It is relieving that action has finally commenced at the elections tribunal set up to arbitrate in order to resolve the conflict thrown up by the highly controversial results from elections 2023, particularly with respect to the declaration of the ruling All Progressives Party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president-elect.
The result of the exercise which was released in the early hours of the first (1st) day of March has left a good portion of our countrymen and women gnashing their teeth and writhing in pains.
And another half is gyrating and laughing in wild celebrations of the hue of “as e pain dem, e dey sweet us” sing the song that became the mantra of the G-5, a dissident group of five (5) PDP governors that elected to act like a tsetse fly perched on PDP’s scrotum which could not be squashed without severe consequences owing to the delicate nature of the testicles where it is located.
The prickly heat that has discomfited a cross-section of Nigerians greatly, (particularly members of the opposition) is what a broad spectrum of Nigerians deemed as rape (literally)of the electorate that stepped out in throngs (87 million that collected their PVC) to elect their leaders at the national and subnational levels on 25 February and 18 March.
But the ongoing presentations by attorneys for the major political parties in the presidential elections tribunal and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC tend to be painting a different picture in the minds of most Nigerians who had assumed that the rigging allegations against the ruling party and its candidate declared by INEC as the winner of the contest was slam dunk, to borrow American lingo.
In particular, the submissions by the INEC’s lawyer Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (on behalf of a team of lawyers) at the ongoing tribunal in the past couple of weeks or so has thrown the much awaited light on why the electoral umpire did not follow some of its laid down guidelines or the rules (such as online-real-time transmission of results from polling units to its severs via BVAS) advertised (not necessarily mandated by the Electoral Act 2022) but promises made by the commission and its chairman Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu.
Without a doubt, it is the silence of INEC, akin to treating Nigerians with askance by an organ of government which is supposed to be accountable to the citizens by carrying them along while executing its duties on their behalf, that has dramatically raised the post elections tensions currently wracking our country, to much more higher levels than it should have.
Now that the silence has been broken by Mr. Mahmoud who has been defending INEC at the tribunal, encouragingly, the ice is thawing between the elections organizing body and the long-suffering people of Nigeria who are always the prime victim of policies that exhibit incubus/succubus characteristics which the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN introduce and implement that ultimately negatively impact the masses.
And what that illustrates is that it is the gap in communication between INEC and the electorate on whose behalf it is supposed to be acting that is the culprit for the palpable tension that had seized the polity after elections 2023.
This is evidenced by a shortage of an effective and robust communication process which is very critical for building trust and engendering robust and smooth relationships between government or its agencies and stakeholders, particularly its strategic publics, in the instant case, the eighteen (18) political parties and their candidates whose names were on the ballot for elections 2023. That missing communication element is responsible for the nervousness presently pervading the polity and robbing off badly on Tinubu’s victory.
With INEC now speaking publicly about the events that trailed the conduct of elections 2023 through its attorney, Mr. Mahmoud which is an approach that is strikingly in consonance with its chairman, Prof Yakubu’s advice to political parties agents who had beseeched him to address their concerns about the identified anomalies in the conduct of the elections,(particularly during the collation of the results) but whom he spurned and advised to go to court: the hitherto evil spell that had filled the political space in the past couple of months appear to have been cast out or has ebbed significantly owing to the burst of actions in the tribunal that seem to have been decompressing the pressure hitherto rending the atmosphere.
Evidently, the directive that the aggrieved should go to court did not seat well with the opposition parties and their followers, who felt they were being ignominiously undermined and which is responsible for the avoidable post elections crisis that had engulfed our country.
One implication and consequence of not receiving authentic information from INEC on time is that the electorate decided to take sides against the election umpire that carried out the exercise and which owes Nigerians tax payers (owners of the N355b funds expended by INEC on the project) the duty of being informed of why things went awry, and how and why they had to be as it claims, plus the actions taken or not taken to address or mitigate the untoward situation.
As we all can attest, the tension had manifested in the call for the so called Interim National Government, ING that Nigerians generally agree has no place in our statutes book and the mindset of some aggrieved members of society, especially the Labor Party, LP Presidential standard bearer Mr Peter Obi and his running mate Datti Baba-Ahmed who are against the declared winner of the presidential race, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu being sworn into office as president on 29 May if the matter is not concluded at the tribunal.
As a counterpoint, the ruling APC and its candidate are also arguing from its own point of view which is that the 1999 constitution forbids the outgoing regime from staying a day longer than 29 May 2023.
So, by and large, the snag about the non-negotiability of the 29 May date for a new government to take over affairs in Aso Rock Villa and for the incumbent to exit is now the metaphorical elephant in the room.
In the light of the above what is being tested in the elections 2023 tribunal are sections of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which do not expressly state that a new president must be sworn in on the 29th of May or that the outgoing government must exit on 29th May, implying that the 29th May date is not sacrosanct and inviolable or is it? The other aspect of the electoral law to be untangled is the status of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT as the 37th state or part of the 36 states.
Also included are the nebulous aspects of the Electoral Act 2022 that empowers INEC chairman to determine the mode of transmission of election results which is malleable as it is subject to the bias of the chairman and his fellow board members. These are the dark spots in the 1999 constitution and Electoral Act 2022 that are tasking Our Lordships in the temple of justice.
Be that as it may, it is intriguing to me that some Nigerians are unwittingly demanding for the elongation of the term of the current regime which is not only a provision in 1999 constitution and aspect which is now in contention, but by protocol should end on 29 May.
At this juncture, I would like to confess that as a democracy enthusiast/advocate, my greatest prayer to God right from the time that the outgoing administration was being sworn into office for a second term in 2019 was that God should make president Mohammadu Buhari resist the allure of tenure elongation which defined former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime as it was alleged that he was plotting to alter during his reign, the 1999 constitution to enable him enjoy a third (3rd)term in office.
As for former president Goodluck Jonathan, he too might have been interested in tenure elongation. That is because there are options in the reports of the constitutional conference that was conducted under his watch in 2014 that proposed one term of six (6) years as an option to replace the current four (4) years per term and two (2) terms limit. And he was reportedly contemplating embracing the six (6) years option.
In my thinking, it is God’s answer to my prayers and indeed the supplications of Nigerians that president Buhari, despite the rumors that some members of his inner circles were pressurizing him to self-perpetuate has shunned the entreaties by not rescinding his decision to exit the presidency on the appointed date of 29 May,2023.
In fact, it is trite to state that the unfolding imbroglio could have offered a smokescreen for president Buhari to be tempted to remain in office beyond his constitutionally assigned term as most presidents in Africa are wont to do.
The assertion above is validated by the current situation in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Angola to mention just four (4) where the countries constitutions have been amended by incumbent presidents or prime ministers to self-perpetrate in government.
That Nigerians should be careful not to inadvertently compel the outgoing government to remain in office beyond 29 May (next month) is the central theme or message in this media intervention.
Another thing that l find fascinating in the unfolding political scenario or shebang is that the PDP and its candidate that have been assigned the second position in the presidential race by INEC have been less noisome and have only resorted to seeking a resolution of the quagmire via the courts, while restraining members of the party from taking the laws into their hands to avoid jeopardizing the peace of our country and imperiling our coveted democracy.
But that is not the attitude of leaders and members of the Labor Party, LP that was assigned the third (3) position, but has been very vociferous, (part of the realities of democracy as long as it is kept within the ambits of the law) thus heating up the polity unprecedentedly.
In a somewhat uncanny manner, because elections 2023 was supposed to be less fractious owing to the deployment of technology, the burden of finding solutions to what appears to be a very toxic outcome has been shifted to the judiciary which is the third (3rd) arm of government.
Depending on how the judiciary handles the cases brought by Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) and Labor Party (LP)against the All Progressives Party, APC and INEC, the federal government, for the purpose of this analogy can be referred to as the Incubus/ succubus that is being accused by the plaintiffs of raping them (in the terrestrial world) via the allegations that it rigged elections 2023.
With the third (3rd) arm of government (judiciary) that is currently adjudicating over the 2023 elections being dragged into the political theatre, it may be joining the ranks of the trio of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC which are some of the agencies of government that render services to the masses directly and as such in the eye of the storm therefore often highly disdained by the masses because the impact of their services have been less than satisfactory.
The underlying reason for the repugnant attitude of Nigerians towards the aforementioned agencies is simply underscored by the fact that most people believe that the actions or inactions of the entities wittingly or unwittingly are making members of the public look like they are being raped in the manner that incubus /succubus defy their victims in the dream world.
For the purpose of this narrative, I have designated the three (3) identified government agencies critical to the daily existence of citizens of Nigeria, INEC, CBN and NNPC as incubus/succubus. Depending on how things turn out, the judiciary may join the infamous club, if the masses do not agree with their decision on elections 2023. But hopefully, the INEC would convince the tribunal and by extension Nigerians that it did the right thing on 25 February for the elections on national offices and 18 March for the sub national.
Put succinctly, the incubus/succubus that is currently a triplet, may or may not become a quartet if the decision of the judiciary does not gel with the masses. But with the INEC stating emphatically through its lawyers that it did the right thing, it may win back the trust of the masses which it had lost owing to breakdown in communications between it and the electorate.
Strictly speaking, the incubus/succubus are the institutions of government charged with governance transforming duties that are adjudged by the masses to not have at one time or the other done the right thing, particularly in the view of a broad spectrum of Nigerians.
So, the aforementioned agencies are being characterized as incubus/succubus because of the obnoxious policies and programs being forced down the throats of the long-suffering Nigerian masses.
As such the hoi poloi is bemoaning the belief that they are being raped in the manner that incubus/succubus victims feel that some extra-terrestrial beings are having intercourse with them in their dreams without their consent.
Before proceeding further, allow me digress by elucidating on the concept of incubus/succubus for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the strange occurrence that borders on hallucinations.
Oxford dictionary depicts incubus as a demon in male form in folklore that seeks to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women; the corresponding spirit in female form is called a succubus. People suffering from the delusion that they have been sexually approached at night by an unseen lover are said to be suffering from incubus syndrome.
The narrative about the concept of incubus/succubus is being applied to illustrate this essay simply because a generality of Nigerians feels that the incumbent government at the center has been having unwholesome interactions, if you like intercourse with them, most of which have resulted in the multidimensional poverty currently crushing the masses.
For instance, it was expected that following the reforms of the electoral process via Electoral Act 2022 last year, INEC would be taken off the club of agencies of government exhibiting incubus/succubus tendencies thus wreaking havoc on the lives of the masses. But that has not been the case simply because of the huge gap in communication between INEC and the electorate. Hence, they fear that the rape by the incubus/succubus government would continue.
However, the nearly nine (9) million Nigerians that voted for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on 25 February are optimistic that his presidency would be the game changer for Nigeria. A critical lesson that is intrinsic in the electoral process reforms that have occurred in our beleaguered country since 1999, is that it has been a trigger for the deepening of democracy in our cherished motherland.
It indicates that the executive and legislative arms of government need to embrace the policy of constantly reforming our electoral system, so that our practice of democracy can ratchet up our country’s global rating as a nation that practices democracy in its true spirit and letter. That is as opposed to practicing an amorphous system with inclinations towards incest that only serves the interests of and is at the whims and caprices of a few political power wielding demagogues at different points in the annals of our beleaguered country.
The beauty of US constitution and her electoral system is the continuous reforms that they have gone through over the years based on experience and reflecting the constantly changing dynamics of the society.
For instance, the US constitution has been amended twenty-seven (27) times since its introduction in 1789 and the electoral system is also constantly being adapted to changes to accommodate evolving realities.
The latest adoption of reforms in the electoral system is reflected by the flexibility of allowing Americans the option of voting by mail during the last general elections which is a development compelled by COVID-19 pandemic that discouraged, and even prohibited the gathering of large number of people or crowds queuing up to vote which is the traditional and common methods of voting.
Another thing that can be taken away from the electoral process reforms in our country is that whenever it happens, the innovators or promoters are often the victims for lack of a better phrase to characterize the phenomenon.
Rather than diminish them, such patriotic acts make such leaders heroes of democracy. It is disappointing that election 2023 appears to be an exception as it did not produce such an epochal outcome.
Based on trend analysis, it would not have surprised me if president Buhari were swept off the presidency had the electoral reforms in 2022 had been carried out before 2019 when he sought re-election. But he ducked it by shying away from giving assent to the electoral bill when it was first brought to his desk during his first tenure.
Does that not indicate that Nigerian leaders typically lack the mettle to be selfless by not making sacrifices via decisions that do not only directly benefit them, but serve the best interest of the generality of Nigerians and for the good of our country as a whole?
As American political actors are wont to put it, President Buhari kicked the can down the road from 2018 to 2022 when the National Assembly, NASS first requested that he signs off on the electoral bill. That meant that the reforms got introduced after he became term barred as he could no longer be on the ballot in 2023.
As such he did not face the risk of being swept off the office of the president by the forces unleashed by elements in the electoral reforms compelling sweeping changes. The party’s 2023 presidential flag bearer Asiwaju Bola Tinubu chances of winning could have been jeopardized as he carried the burden or liability of the electoral reforms introduced last year, but being a political maverick of sorts, he was able to save himself from the calamity by winning the presidency against all odds stacked up against him both during the primaries in June last year and the general elections on 25 February this year.
As I have stated in other interventions, a national rebirth could have been possible if all the elections for the five (5) elective offices were held on 25 February as opposed to staggering it because the shocking outcome in the National Assembly, NASS results would have permeated through the walls of subterfuge and percolated all the way down to the sub national levels with a new crop of leaders emerging on the scene.
That assumption is anchored on the belief that the electorate had developed confidence in the promise by INEC chairman, Prof Yakubu that election 2023 process would be technology driven hence they trooped out in their numbers to register to vote on 25 February and 18 March. That is why the high point of elections 2023 is that a total of 93.4 million Nigerians were initially recorded as having been registered by INEC with 87 million collecting the PVCs.
For the sake of emphasis, it is worthy pointing out that reliance on technology conferred fidelity of Nigerians on the system as voters were reasonably assured that their votes would count. But Prof Yakubu seem to have dashed the hopes of the masses by not keeping to his promise.
One more amazing, if not perplexing thing about elections 2023 is that against all permutations, in light of the terribly poor performance of APC that has been in governance in the past eight (8) years, its presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu surpassed the expectations of most Nigerians by coming out triumphant.
That is in spite of all the murk raked up from his past and stacked up against him in the course of his campaign to become president of Nigeria. He commenced the journey to success in the race by stunning his rivals within the APC when he emerged as the party’s presidential candidate during the primaries where it had seemed like his victory was going to be like passing the head of a Carmel through the eyes of a needle.
For instance, based on the look on the faces of key stake holders in eagle square witnessing the primaries last year, it was clear that they were dazed because it seemed as if it was against the grain of expectations for Tinubu to win the APC primaries.
Thereafter, against the expectations of pollsters and pundits, Tinubu appears to have once again been triumphant by being declared the winner over his competitors in the 25 February presidential polls if the process is proven in the election tribunal and perhaps in the Supreme Court to have been conducted freely, fairly and transparently.
In a development that can be deemed as a meteoric rise in global stature, instead of being diminished, the highly influential Time Magazine has just named Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world alongside president Joe Biden of the US and King Charles of England amongst others.
That is amazing because Tinubu is a man that was mocked for what seemed like a gaffe when he was making a pitch in Ogun state in the nascent stages of his quest to become Nigeria’s president “emilokan” in Yoruba dialect translated as ‘‘it is my turn’’ in English language. By getting into the time magazine list of top 100 most influential people in the world, it does appear indeed as if it is his turn to shine.
Having said that, the existential reality that democracy watchers in Nigeria must keep in mind is that election exercises in our country since it was first held in 1922 have never met up to the standard or stipulated criteria in the constitution or electoral laws.
And it is heart wrenching that over a millennium after an election to choose political leaders was first conducted in Nigeria (1922) elections 2023 has been tagged the worst in the history of our country by the INEC declared losers.
But the camp of the winner relying on statistics from past elections since the return of multi-party democracy in our clime since 1999, have pushed back by insisting that elections 2023 is indeed the freest and fairest using amongst other criterion, the number of lives lost during previous elections as their barometer.
That in my view is exactly why much earlier than now, the INEC Chairman Prof Mahmoud Yakubu should have explained his rationale for not keeping to his much-vaunted promise to upload the results of the presidential election real-time-online from the BVAS into its server for public viewing as he repeatedly promised Nigerians and which is why the declared winner’s mandate is currently branded as tainted.
Failure to convince Nigerians of its impartiality and sincerity of purpose is the bogey of the otherwise fairly well-organized election exercise at accreditation and voting stages until the process of arriving at the result got subjected to the biases of the election umpire.
To resolve the current disputations over INEC’s award of victory to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the chagrin of his closest rivals, Waziri Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi, who have rejected the verdict, apart from providing the true results captured in the BVAS, lawyers, individually or as a group, would have to come out with a less controversial new formula for determining what can be considered 2/3rd majority of the FCT (if it applies) in the manner that in 1979,Chief Richard Akinjide, then lawyer to NPN came up with the imperfect number twelve (12) and half (1/2) as the two thirds (2/3) of then nineteen (19) states that make up the federation.
I suspect that it is as a result of the complication arising from getting a correct ratio in the mathematically odd number of states (19) that an even number (36) states were created to prevent future occurrence.
It is my fervent belief that when the dust finally settles on elections 2023, the status of the FCT either as a state or mayoralty would be made clearer to avoid the type of constitutional lacuna that necessitated the introduction of the Doctrine of Necessity following the sudden passage of late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010 without transmitting power to then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan.
While it is welcoming that the attorney for INEC is now shedding light on what informed INEC’s decisions, the obvious lack of transparency and communication about how the exercise was conducted by INEC chairman and his team much earlier than now has been an avoidable major blithe on elections 2023.
That is because it smacks of lack of accountability to the citizens of Nigeria who the electoral umpire owes the duty of explaining its actions, inactions, and constraints.
Furthermore, one is also wondering why up till now, none of the twelve (12) members men and women comprising of a former media practitioner and a civil society advocate that constitute INEC board has broken ranks with the chairman to let Nigerians in on any impropriety in the form of sinister action or inactions that might have taken place in the course of the conduct of the 2023 election, if indeed that is the case as being alleged by the aggrieved.
During the election process in Kenya, last year, some members of the electoral body expressed dissenting views on the verdict. In Nigeria, it was alleged by a governorship candidate from the stable of Africa Democratic Congress, ADC in Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Ezekiel Nya Etok that the Director of Information and Communications Technology, ICT Chidi Nwafor was six months before the conduct of the polls transferred to Enugu ostensibly to keep him out of the loop in order for the electoral umpire to circumvent the technological system in favor of the ruling party’s candidate.
It may also be recalled that the returning officer in Rivers state had alleged that there was threat to his life and threatened to, before indeed resigning from the position.
So, also was a certain Prof Ibrahim Adamu Yakassai who was the returning officer for Tudun/Doguwa elections in Kaduna state also under threat and therefore in mortal fear for the safety of his life.
Although the chairman of INEC Prof Yakubu is being lampooned in the public square as the villain of election 2023, none of the board members seems to be keen on being the hero by exposing the dirty tricks that took place in INEC if indeed there was such perfidy. Or perhaps there is none after all?
It is instructive that in the United States of America, USA, an election returning officer and Secretary of State in the state of Georgia, Mr. Brad Raffensperger had claimed with a recorded audio evidence that former president Donald Trump had attempted to induce him to compromise the last presidential election process in that country by awarding him votes that he did not earn. And he instantly became a hero of democracy.
Not in the manner that PDP chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu in the aftermath of the party’s presidential primaries hailed Governor Aminu Tambuwal as ‘the hero of democracy’ which fanned the embers of dissent and division as it infuriated the G-5 governors that set one of the numerous fires that eventually consumed the party.
It is even more remarkable because Mr. Rafenseberger is actually a Republican Party member, but for the sake of integrity and as a patriot, he did not only decline the request of then president Donald Trump’s request to illegally award him unearned votes, he bravely spoke out against the leader of his party or blew the whistle against him, as it were.
To arrive at a balanced analysis, I would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me play good-cop and bad-cop at this point. Why has the type of patriotism exhibited in the US by Rafenseberger not been exhibited in Nigeria by INEC officials?
Does it mean we no longer have men and women of integrity in our country or there is really nothing untoward during the election exercise worthy of hiding because they were all transparent and the entire board members were unanimous in the decisions?
Why is it that there appears to be a magnificent firewall built around INEC officials hence there has been no dissenting voices amongst them, and there has not been an equally formidable firewall (cybersecurity etc) mounted around its technology to make it robust enough and as such prevent the glitch in the transmission of results which it claims as having marred the collation of some of the election 2023 results?
It is difficult not to attribute the negative vibes about the authenticity of the mandate of the president-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to INEC which has by every reasonable measure been very sloppy in the discharge of its responsibilities to the electorate.
If INEC had been transparent by sharing with Nigerians all the information currently being disseminated by its lawyers, the political atmosphere would have been different and Tinubu’s victory would have been less contentious and his presidential mandate would have been deemed as spick and span
Without doubt, there is clearly a disconnect between INEC elections processes, promises and action and the reality after the elections. And the identified gaps need to be filed going forward.
At the end of the court processes, one cannot foretell whether the presidential elections would be upturned as demanded by the aggrieved candidates and parties that have proceeded to the tribunals to seek justice. That is the prerogative of the revered Lordships in the temple of justice.
But one thing that is guaranteed is that the Electoral Act 2022 would be updated to cover the inherent gaps being exposed, just as there would be a review of the 1999 constitution of which some aspects constitute ambiguities that are in the center of the current political imbroglio.
It is rather fortuitous that there is already a consensus of opinion that our current statutes document has been overdue for amendments, therefore the lawmakers that would form the 10th NASS would be compelled to attend to that duty urgently. And the president-elect Tinubu being a progressive, one is convinced that he would serve as the wind behind sail on the matter of constitutional reforms to be carried out by NASS.
Equally importantly, the jurisprudence on elections in Nigeria’s checkered democracy would be enriched because there is every likelihood that the Supreme Court would be the final adjudicator in the light of the fact that the plaintiffs/complainants seem determined to pursue the matter to its logical conclusions by taking the struggle to the highest echelons of the judicial system.
Going by the most current experience from the Supreme Court, when it weighs in with its invaluable wisdom on any matter,(let’s discount its opaque decisions or award of victory in governorship elections in Rivers and Imo states and senatorial contests by a few privileged personalities) a eureka moment from the world of the judiciary to the polity would be engendered in the manner that the naira redesign/old and new currency swap ruling by the apex court brought respite to embattled Nigerians who are currently gradually being eased out of the pernicious policy that triggered non-access to cash by the masses which had wrought havoc on the poor and powerless as well as the affluent and powerful alike.
There is a conventional wisdom that goes thus: after the rain (which has been falling on Nigeria and Nigerians especially since the conclusion of elections 2023) comes sunshine.
All things being equal, since the judiciary has weighed in with its wisdom that hopefully would be anchored on patriotism as opposed to any primordial influence, the sun would soon be shining over Nigeria once again.