A human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana; legal practitioner, Ms. Ayo Obe; Chair, Election Analysis Centre, Professor Adele Jinadu; political economist, Professor Ebere Onwudiwe; political scientist, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim; and Co-Chair, Situation Room, Y Z Ya’u, have expressed concern over Monday’s invitation of some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the Department of State Services (DSS).

In a statement issued jointly with the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Ms. Idayat Hassan; Country Director, Plan International, Dr. Hussaini Abdu; and Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Falana and others said they were concerned over the cancelled the invitation extended to the INEC Commissioner, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu; Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Chidi Nwafor; Director of Procurement, Ken Ukeagu; Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Osaze Uzzi, and Assistant Director of ICT, Bimbo Oladunjoye.

The group said its concerns stemmed from a web design that suddenly emerged on the social media presenting alleged linkages between the Atiku Campaign Organisation and leading civil society activists of Igbo ethnicity and Ibeanu.

According to the group, key civil society activists targeted in the campaign include: Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Clement Nwankwo, Sam Amadi, Innocent Chukwuma and Chidi Odinkalu.

The group added that the alleged linkages were also drawn to Ibeanu and Mike Ogini of INEC; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Ballard facilitation of the Atiku trip to the United States, including even President Donald Trump.

“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,” the group explained.

The group alleged that it appears to be an orchestrated campaign against Ibeanu.

“His house in Enugu and his car have been broken into with valuables, including laptops and iPads, taken away,” it said.

The group condemned the orchestrated campaign to smear the names of these people, most of whom, it said, had devoted their lives to the struggle against military rule and for democracy for the past three to four decades.

It noted that there are too many conspiracy theories in circulation and a great deal of mudslinging in the campaigns, adding that the campaign has been characterised by strong ethno-religious mobilisation on all sides, which can be harmful to nation building.

“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. The smear campaign can only do harm to the difficult process of consolidation of Nigerian democracy,” the group said.

It appealed to all stakeholders to desist from pursuing campaigns of calumny against any group and 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.

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