Having pressured INEC to postpone Nigeria’s general elections by six weeks, President Goodluck Jonathan and his inner circle of political operatives are focusing on new strategies to counter the groundswell of opposition to the incumbent president and to snatch the elections, a few high-profile sources have disclosed. One such strategy is to use huge funds put aside by Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison Madueke as well as donations from refined fuel importers and private operators of power distribution companies to buy up permanent voter cards in the states where Mr. Jonathan and the ruling PDP are most unpopular.
One of the sources stated that increasing public backlash and fear of the unknown had pushed Mr. Jonathan to accept that Nigerians are determined to have elections. Consequently, said the source, the incumbent president has abandoned original plans to scuttle elections altogether in order to form a so-called government of national unity presided over by him. “He [Jonathan] knows that there is no option now than to allow elections to hold,” said the source. He added that the president would assure Nigerians of his preparedness for election at a choreographed media parley scheduled for later today in Abuja.
Other sources revealed that Mr. Jonathan and his handlers would focus on healing rifts within the ruling party in order to present a united front that would make rigging more possible. For example, the president’s associates are expected to push to resolve the internal crises bedeviling the PDP in Adamawa and Taraba States. In addition, the president is planning to reach out to the governors of Enugu and Bayelsa to mend fences with them.
One source said the six-week postponement of elections has helped Mr. Jonathan to “soften the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega.” He said the president’s team now feels confident that they can have their way with some INEC officials, including Mr. Jega, as the PDP fine tunes its rigging strategy in some key states.
One INEC source said that, despite postponing the elections to serve Mr. Jonathan’s wishes, Mr. Jega had so far received little or no cooperation from the military high command. “They [the military] are not giving Professor Attahiru Jega the necessary assurance of security support to hold the election. We think that the powers-that-be have ordered the military to withhold the support until much later,” the source said.
Meanwhile, one of our sources said operatives of the People’s Democratic Party intend to use the current lull to mop up permanent voter cards across Nigeria as part of a broad mechanism to rig the polls.
The source claimed that agents of the ruling party were sending fronts to buy unclaimed voter cards. The cards would then be handed to ghost voters expected to help rig the election. The party has publicly stated that it is now opposed to the use of card readers for the purpose of validating legitimate voter card holders
In addition, President Jonathan’s confidants were strategizing about the use of security agents to arrest, detain and intimidate major opposition figures as the elections near. One source disclosed that the arrest last week of former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa was supposed to inaugurate a wider clampdown on political opposition figures. However, the security agents were forced to jettison the plan to pick other opposition officials after SaharaReporters released an audiotape of a similar strategy used in rigging of elections in Ekiti State. The tape exposed a meeting between several PDP officials close to Mr. Jonathan, including former Minister of State for Defense, Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Iyiola Omisore, and current Governor Ayo Fayose, and Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh. In the tape, PDP officials can be heard instructing the army officer on the arrest of APC officials and supporters.
Mr. Sylva told a correspondent last Friday that he had prepared to spend the weekend at the offices of the Department of State Services (DSS) only to be told to leave a few hours after his arrest.
Our sources said the logic behind the planned detention and intimidation of APC members was to keep the opposition party sufficiently distracted to enable Mr. Jonathan’s team to finalize a broad rigging plan.
Part of Mr. Jonathan’s strategies, to be unveiled over the coming weeks, includes the announcement of “job creation” initiatives aimed at luring back youth voters, many of whom are vehemently opposed to Mr. Jonathan’s re-election. Our source said the president’s other deft moves over the next weeks before the elections would feature a barrage of lawsuits against some opposition figures, including Muhammadu Buhari, the APC’s presidential candidate, the release of economic palliatives, and the harassment of INEC chairman Jega by government-sponsored groups. In addition, the Nigerian military would engage in a series of military operations against Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria’s northeast to enable Mr. Jonathan to claim that the Islamist terrorist group was on the cusp of defeat.
In addition, the president and the ruling party reportedly plan to use their hefty war chest to woo a few opposition politicians to defect to the PDP. The president’s team was currently searching for a few high profile endorsements from Northern politicians, one of our sources said.