar, who has offered himself as a contender for the nation’s highest public office.”

Also, according to the former vice president, Obi reminded the PDP leadership that unity in the party would “depend on the feeling of reassurance by every member that he or she was entitled to equal and fair treatment.”
He said that his camp requested for a meeting with the PDP leadership, with the view to knowing the party’s plans toward the conduct of the primary election.

According to Atiku, his campaign organisation was invited to meet with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party on December 28, 2010 in Abuja, but the meeting was shifted to January 3, 2011 and finally cancelled outright.

“The meeting never took place and the PDP leadership never offered any explanation why it could not hold. Senator Obi placed several calls to the PDP national chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo, and sent several SMS messages. Nwodo said he was still consulting and that he would get back to Obi at the end of his consultation. He never did,” he stated.

Atiku told the INEC that the PDP did not let him know the rules governing the national convention, adding: “The ground rules governing the primary election ought to have been agreed upon and signed by all the parties involved, and such an agreement should not only be binding on all parties, but should also have been published and widely advertised in the print media.

“The agreement on the special convention ground rules would have been one major way to ensure that the primary election process was objective, impartial, fair, just and not programmed to produce a predetermined end. But the PDP leadership refused to be guided by these basic democratic norms.”
He alleged that the PDP made the list of delegates to the convention a secret, when it ought to have been “published and widely advertised in the print media, prior to the primary, so as to forestall the list either being tampered with or its integrity being substantially compromised.”

Revealing that his group only sighted the list while voting was in progress at the convention, Atiku said that delegates were substituted to favour President Jonathan, while governors coerced delegates from their states to vote for the president.

“The absence of the comprehensive delegate list aided the manipulation of the election process in favour of President Jonathan. It was also curious to observe that supplementary names were presented at the accreditation venue and purportedly endorsed by the respective states PDP chairmen. The lists of delegates used for the elections had, therefore, been doctored before the issuance of ballot papers, which resulted in over-voting and in some cases issues of unaccounted votes,” the former vice president said.

He said that prior to the national convention, he was not allowed to meet with the delegates. Specifically, he said that governors from Jigawa, Ebonyi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Kaduna states blocked their delegates from having any contact with him, alleging that the governors were under pressure from the Presidency to deliver votes to Jonathan.

Atiku said: “The Atiku campaign also drew public attention to the unacceptable situation in some states, where delegates were barred from meeting Atiku Abubakar on the directive of the governors. Such states included Jigawa, Ebonyi, Abia, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom. It was clear that PDP state governors were under intense pressure from the Presidency not to allow Atiku Abubakar to meet the delegates from their states. The PDP leadership refused to take a firm and decisive action against this undemocratic practice or primitive display of partisanship.”

The former vice president said that accreditation of delegates to the national convention “was done in secrecy at state liaison offices in Abuja,” alleging that his campaign organisation “was deliberately denied access to these locations,” adding: “In fact, state governors imprisoned delegates against their will at these locations throughout the night before the primary and bussed them to the venue of the convention the following day.”
He also told INEC that part of the plot to ensure his defeat was the design of delegate tags without a mark of identification, which he said was to ensure that “anybody could get a hold of it and vote as delegates.” He alleged that the delegate/official tags were sold to the highest bidder by the PDP national secretariat, revealing: “Atiku campaign sent a staff to purchase a tag at N3, 000 just to prove the veracity of the allegation. The staff bought a tag at the said price.”

Atiku also alleged inducement of the delegates, saying: “President Jonathan doled out seven thousand dollars to each of the delegates, thus using financial inducement to make them vote for him.”
The former vice president said that following the discrepancies in the conduct of the presidential primaries, his polling agents, made up of Bala Usman, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim and Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba, “did not sign the final result, notwithstanding the provisions of S.9 b & c of the Electoral Guidelines that gave the panel the absolute power to uphold and release the result with or without their endorsements.”
He said that inasmuch as he is committed to the PDP and its noble objectives, “we would like to state that the result of the presidential primary released by the PDP did not reflect the minds of the delegates at the recent Special National Convention.”

When Saturday Sun contacted some members of the disbanded Atiku Campaign Organisation, one top shot, who pleaded anonymity, said of the petition: “We will be submitting it to INEC before the weekend.”
On what Atiku wants to achieve with the petition to INEC, he said: “Our prayer is that INEC can have full view of what happened and adjudicate on the matter.”
Saturday Sun gathered that since INEC observed the presidential primaries of the PDP, it is supposed to write a report on it. So far, the INEC is yet to publish such report.



 

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