Postponed Elections: Concerns On Ethnic Stereotyping Prof. Adele Jinadu

We learnt that Professor Okechukwu Ibaenu, 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We understand that the DSS has since withdrawn the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 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

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

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.

A press statement by Prof. Adele Jinadu, Femi
Falana and other leaders of civil society and democracy groups.

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