Associates of Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari have asked Jakaya Kikwete, Commonwealth Chief Observer to the country’s February 16 polls to maintain his neutrality by not allowing his friendship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the opposition to influence his assignment.
In statement to News Central on Wednesday, Buhari Media Organisation, a lobby group for the re-election of President Buhari said it welcomed the appointment of Kikwete, a former Tanzanian President who is heading a 20-member Commonwealth observer group for the presidential election, but is demanding fairness from the team.
“Many Nigerians are worried that the head of the Commonwealth observer group may be swayed by Obasanjo’s skewed pre-election position that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not have the integrity to conduct free, fair and credible elections,” Niyi Akinsiju, a Spokesman for the group said.
“This concern, we know, is as a result of the long standing friendship between the two former Presidents which began long before Kikwete became the head of the Tanzania government in 2005.”
The media lobby said the Commonwealth has records of impartial observation and arbitration on election matters and Kikwete’s posture has always supported such values.
“So we hope that Dr Kikwete would resist the pressure that will surely come from former President Obasanjo who believes that he has a divine role to determine the winner of the presidential election.”
The group assured the Commonwealth team and other observer missions of the readiness of the Buhari government to ensure a favourable atmosphere for a credible general election.
Though Obasanjo had said a few years ago that he had dumped partisan politics, he has recently become a fierce critic of the Buhari government and openly endorsed Atiku Abubakar, his former deputy and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, his erstwhile party that he publicly dissociated himself from in the run up to the last elections in 2015. Obasanjo ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.
“Only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious. Chief Obasanjo is no such fool nor is he so unwise.” Obasanjo said late last year about the Buhari administration.
But Buhari has hit back at Obasanjo for his previous unconstitutional plans to embark on the aborted third term in 2006 where he had intended to seek an extra term through an amendment that failed in parliament. Many Nigerians had condemned the action then as undemocratic and a subversion of constitutional democracy.
“We have just finished one term and are seeking a second one. After that, the constitution doesn’t permit any more. There are some who tried looking for more but they did not succeed. We should learn from their mistakes.” Buhari said on Tuesday, at a rally in the Southwestern state of Ondo during a political rally.
The Commonwealth observer mission arrives Nigeria on February 8.