A former Nigerian Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir El Rufai, has criticized the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Mr. El Rufai, a former official of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but now Deputy General Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said he has no confidence in INEC’s ability to conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria.
Last Saturday, Mr. El Rufai was detained in his hotel room in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, and prevented from going out to monitor the governorship election in the state. Speaking in a telephone interview with SaharaTV's Omoyele Sowore, the former minister said unless INEC stepped up its game, there would be major problems in the 2015 general elections.
“I don't have that confidence. I think that INEC has a lot of work to do to be able to organize free and fair elections in Nigeria,” he said. He cited the recent Delta senatorial by-election and the still unresolved Anambra State gubernatorial election as instances where polling was marred by logistical crises, including bungled voters' registers.
He said political parties were willing to offer a hand of support to INEC to ensure a clean electoral process in future elections. “We as political parties are willing to work with INEC to address these problems because we all want the election to be free, fair and credible and we want our democracy to succeed,” he stated.
Commenting on last Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra, Mr. El Rufai decried irregularities in areas considered as strongholds of the APC. “Anambra Central is the stronghold of the APC. Governor Ngige has very, very strong support there. And what we have seen as a trend, which we knew about, and raised alarms [about] even before the election was the APGA and PDP’s strategy of ensuring that, in areas where we are strong, election material and electoral officers do not appear until it is too late,” he said.
He added that, in spite of the many challenges confronting the electoral process, he was confident that his party was headed for victory.
The former right-hand man to former President Olusegun Obasanjo also spoke on his detention, describing it as “illegal” and “unlawful.” The news of his detention first broke when he tweeted, “I intend to discharge my duties today no matter what, and will go out when ready. I will dare the SSS to shoot...we wait and see...”
Shedding light on his ordeal, Mr. El Rufai said he was having dinner at the Finotel Hotel where he was lodged when an officer of the State Security Service (SSS) showed up accompanied by AK-47 toting police officers and demanded to speak with him. He said the officer told him they had been sent to “protect” him, but that he declined their offer, telling them that he did not need their protection, adding that he was comfortable with his own security arrangement. The policemen left only to show up again the next morning, this time telling him they had instructions from Abuja to confine him to his hotel room.
He said he tried again to leave the hotel around 3 p.m. on Saturday, but the security personnel blocked the hotel’s exit with a vehicle. At the time of speaking with SaharaTV, however, Mr. El Rufai said the security agents had been removed, but stated that he had yet to try leaving his hotel room again for the APC situation room.
He also told SaharaTV that the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, had also attempted to withdraw a policeman who had been detailed by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State to guard him. “The only security that I had that I had confidence in was this one policeman and if he leaves I would be left with gun-holding SSS men that could shoot me and claim that I attacked them,” Mr. El Rufai told SaharaTV.
The former minister said the people of Anambra State deserved commendation for their orderly conduct during the governorship election.
Source: Sahara Reporters