BY IKECHUKWU AGADA
Information available to 9news Nigeria shows that the 2023 battle for Aso Rock Villa has shifted to INEC.
9news Nigeria learnt that the plan involves capturing the structure of the National Commissioners and State Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nominated by APC chieftains, as well as the recently effected strategic removal and deployment of pliant and corrupt INEC top directors.
9news Nigeria can confirm to Nigerians that there may be great danger ahead of the 2023 elections as investigation has uncovered a three-pronged plan by the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) wing of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)
to undermine the will of voters.
It was gathered that the plan involves capturing the structure of the National Commissioners and State Resident Electoral Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nominated by APC chieftains, as well as the recently effected strategic removal and deployment of pliant and corrupt INEC top directors.
Enthusiasm has returned to elections because the average citizen unlike in past elections is eagerly looking forward to the 2023 elections to vote in the hope that the 2022 Electoral Act and the use of new ICT technology such as the BVAS (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System) and electronic uploading and transmission of polling unit results openly and immediately to the INEC public result-viewing portal should make their votes count this time round.
However, the APC, mainly the CPC wing and its regional loyalists have quietly spread their control within INEC from the head office in Abuja to the state offices, effecting strategic deployments that will help to upturn votes or create inconclusive scenarios which will be further exploited using force or farcical run-off elections.
9news Nigeria investigation and inside sources in INEC have revealed that the Professor Mahmoud Yakubu leadership of the commission and hand-picked national commissioners have been unhappy over their inability to swing the outcome of recent elections in favour of APC except in the Ekiti governorship election. SaharaReporters also learnt that on the basis of the agreement Yakubu entered to secure his reappointment, he has been under pressure to deliver or huge financial corruption allegations will be used against him.
An instance was during the Osun governorship election, when results in the INEC situation room were showing that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was leading, SaharaReporters learnt from an inside source that Yakubu was visibly worried. He was said to be agitated and going back and forth to his office, receiving and making calls from APC leaders, who were passing instructions regarding what to do to avert the outcome. But unlike the 2018 situation, the new process of uploading election results from the polling units and the use of the BVAS saved the popular will of the people of Osun state and not INEC leadership.
The obligation to deliver on the promise made by Yakubu was also said to be the reason for the controversy surrounding the status of APC aspirants who didn’t participate in various primaries monitored by its state offices.
And this was justified to many bewildered Nigerians by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, who is neck-deep in the entire compromise, when he said Resident Electoral Commissioner (RECs) are not recognised members of INEC and that their reports on primaries can be rejected.
It was also learnt that this led to sudden and strange redeployments in INEC that is now wearing the toga of SIECs being under the control of state governors.
How INEC National Commissioners And RECs Were Nominated By APC Politicians
Plans by the APC to take full control of the structures of INEC for the 2023 elections first came to prominence during the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, a well-known spokesperson for the APC president, Muhammadu Buhari and a card-carrying member of the party from Delta state.
It was attempt that was too brazen for the public to accept as it attracted a lot of furore. Although the public backlash resulted in the eventual pressure on the Senate to drop her, it was also a disguise for the CPC hawks as all public attention was focused on Ms Onochie while the other nominees loyal to the APC were largely ignored, and successfully got the Senate confirmation.
The level of independent mindedness and patriotism exhibited by some commissioners during the 2015 and 2019 elections gave the APC hawks sleepless nights as it was not possible to sway and influence all national and resident electoral commissioners.
Therefore, some electoral commissioners, particularly those from the Attahiru Jega’s years in INEC and those appointed after 2015 such as AVM Muazu, Engr. Abubakar Nahuche, Professor Okey Nbeanu and experienced RECs serving their second term like Mallam Sadiq Abubakar, Kashim Gaidam, Jibril Zarewa, Professor Riskuwa, Barr. Mike Igini (who has been a torn in the flesh of corrupt politicians), and Mallam Makama, the outgone REC of Yobe, who demonstrated integrity by refusing to back-date a report intended to make the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, a senatorial candidate, have all been eased out of INEC through the attrition of tenureship.
All these individuals who were firm in the past and ought to have been elevated as National Commissioners have all been quietly eased out of the commission.
In their stead, to ensure that the CPC wing of the APC and their loyalists held sway completely at INEC, a recent final phase of nominees and deployments that will align to their future electoral plans have been nominated to lead state offices of INEC as RECs.
In the North, the CPC hawks nominated those that will do their planned electoral bidding such as Prof. Muhammad Lawal Bashir (Sokoto), a nominee of former Governor Aliyu Wamakko who was drafted in for his loyalty to the group; Abdussaamadu Abdu (Katsina), a loyal CPC member; Dr. Agundu (Benue); Prof. Yahaya Makarfi lbrahim (Kaduna), a loyal CPC member; Dr. Nura Ali (Kano); Ahmed Yushau Garki (FCT); Barr. Hudu Yunusa (Bauchi) and Mohammed B. Nura (Yobe), another loyal CPC member.
In the South, they also recruited their loyalists. In the South-East, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, who was blatantly made a governor by a shocking decision of the Supreme Court under the now discredited Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad despite not meeting the Constitutional spread of LGAs required to be a state governor, is now involved in the takeover of INEC.
He nominated Mrs Pauline Onyeka Udochi, a former head of the INEC ICT Department in lmo state, widely regarded as corrupt and compromised. Her activities were so questionable that it first got her a transfer to Ebonyi state. But Senator Uzodinma used APC’s influence to prevail on the INEC chairman, Yakubu. Yakubu however declined the request to return her to lmo but instead transferred her to Delta state to head ICT. But APC chieftain, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege resisted the move, saying the H.O.D (Head of Department) then, one Mr. Chidi Ahanonu was his man that should not be transferred. Sadly, this is the sad situation in almost all INEC state offices where staff members are on the payroll of APC and PDP politicians. She was eventually returned to lmo state despite her terrible records in INEC and it was approved by Professor Yakubu. She was made a unit head. But when Uzodinma became Governor of Imo, he ensured she became the chairperson of the state electoral commission to compensate her for assisting with rigging in the past.
And for an even greater purpose in 2023 elections, she has now been nominated as the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner nominee to INEC, to replace a person with civil society background who has performed creditably, Mr. Emeka Onanamadu.
The nominee for Enugu State, Sylvia Uchenna Agu is the younger sister of the APC Deputy National Chairman, South East who nominated her. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be posted to either lmo or Ebonyi State.
Similarly, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi in getting rid of Dr. Orji Nwanchukwu, the immediate past REC of Anambra state qualified for reappointment, highly rated as a principled and diligent commissioner, nominated his ally, Mrs. Queen Elizabeth Agwu, a former Accountant-General of the state with records of alleged corruption as nominee.
APC Inspired INEC Strategic Deployment Of Staff
There is every reason for Nigerians to be worried over the recent APC directive to the Chairman of INEC, Yakubu to remove the Director of ICT, Engr. Chidi Nwafor, six months to the 2023 elections. The recent changes were however made to appear like a routine administrative process.
Though the compromise that went into the reappointment Of Yakubu will not allow him to act independently to ensure credible elections in 2023, the vigilance and resistance of other political parties and Nigerians can secure the 2023 elections.
One of the plans of the APC hawks, whose faction attempted to take over the party, was to use Senate President Lawan as a consensus candidate. But the plan was torpedoed by resistance within their party. Having appointed National Commissioners and nominated RECs for the state, if confirmed by the Senate, the party’s grip on INEC would have been completed.
The removal of the Director of ICT who superintended over all innovations that have helped to improve the credibility of elections is a clear indication of the sinister plan of the ruling party. Meanwhile, his replacement is one Engr. Paul Omokore, a pliant and pliable ICT officer whom Investigation revealed that he is willing to do anything for money.
9news Nigeria Investigations has also revealed that a relative of Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to the President, identified as Waziri Zanna, was previously posted to Yobe as Administrative Secretary to assist the Senate President in his re-election. But she had problems with the outgone REC of Yobe, one Makama. He was again transferred to Abuja, as Secretary to assist in swinging the recently conducted FCT Area Council election in favour of the ruling APC, but she met resistance from the FCT REC, one Yahaya.
Waziri has now been made Director of Human Resources at INEC headquarters, a strategic position that will be used to deploy staff members requested by APC politicians to different states for special electoral missions.
Also returned from Anambra state to the headquarters is one Mr. Chima Duruaku whom INEC insiders say is smart but crooked and notorious for undermining elections.
He was accused of selling security features and format of ballot papers and result sheets to politicians as well as sensitive election papers in Rivers state for the re-run election in 2015. He has now been brought back to the planning department to aid the plan of the hawks to complete control INEC towards ahead of the 2023 elections.
How Early Capture Of INEC Leadership Began After 2015
Insiders within election policy cycles confirmed to 9news Nigeria that the capture of INEC began immediately after the 2015 elections, well before the 2019 general elections when a Yakubu was drafted to replace Mrs Zakari, whose appointment resulted in public outcry over her relationship with President Buhari, a situation that was regarded as unethical given that the President was appointing his relative to conduct elections in which he and his party would be involved.
Although many insiders suspected that Yakubu was a well-disguised Trojan to replace Mrs Zakari, many were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, until the results of the 2019 presidential election began to trickle in and it became clear that former Vice President Abubakar Atiku may have defeated President Buhari.
At that point, he aided the refutation of an INEC ICT server where digital evidence of Atiku’s victory was domiciled. Despite huge public investment including procurement records of Z-Pads, devices for setting up ICT monitoring centres in all states and other digital tools, INEC leadership bluntly denied the existence of an INEC server, even when international observes had records and pictures of such ICT monitoring centres and detailed brief to their institutions of where and how the ICT devices were used.
For aiding the APC win the presidential election, Prof Yakubu was rewarded with a second term, although this support did not only come at the price of his loyalty alone. Insiders and keen followers of INEC activities also revealed according to media reports that Prof Yakubu and his clique at INEC head office and their backers also had to raise a huge sum running into billions of naira to obtain the support of lobbyists within the Presidency and the Senate to get full nomination and confirmation. Specifically, it was alleged that a millionaire civil servant. a staff of INEC, one Mr. Kenneth Okaegu, who had been in charge of the procurement Department of INEC for many years, facilitated the deployment of the huge funds on behalf of Yakubu to different power brokers in the Villa. Okaegu was recently appointed INEC National Commissioner.
The names of Mrs Aisha Buhari and Senate President Lawan were dropped as the prominent beneficiaries of the lobbyists, all of whom helped to secure a second term appointment to office for Yakubu.
Having secured the loyalty of the top leadership of INEC who were to do their best to provide a public mien of neutrality, particularly in electoral events where public support for the ruling party was poor, the political hawks within the APC decided to spread their influence to state offices.
Undeniable evidence is the recent convening of the former coordinators of the CPC by the President in the Villa as part of the coordinating activities to perfect their plans. IS IT the federation is at the Centre of this coordination and perfection of these plans.
Some Nigerians found it strange that a President who is supposed to be the leader of a merged APC openly coordinated and hosted a factional separatist meeting despite the lingering factional problems within the APC following the presidential primaries consensus imbroglio. Clearly, it seems that with the ongoing capture of INEC by the CPC wing, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) faction and APC presidential candidate and indeed voters have more to worry about ahead of the 2023 elections.
However, political experts have posited that vigilance and demand by voters at polling units that results must be uploaded after counting will save the 2023 elections.