2019 Elections: Rights Activists Raise Concern on Ethnic Stereotyping
This morning, we learnt that Professor Okechukwu Ibranu, INEC National Commissioner was summoned to report to the Department of State Security (DSS) for interrogation. Others from INEC summoned with him include Chidi Nwafor, the Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Ken Ukeagu, Director of Procurement; Osaze Uzzi, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity and Bimbo Oladunjoye, the Assistant Director of ICT. The DSS has the responsibility to convene and interrogate anyone suspected to be a threat to national security and we do not in any way question that.
We understand that the DSS has since withdrawn the summons but we remain concerned. Our concerns stem from a web design that suddenly emerged on the social media yesterday presenting alleged linkages between the Atiku Campaign Organisation and leading civil society activists of Igbo ethnicity and Professor Ibeanu in INEC. Key civil society activists were targeted in the campaign – Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Clement Nwankwo, Sam Amadi, Innocent Chukwuma and Chidi Odinkalu. Alleged linkages were then drawn to Professor Ibeanu and Mike Ogini of INEC, Bukola Saraki in Senate and the Ballard facilitation of the Atiku trip to the United States and even Donald Trump. Within hours of the circulation of this web, a massive social media campaign with the hashtag #INECIbeanuMustGo was trending presenting Ibeanu as the Atiku Campaign mole in INEC with responsibility for scuttling last Saturday’s election and rigging the forthcoming elections.
We know Okechukwu Ibeanu to be a committed democrat who has devoted his life to the struggle for peace and democracy in Nigeria. He is a respected professor of political science and was in charge of logistics, having taken over from Amina Zakari in October 2018. Subsequently, a different ad hoc committee was set up specifically for the elections. The ad hoc committee has 17 members, and is headed by Ahmed Tijjani Mu’azu, a retired Air Vice Marshal. Making Ibeanu the fall guy for the botched elections is therefore completely wrong. INEC has collective responsibility for the failure.
There appears to be an orchestrated campaign against Okechukwu Ibeanu. His house in Enugu and his car have been broken into with valuables, including laptops and iPads, taken away. On Monday, an article written by Ibeanu in December 2015 resurfaced on the social media followed with a comment: “Nigeria has a Biafran agitator as the REC for Logistics, no wonder this unpatriotic individual, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu who has made his mission to undermine the Nigerian state.” The article in question was a rejoinder to an opinion written by Ibrahim Jibrin (“Jibo”), one of the signatories of this press release on perceptions of the Igbo Question and Biafara
Professor Ibeanu has had a distinguished academic career at home and abroad and was special rapporteur of the United Nations from 2004-2010. In 2016, he was appointed INEC national commissioner representing the south-east. He was the Chief Technical Officer to Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman between 2010 and 2015 and contributed enormously to the success of the 2011 and 2015 elections.
We have the following concerns:
1) There are too many conspiracy theories in circulation and a great deal of mudslinging in the campaigns. In addition, the campaign has been characterized by strong ethno-religious mobilization on all sides, which can be harmful to nation building.
2) This is a clearly orchestrated campaign to smear the names of these people, most of whom have devoted their lives to the struggle against military rule and for democracy for the past three to four decades.
3) The said campaign is divisive and is geared to smear an ethnic group and present them as enemies of democracy and free and fair elections.
4) The smear campaign can only do harm to the difficult process of consolidation of Nigerian democracy.
We therefore appeal to all stakeholders to desist from pursuing campaigns of calumny against any group, and to instead, focus on ensuring that the elections hold in a spirit of nation building that would allow the winners of the elections carry forward the Nigerian national project. Let us all work with INEC and all other authorities involved in the electoral process to re-build trust, and to ensure that there is peace and concord before, during and after the elections.
Professor Adele Jinadu, Chair, Election Analysis Centre
Femi Falana SAN, Legal Practitioner
Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, Political Economist
Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, Political Scientist
Y. Z, Ya’u, Co-Chair, Situation Room
Ms. Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development
Ms. Ayo Obe, Legal Practioner
Dr. Hussaini Abdu, Country Director, Plan International
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, CISLAC