THE INFAMOUS FEBRUARY 25TH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: INEC CHAIRMAN MUST GO.

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By: Edet Essien Esq.                          Calabar South LGA.

 

 

As the saying goes, when a man on top of a palm tree pollutes the air, the flies get confused. No doubt, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) polluted the air of our 2023 general election. Now that many confused Nigerians are wondering what happened, the chairman of the electoral umpire, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has remained taciturn. Ordinarily, Yakubu expresses his views frequently. But since he surreptitiously announced the result of the infamous February 25 presidential election in the ungodly hours of March 1, 2023, he has left the arena for some other stakeholders and observers.

 

I watched INEC’s spokesman, Mr. Festus Okoye, trying labouriously to explain the so-called “technical glitches” in the last presidential election in a recent interview on Channels Television. He acknowledged that the results of the National Assembly elections were uploaded seamlessly to the INEC portal. There was also no glitch in uploading results during the March 18 governorship election and during the last Osun and Ekiti state elections. But this demon of a glitch possessed the uploading of only the presidential election results. When pressed further to explain what happened, Mr. Okoye feigned ignorance, saying he was only a lawyer and not a technical person.

 

Who is fooling whom? Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a major beneficiary of this electoral heist. While the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is busy hearing the submissions of the various parties to the electoral dispute, Tinubu continues to pontificate over the outcome of the poll. Last Thursday, at the palace of the Awujale of Ijebuland in Ogun State, Oba Sikiru Adetona, he reportedly said he was sure of winning the election despite the naira swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

 

He gloated, “Our monies were confiscated. The cashless policy didn’t work. It was terrible then, I realized that. And I came to Ogun State to invoke the spirit of freedom, which we are noted for. I invoked that spirit twice. The spirit of Baba ‘Emi lo kan’. That’s Baba, being blunt, being decisive, that’s him, he will tell you. The second spirit is that money or no money (we will do the election and we will win).”

 

The election petition tribunal will soon determine if it’s the spirit of freedom or that of rigging.

 

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) was on point when it released its final report on the election last week. According to the EUEOM, the election was greatly flawed. True, the election recorded the lowest turnout of voters since 1999 when the military handed over to civilians. But it’s not that voters didn’t turn out to exercise their franchise. They did. The snag was that, in some places, many people were either attacked or scared away from voting. Also, INEC indirectly disenfranchised many voters by either coming late or not coming at all in some polling units. Even Tinubu who was announced the winner got a mere 37 per cent of the votes cast. His two main rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party are challenging the result in court.

 

The worst experience was the ‘technical glitches’ that purportedly marred the transmission of results to the INEC portal real time. This result transmission went well in the National Assembly election but got stalled during the transmission of the presidential results. It’s left for the court to decide on this issue. But, as far as the EUEOM is concerned, INEC should fine-tune the process in future elections.

 

The poor conduct of the 2023 elections has cost INEC the trust of the people. The report, which was presented by the Chief Observer of the mission, Barry Andrews, in Abuja last Tuesday, noted that shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in INEC. “A lack of transparency and operational failures reduced trust in the process and challenged the right to vote,” it stressed.

 

The EU Mission made 25 recommendations and advised INEC to improve in six priority areas to restore the confidence in our electoral system. Some of them include removing ambiguities in electoral law, clamping down on electoral offences and ensuring the real-time publication of and access to election results. Others are establishing a publicly accountable selection process for INEC members; providing greater protection for media professionals; and addressing discrimination against women in political life.

 

Did INEC Chairman read the EUEOM report? In any case, what is he still doing in office? Those who presumably underperformed have been shown the exit door. The number one person was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwill Emefiele. Not only did Emefiele initiate the naira redesign policy that affected the campaigns of the cabal, he showed interest in contesting for the position of President. He didn’t get his way but he has ended up in the belly of the tiger.

 

The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, was another victim of circumstance. He apparently played into the hands of certain politicians by dabbling in the naira swap policy, among other ‘sins’. He has proceeded on suspension like his predecessors in office. It will be a miracle if he comes back.

 

In all these, what has happened to Yakubu? Where is he? Why has he lost his voice? Before the elections, he was loquacious, always addressing press conferences and assuring Nigerians of a free, fair and credible election. How far, Prof?

 

We must always interrogate our institutions and those entrusted to man them. As some of us have always said, there is need for electoral reforms in Nigeria. The first step is to amend our laws to conform to civilized ideals. It is not proper, for instance, that a President or governor is sworn in before the conclusion of election petitions filed against him. Today, Tinubu is already sworn in as President. He has taken full charge of affairs and appointed his loyalists in strategic positions in the country. Meanwhile, his contentious election is still before the tribunal. The matter may get to the Supreme Court. By the time it is over, the occupant of the seat may have spent over one year in office.

 

INEC has messed up our electoral system. The man on top of that rotten tree of an institution, Yakubu, must go. We must restore confidence in that institution. Else, only INEC staff and supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may be the ones participating in future elections.

Amawu Cletus Albert Amawu

I'm a Journalist, Host/Producer of The Verdict, your voice of conscience on FAD FM 93.1, Calabar, Public Affairs Commentator, Social Change Agent.

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