Former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo has accused the country’s president Muhammadu Buhari of planning to rig the presidential election holding next month because of his “mad desperation” to win.
“From available intelligence, we have heard of how Buhari and his party are going about his own self-succession project,” Obasanjo said in a statement made public on Sunday.
“They have started recruiting collation officers who are already awarding results based on their projects to actualise the perpetuation agenda in which the people will not matter and the votes will not count. ”
The Nigerian government is yet to respond to Obasanjo’s claims.
Obasanjo and Buhari, both former military heads of state in the country, were allies in the run-up to the 2015 polls that brought in the latter into power.
But their relationship went sour in 2018 with Obasanjo labelling Buhari incompetent and accusing him of nepotism.
To his credit, the current Nigerian president has maintained that he’s interested in having a free and fair election regardless of whether he wins or not.
“2019 Elections need not be do or die affair, and we should not approach that eventuality in a democracy with trepidation and mortal fear,” Buhari said in a New Year message.
He reiterated the same stand during his town hall meeting on Kadaria Ahmed’s The Candidates last Wednesday.
Buhari rode into power in 2015 on the wings of populist promises of remodelling the economy, fighting biting insecurity, especially in northeast Nigeria and rein in the reign of corruption that has blighted the country for decades.
But critics like the former president said Buhari’s government has performed way below expectations.
In December, the former Nigerian leader insisted his former ally must be voted out, noting that he cannot be allowed to continue to lead Africa’s biggest democracy.
Obasanjo has made no secret of his preference for major opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar – his vice president between 1999 and 2007 – who he once accused of being corrupt. The two made up last after years of ugly spat.
In a statement by a media aide in December, Obasanjo insisted that “only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious.”
His latest statement doubled down on those claims. He likened Buhari to a former Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha, who sought to perpetuate himself in office before his death.
“What is happening under Buhari’s watch can be likened to what we witnessed under Gen. Sani Abacha in many ways,” Obasanjo said.
“When Abacha decided that he must install himself as Nigerian President by all means and at all costs, he went for broke and surrounded himself with hatchet men who on his order and in his interest and at high costs to Nigeria and Nigerians maimed, tortured and killed for Abacha.
“Buhari has started on the same path in mad desperation.”
Although President Buhari has insisted that the reason for not signing an amendment made to the Nigerian electoral law last year was because the final draft came to him when the elections were very close, Obasanjo said the reasons were sinister.
He said not signing the law will make the president’s plan to rig the election easier.
“It is the sole reason he has blatantly refused to sign the revised Electoral Reform Bill into law,” Obasanjo claimed.
“His henchmen are working round the clock in cahoots with security and election officials to perfect their plan by computing results right from the ward to local government, state and national levels to allot him what will look like a landslide victory irrespective of the true situation for a candidate who might have carried out by proxy presidential debate and campaigns.”