INEC Mess And Shame Of A Nation

By Casmir Igbokwe

I took the prediction of T.B. Joshua and Temitope Aduroja with a pinch of salt. These prophets had predicted that there would be postponement of Nigeria’s presidential election. I also doubted it when news filtered in a few hours to the presidential and National Assembly elections that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was contemplating rescheduling the polls. But to the chagrin and shock of many Nigerians, INEC did indeed postpone the elections.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, attributed the shift to logistics and operational problems. Preparations for these elections had started some years back. A few days to the polls, Prof. Yakubu had boasted that they were ready. There was no inkling that things would turn out the way they did.

But as the cliché goes, man proposes, God disposes. INEC materials in some states like Abia, Anambra and Plateau suddenly caught fire a few days to the election. The commission battled with replacing those materials. On the eve of the polls, some states like Taraba complained of not receiving essential materials. Special Assistant to the Taraba State Governor on Media, Bala Dan Abu, lamented about this situation in one of his Facebook postings. Then, in the early morning of Saturday, February 16, 2019, the hammer came. Presidential and National Assembly elections, INEC announced, would now hold on Saturday, February 23, 2019, while the governorship and state House of Assembly elections would hold March 9, 2019.

Many Nigerians did not find this funny. They protested. Some people had scheduled burials, weddings and some other activities on February 23. They had hoped that election would hold a week before as earlier scheduled. But now, they are confused. They will have to start sending text messages to guests to reschedule their events.

Some others had spent their hard-earned money to travel for the election. With this postponement, they will have to painfully decide whether to stay back for one week or return to their bases. Foreign observers will have to consider whether to return to their countries and come back in a week’s time or stay back in the country with the extra cost in hotel accommodation and feeding.

Rather than become sober at our inability to conduct a simple election, we typically began throwing tantrums and trading blame. President Muhammadu Buhari said he was disappointed in INEC. The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, said the postponement was the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.

A certain youth group belonging to the All Progressives Congress said it was Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who caused the problem. The Senate under Saraki, the group claimed, did not approve the budget of INEC on time. The PDP and the opposition groups claimed it was the ruling party that masterminded the shift. The Coalition of United Political Parties further alleged that the intention of the powers that be was to have scattered elections in the country. The idea was to rig the poll just like what happened in the Osun governorship election last year. The PDP had won the election only for INEC to declare it inconclusive. There was a rerun in some wards, which was suspected to have been massively rigged. At the end, the PDP lost to the APC.

The cacophony of voices giving reasons behind the presidential election shift was in itself embarrassing. The international community would be wondering, what is wrong with this black nation? President Donald Trump of the United States would likely be having a good laugh. With his mouth mischievously twisted, he might have concluded, “What a cantankerous nation with a lifeless President!”

The questions are, why are we so confused as a nation? Why do we find it difficult to organise anything, including a simple election? Why do we kill ourselves over nothing? And why is our politics a do-or-die affair?

The answer is blowing in the wind. But part of the problem is that there is too much money in government. Some of the richest people in Nigeria are political office-holders. That is why people kill to win elections. We should make public office more attractive to people who want to serve and less attractive to money-grabbing politicians.

This is where restructuring of the country comes in. There is too much concentration of power at the centre. Nigeria’s President, for instance, is about the most powerful in the world. His word is law. He can do and undo. Just look at what has happened to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen. Without recourse to the rule of law, the President suspended the man, citing an order from the Code of Conduct Tribunal. If this could happen to the leader of the third arm of government that is supposed to be independent, then anything can happen.

Different courts have also ruled that the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, be released from detention. That order has not been carried out. And nothing has happened.

We pretend that all is well, yet the nation is seriously sinking. On the eve of this postponed election, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, came to announce without shame that 66 of his subjects had been massacred. Why did he have to make this announcement? Was his intention to scare away some voters from coming out to vote? He alone can answer this question.

Honestly, I wanted to be hard on INEC. I wanted to join those who say the commission’s chairman should resign. But, on deeper reflection, I sympathised with the commission; I pity the chairman. Superintending over a general election in Nigeria is not a tea party. There are different interests all wanting to outmanoeuvre one another. Each of the groups fabricates lies and throws them down the throats of gullible Nigerians.

In the meantime, INEC should remain focused and steadfast. Nigerians should give the commission the benefit of the doubt. It is better to conduct free, fair and credible election than rush the process when there are glaring lapses. We cannot afford the danger of rigging and returning an unpopular candidate to power. Eternal vigilance should be the watchword.

Re: Presidential election: Choosing between Atiku and Buhari

Casmir, good analysis, sound summation!  Although a winner of the presidential election may not have emerged by next edition of your column on February 18, may I know if some of your readers have threatened to leave Nigeria on exile, than have Buhari (or the cabal), remain as president for the next four years. I know a dude who threatened to leave Nigeria on exile if Gen. Sani Abacha was not elected life president in 1994. The skunk is still somewhere in Sao Tome and Principe, from where he services oil blocks in South-South of Nigeria. That’s Naija for you.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, +2348085914645

The truth stands erect. There is no doubt that Waziri Adamawa presents a better option. If Nigerians fail to choose him, we will all suffer it together. For Mrs. Buhari to openly complain of the cabal shows that all is not well with the present leadership.

– Okoli Hyacinth,

I read your seemingly biased and jaundiced analysis in the Daily Sun newspaper of today, awarding victory to Atiku. I totally disagree with all the premises on which you based your conclusion. In the first instance, while you dwelt too much on Buhari’s obvious flaws and failings, you did not mention the good sides, infrastructural transformation, loot recovery, etc. Again, to sell Atiku perhaps to your gullible readers, you presented him as if he is the grey horn in this race without mentioning how he was part of the mess created. Also, I disagree with your geopolitical analysis of how the two candidates will fare. While you conceded that Buhari has an edge in the NW, SW, you never admitted that he would equally have an edge in the NC and NW. Perhaps, you chose to be blind to the realities in these zones. Thus, while I consider the fact Atiku might win in Benue and perhaps Plateau, due to the issue of herdsmen, Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Nassarawa can’t be won by Atiku. Quote me. In the SS and SE, because of fake of restructuring, he may have an edge here. However, he should be winning Imo in the SE and Akwa Ibom and Edo in the SS. My verdict overall is that the odds are staked against your candidate. He is being bankrolled by people who in saner jurisdictions should not be alive. I admit that Buhari may not be the best but, between him and Atiku, there is no basis for comparison. It is like comparing light and darkness. If you to disapprove this, February 16 is here.

– Semiu Niyi,

As presidential election has come and gone over the weekend and electorate did their voting, let the will of God be done to give us leaders that know their onions in good governance so Nigeria can move forward. The winner of the presidential election should take the victory as the will of God and carry along the losers to build a better Nigeria rather than winner-takes-it-all syndrome.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia,+2348062887535

Bro, your write-up in the Daily Sun Monday, February 11, 2019, edition is incisive, truthful. Keep it up.

–   I.E. Uchibeke, Ekpeyeland, Rivers State, +2348060873451

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, February 18, 2019

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