Fears over Obasanjo’s link with foreign poll observers

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There is anxiety in political circles over the composition of some of the international observer missions deployed in the country for the general elections. The presidential election is slated for Saturday.

The popular thinking is that former President Olusegun Obasanjo may have been influential to the composition and emergence of some of the chairmen of some of the observer groups.

The ex-President, who is backing former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is suspected to have sold an agenda to these observers, based on a perception of what a source described as a “willy-nilly” regime change.

Some of the groups are suspected to be in the country to “work to the answer” by prejudging the election as “not free, fair and credible” — a perception that has been debunked.

But it was gathered that the Federal Government is “paying keen interest” to their activities.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accredited 144 observer groups, including 116 domestic and 28 international teams.

The foreign groups are: African Bar Association; African Parliament of The Civil Society; African Union; British High Commission; Democrat Union of Africa; ECOWAS; Elections Cameroon, Republic of Cameroon; and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

Theere are also Embassy of France; Embassy of Japan; Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt; Embassy of The Republic of Korea; European Centre for Electoral Support; European Union; German International Agency; High Commission of Canada; and the International Foundation For Electoral System.

The International Human Rights Commission; International Peace Commission; International Republican Institute; the National Democratic Institute; the Network for Solidarity; and the Empowerment and Transformation for All were also accredited to cover the elections.

Other international observers are Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation; Pan African Women Projects; Pan African Youth Training and Enlightenment Centre; Queen Zara Foundation for Human Resources Development; The Commonwealth; and the United States Embassy.

Some of the observer groups are being led by some ex-leaders, including ex-Tanzanian President Dr. Jakaya Kikwete (Commonwealth Observer Group); former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (African Union); ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (ECOWAS); and Maria Arena (the Chief Observer, European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria).

Ms Arena is a member of the European Parliament from Belgium. Kikwete is “a well known friend of Obasanjo” a source said, adding: “He was regular at the Ota Farm House Dialogue in the eighties. They even worked together at the African Union on the NEPAD programme.

Obasanjo is also believed to be close to Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf. “We all know Nigeria’s role in Liberia during the Obasanjo Presidency,” the source said, pleading not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media.

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