There were plans to abduct Nigeria’s election commission chairman Attahiru Jega during the just concluded presidential elections, according to reports from Reuters.
The international news agency received a text message from an aide to Jega, warning of an imminent threat to the electoral process.
The aide had unearthed a plot by supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan to disrupt the public announcement of the national election results and kidnap Jega in a bid to wreck the count, according to pro-democracy advocates and a Nigeria-based diplomat.
Central to the plan, were Jega’s security detail and Godsday Orubebe, a former cabinet minister from Jonathan’s Niger Delta, an area whose leaders feared a change of power would mean an end to the perks it enjoyed under Jonathan’s presidency.
As Buhari’s lead grew, some PDP supporters from the Delta, including Orubebe, decided on a final gamble: to create a disturbance in the main INEC hall and have thugs snatch Jega from the stage, according to Nwankwo and the Abuja-based diplomat.
What the group planned to do after the abduction is unclear, the diplomat and Nwankwo said, but the confusion could have triggered nationwide violence.
“It was a desperate thing, mostly by a group of people from the Niger Delta who were in the room,” Nwankwo said, describing events that unfolded publicly in the minutes after he received the SMS.
When Jega opened proceedings on the morning of March 31, Orubebe, the former Niger Delta minister, grabbed a microphone and launched into an 11-minute tirade accusing Jega of bias.
“Mr. Chairman, we have lost confidence in you,” he shouted, pushing away officials trying to make him surrender the microphone. “You are being very, very selective. You are partial,” he continued, surrounded by three or four supporters. “You are tribalistic. We cannot take it.”
Nigerians watched, aghast, on live television.
Meanwhile, Jega’s security detail was approached by unidentified individuals telling them to stand down, according to Nwankwo and the diplomat.
But the bodyguards refused.
“Some of the guards who had been guarding Jega for years demanded a written order,” Nwankwo said. “But it didn’t exist.”
Jega then rebuked Orubebe: “Let us not disrupt a process that has ended peacefully,” he said as Orubebe slumped in his chair.
“Mr. Orubebe, you are a former minister of the Federal Republic. You are a statesman in your own right. You should be careful about what you say or about what allegations you make,” he said.
Later, Orubebe congratulated Buhari on Twitter, expressing his “apologies to fellow Nigerians”