by Bisi Akande
It is said that when bad things happen, it provides a chance for good people to make things better! The mess that has been made of the Anambra election by the same body saddled with ensuring that it is free and fair is indeed a bad thing. While the Anambra debacle, in which INEC apparently acted out a script written by the presidency and the PDP, represents a new low in the country’s unenviable saga of electoral impropriety, it must now signal the death knell for electoral malfeasance and brigandage in Nigeria.
Make no mistake about it: If something drastic but lawful is not done now to stop this electoral impunity, our country is ultimately heading for the precipice. This is not about crying wolf where none exists. The wolf is here and ready to pounce. Our challenge is to stop it before it is too late. As things stand, we have a dangerous admixture of Power and Impunity, and the end product cannot but be explosive.
We have a presidency that has no qualms about abusing national institutions to achieve a pre-set electoral objective, which is to humiliate a growing opposition party; A ruling party that is ever willing to sacrifice its own candidate in elections just to get at the opposition and a conniving electoral body that is packed full of saboteurs and blatantly amoral individuals is not befitting of any civilized society. We must be determined to stop it in Nigeria.
To be sure, our party was not caught unawares. Ahead of the Anambra election, we issued a total of 15 press releases warning against everything that eventually happened at the elections. We said INEC was working in cahoots with the presidency/PDP to rig the elections; We exposed the rigging strategies that included mass disenfranchisement, starving of opposition strongholds of electoral materials and the late or none delivery of voting materials and result sheets; We raised the alarm on the sudden creation of 1,973 voting units, for which our agents got no tags; We criticized the 22-hour curfew, because we believed it was a ploy to give the riggers the leeway to carry out their plans without being noticed and we warned that the results will not be acceptable without voting in all local governments. Sadly, all our warnings proved prescient.
Before we begin our deliberations on how to resolve this recurring issue of electoral impunity, let me sound a note of warning:
1. If those who manipulated Anambra election, and the Delta Central Senatorial District before it, are allowed to get away with their shenanigans, they will be further emboldened to ply their devilish trade in Ekiti and Osun next year, and of course we can forget about the 2015 general elections.
2. The issues at stake go beyond Anambra State. They have the potential to affect the whole of Nigeria, with dangerous consequences for our young democracy. And history should be our guide. This is exactly how the First Republic unraveled! A power-drunk central government seized on what is purely an intra-party affair in the then Action Group in its desperation to humiliate and decimate the opposition. The consequences of that decimation led to the first military coup and subsequent reactions that led to civil wars. And Nigeria has yet to recover from it. The nation cannot afford a repeat!
The Anambra election has been seized upon by an increasingly desperate presidency/PDP to seek to humiliate our party and portray us as lacking in electoral value. That is why an unconscionable PDP spokesman raced to the media to hail the ill-fated election to the high heavens, even when the PDP candidate and some members of his family were among the thousands who were disenfranchised and marooned.
That is why the presidency has maintained a loud silence, because it was never interested in the Anambra PDP victory or a free and fair election, having made a devil’s deal to work against its own party just to get at the APC.In the end, the devilish duo of the presidency and the PDP abandoned their own candidate and threw caution to the wind, without caring about the implication of their bizarre action. They discountenanced the opinion of their own candidate, who condemned the sham of election and joined with other candidates to call for fresh elections. They celebrated as if their party is APGA even as their candidate was left stranded. This is an eye opener, and should end any doubt about the presidency and the PDP’s road-map for future elections.
Let me also use this opportunity to re-state our party’s stand, as contained in our Nov. 18th petition to the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega: Only a fresh election based on a new transparent voters’ register can correct the litany of grave flaws that ruined the elections. Nothing else is acceptable to us for the reasons we have repeated over and over again.
For the avoidance of doubt, we say, for the umpteenth time that there were serious irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended; That INEC Chairman Jega himself acknowledged these irregularities, when he said an official of the commission compromised the election in Idemili North LG, a stronghold of our candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige; That the voters’ register used for the election was so tainted that many voters, especially in Senator Ngige’s stronghold, were disenfranchised; That students were recruited as Presiding Officers and Polling Assistants, further compromising the electoral process; That the staff of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, were recruited as Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs), contrary to INEC’s directive that staff of UNIZIK would not be used in the election since the APGA Deputy Governorship Candidate, Dr. Nkem Okeke, was a Senior Lecturer with the university prior to his candidacy; That election materials were not distributed in a timely manner in many polling units, thus affecting the timely commencement of accreditation and voting; That INEC failed to deploy election officials in sufficient numbers to several polling units, and election officials were recruited at the election venue and deployed without any form of training; And that results were brought in without being publicly announced by the LGA Collation Officers.
These are just some of the grave flaws that sealed the fate of the election
In conclusion, there is no doubt that our party has totally lost confidence in the ability and capability of INEC to organize a free, fair and transparent election anywhere in Nigeria.
We have no iota of confidence in INEC’s personnel and the commission’s voters’ register, which we believe has been irredeemably tampered with to such an extent that it can no longer be relied upon for any election.
We will be forced to take a decision not to participate in any future election until there is a far-reaching restructuring of INEC that will see a purge of the bad eggs in the commission, a re-orientation of the remaining staffers and the compilation of a new and credible voters’ register.
The restructuring of INEC and the compilation of a new voters’ register are the barest minimum requirements for Nigeria’s return to the path of electoral chastity.
I thank you!
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Chief Bisi Akande, the national chairman of the All Progressive Congress