How APC Uses PDP Supporter to Capture INEC.
By Celestine Nnorom, Abuja.
“This INEC lacks integrity; they cannot give us a free and fair election!” Those were the damning words of Dan Nwanyanwu, the former national chairman of Labour Party, on a national television, while responding to a question on the Appeal Court judgment that restored Eyitayo Jegede as the People Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the Ondo gubernatorial election. Nwanyanwu a politician of note is also a brilliant lawyer. He must know what he was talking about. Even then, the former Labour Party Chairman is not alone on his view on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Indeed there has been a convergence of views that INEC has fallen off since its former chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, bowed out. Indeed for many, the present INEC may be competing for a place in the hall of shame with Jega’s predecessor. That being the case, the country is therefore suffering a reversal of political fortunes. All the gains made under President Jonathan especially in the area of improving electoral integrity and opening up the political space appear to have been washed away in just less than two years of the ascension of Mahmoud as the chief electoral referee.
But spokesman to INEC’s Yakubu, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, was unsparing of Nwayanwu and his ilk.
He told everyday.ng in a response: “Contrary to the careless comments ascribed to one Dan Inwanyanwu, the INEC’s integrity has never been more profound. Since the appointment of the Prof.Mahmood Yakubu led Commission in November 2015, INEC has conducted 165 elections, with well over 70% of them conclusive at first ballot. The rest could not be concluded, as many Nigerians now know, because of violence perpetrated by politicians who see elections as a do-or-die affair. Within the period, about 80 court ordered elections arising from the 2015 general elections were conducted. This shows that the last general elections were not as perfect as many uninformed critics often make allusions to. Two governorship elections were also successfully conducted in Edo and Ondo states
But analysts insist that from Kogi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo and now Ondo, this INEC has shown how not to organise a free and fair election. It is not only the matter of the inconclusive nature of the elections; there are also clear cut issues of lack of independence and transparency in itsconduct. The INEC people are not even pretending to be neutral but have brazenly taken side with the ruling party, APC.
In Bayelsa State, it took the bravery of the locals ready to protect their votes to thwart INEC and an obviously briefed praetorian soldiers from perpetrating an electoral heist; in Rivers State, when APC could not have their way, not because of INEC’s neutrality, the electoral body decided to postpone elections ad infinitum until the Senate threatened to go on strike;
In Ondo, INEC allegedly conspired with the security agencies to postpone the elections just to help the ruling party gain more grounds and even when the election held, international observers wrote the conduct off. The same INEC under the guise of obeying a court order, yanked off the name of arguably the most popular candidate from the ballot and shamelessly replaced him with a candidate produced by an illegal primary it never witnessed as the law demands, just to pave way for the APC candidate. And when the Appeal Court reinstated Jegede on the ballot, barely 48 hours to the election, INEC continued to insist that it would not heed to the popular call to postpone the election in the interest of fairness saying that what happened was merely an internal problem of one political party when in all honesty INEC played its part in the Jimoh Ibrahim conspiracy! And this fact was amply recognised by the Appeal Court when it ruled on the matter that:“It is worth reiterating at this point that any primary election by state chapter of a party, be it the PDP or any other party, is undoubtedly, in the eye of the law, an illegal contraption that carries with it no legal or equitable right at all. It is in its entirety a nullity”.
That the Appeal Court went ahead and imposed a cost on INEC in the Ondo PDP candidate matter is an obvious indictment on INEC that it did not cover itself in the glory of neutrality expected of an election umpire.
The way and manner that the election management body has carried on perhaps call for the interrogation of the leadership of INEC. There are suggestions that the problem is not with the INEC chairman, Mahmoud, a brilliant history professor but with a cabal within INEC said to be related to actor in the presidency who have hijacked decision-making from their chairman to favour their political benefactors.
WHY IS INEC NOT INDEPENDENT AGAIN?
The ruling APC once it got into power in 2015 began to plan how to remain in power in the country for a long time to come. The leadership of the party, according to reliable sources, are planning beyond the straight sixteen years of the PDP from 1999 to 2015. In line with this mission, some of the party’s best brains were said to have been put together to draw a plan for that. After several meetings, the small strategy committee were said to have come up with a document termed “penetration strategy”.
The document according to sources outlined the steps to be taken by the APC to, not only penetrate the South-south and South-east but also to capture both geopolitical regions. Central to that plan was allegedly getting favourable judges to be part of the electoral tribunals adjudicating the election cases, which the APC has interests in, and getting INEC to co-operate with the party in future elections.
A PDP SYSTEMS PERSON WAS APPOINTED AS INEC CHAIRMAN
In the quest to control INEC, what the thinkers in the APC government did was to scout a man who for all intents and purposes can be said to be a PDP systems person to head INEC. But the caveat is: that man must be carrying a corruption baggage for which he could be blackmailed.
Yakubu was a task team leader in the Ministry of Education under Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, in a PDP Federal Government. He was later appointed as Executive Secretary of TETFUND, one of the richest government agencies under the PDP. According to some inside sources within TETFUND, the agency was one of the establishments used to fund PDP presidential campaigns.
Apart from allegedly providing slush funds for the PDP, TETFUND was fingered in some corrupt practises. An example popular with insiders is an alleged N850 million fraud for the provision of classroom plastic seats together with some top placed persons at UBEC.
A particular tenure at TETFUND according to reliable sources was so corrupt because of an unholy alliance between two top men who happen to be school mates and who hail from the same state and local government, in a clear violation of the Federal Character Act.
Having served “well”, former President Jonathan, was to appoint Yakubu as Director, Finance & Administration of the National Confab. “If Jonathan had been re-elected, Yakubu would most probably ended up as a minister in the new cabinet”, one of the watchers of the PDP said.
But Yakubu’s baggage and experience with the PDP are the things that attracted the APC-led Federal Government. So instead of beaming the searchlight on him, he was saddled with the job of INEC Chairman.
Inside sources at INEC are of the view that Yakubu looks on while real authority at INEC resides with a woman, one of the national commissioners who happens to be related to the Presidential Villa.
So from the Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Rivers and Ondo elections, the woman is said to be the INEC official calling the shots and the chairman dares not speak out because the consequences for him might be scary.
In particular, in the Edo gubernatorial election, the INEC Chairman had declared that the election would go as scheduled but for what observers described as enlightened self-interest, caved in to pressures from the APC. This explains how APC has captured INEC and when the collusion with the security agencies is added, it then then gets clearer why Nigerians cannot get a free and fair election again under this government, according to analysts.
ALL ABOUT IGNORANCE
Again, however, Rotimi Oyekanmi, the spokesman to the INEC chairman believes ignorance is at the root of criticisms of what happened in Edo and Ondo.
He also points out a fundamental flaw in the argument of those who seek to tar his boss with the PDP brush: Prof Yakubu was no longer in charge of TETFUND during the 2015 general elections. Prof.Bogoro was in charge.
Said he: “With regard to the Edo governorship election, ignorant individuals alleged that INEC “conspired with security agents to postpone the election.” This allegation is both baseless and reckeless. What actually happened was that INEC fixed a date for the election and was fully prepared to get on with it. But less than four days to the election, the security agencies said they had uncovered a plan by some elements to disrupt it and cause havoc. They said they could not guarantee security and advised INEC to postpone it. Would any sensible Electoral Management body go ahead to conduct an election in such a situation?
“As for the allegation that INEC removed Mr Eyitayo Jegede’s name under the guise of obeying a court order, are those making this statement saying that INEC should disobey a legitimate court order? A Federal High Court ordered the Commission to replace Jegede’s name with Jimoh Ibrahim’s name and we complied. When another judgment was delivered by a superior court that Jegede’s name be restored, we also complied.
“Again, some armchair critics said we should have postloned the Ondo governorship election. Under the Electoral Law, internal wrangling in any political party is not among the grounds for postponing an election. There are 40 registered Political Parties. So, should INEC postpone an election each time a political party suffers internal crisis? Besides, tremendous logistical arrangements would have been deployed for the exercise, and any postponement would have disrupted several arrangements with huge financial implications.
“It is thus clear to me that all those criticing INEC in these aspects are both ignorant and reckeless. They will do well by availing themselves of the freely available information about the Electoral Act and facts before making false comments.”