NIGERIA’S main opposition political party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on February 7, described as a ‘coup against democracy’ the confirmation of an alleged card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as national commissioner (South-South) in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Despite widespread protests from Nigerians, the Senate on February 2 confirmed Rhoda Gumus, a professor, following her nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari had nominated Gumus as a replacement for Lauretta Onochie, a presidential aide whose confirmation was vehemently opposed by Nigerians, also due to her status as a card-carrying APC member.
Shortly after her nomination by Buhari, reports had emerged that Gumus was a member of the APC in Bayelsa State with APC Registration Form No: BAY/YEN/08/58315.
She, reportedly, was number 27 in her APC Ward Register.
A civil society organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), had, in a petition dated January 26, asked the Senate to reject Gumus’ nomination for being a card-carrying member of the APC.
Although HURIWA said the petition was received and acknowledged by the Office of the Senate President, the upper legislative chamber said it had no knowledge of the complaint when it proceeded to confirm Gumus on February 2.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC Kabir Gaya said a petition was only received against another nominee – A.B. Alkali, from Taraba State.
Gaya claimed that after the committee had already submitted its report, it started hearing about Gumus’ links to the APC “through the media.’
Gumus was confirmed as INEC national commissioner alongside Mohammed Haruna (North-Central), May Agbamuche-Mbu (South-South), Ukeagu Nnamdi (South-East), Sam Olumekum (South-West) and A. B. Alkali (North-East).
In a statement by National Publicity Secretary Debo Ologunagba on February 7, the PDP said “Gumus’ confirmation as INEC National Commissioner by the APC-led Senate was a coup against democracy” and an open invitation to serious political crisis that could derail democratic governance in Nigeria.
He said the party “vehemently rejects” the development and warned that it could lead to breakdown of law and order if not immediately reversed.
“In confirming Gumus, the APC-led Senate has exposed itself as anti-people and completely insensitive to the aspiration of Nigerians for credible and transparent elections in 2023.”
Further describing Gumus’ confirmation as ‘highly provocative,’ the PDP observed that it violated Paragraph 14 (2)(a) of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which provided that “a member of the Commission (INEC) shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
“Such violent assault on the Constitution and our electoral process by the APC cannot be allowed to stand,” the PDP stressed.
The opposition party alleged that Gumus’ nomination by Buhari and subsequent confirmation by the APC-led Senate was designed to corrupt and compromise INEC and pave way for the APC to rig the 2023 general elections.
The PDP said it would mobilise its members across the country to take legitimate actions to stop the APC from succeeding in the alleged mission.
“Prof. Gumus must not be allowed to be used to pollute INEC. Her mission is already exposed and our party is ready to mobilise our members and all patriotic Nigerians across the country by taking legitimate actions to protect the integrity of the electoral body.
“Our party therefore issues a stern caution to Prof. Gumus to, in the interest of peace, steer clear of INEC as there is no way she can function in that office as a card-carrying member of the APC.”
Noting that democracy was about transparency of elections, PDP in the statement observed that Nigerians would not believe in the integrity of the process with Gumus in INEC.
“Her entry and continuing stay in INEC will be toxic and taint the Commission with bias and manipulations ahead of the 2023 elections since her appointment and confirmation is unconstitutional.”
The PDP asked Buhari to immediately withdraw Gumus’ appointment as INEC national commissioner.
According to the PDP, reversing Gumus’ appointment was line with Buhari’s oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and would also assure Nigerians that the president was committed to free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023.