THE DAY, NIGERIAN INEC WAS CAUGHT BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
By Chucks Dominic Morsi
Lately, Nigerians have started losing hope and confidence in INEC. There is no argument, the general feeling of revulsion against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which culminated in the aftermath of the 25th February, 2023 election can be in every way possible, justified. Good enough, INEC need our support, if only their intentions were to put Nigeria and Nigerians first. But instead of trying to make Nigeria better, unfortunately, they now make us feel otherwise. Personally, the reason for my reserved resentment is simple. INEC, betrayed our trust. And for some other reasons, your guess is as good as me.
However, INEC should be blamed for whatever that had happened to that election. The pains they made Nigerians went through. Be it good or bad, they should admit full responsibility. They will always be held accountable to what happen with the elections in Nigeria. Agreed, INEC authority is human and not saints, yet, they ought to operate in the interest of international best practices, at least, to be applauded or given a path on the back, for a job well done.
To start with, by oath of allegiance and according to law, INEC has the statutory rights as well as power de jure and de facto (meaning, by law and in reality) to conduct credible election in Nigeria on the basis of fairness and honesty. I mean, a transparent process voids of unnecessary interference, partiality, partisanship or favoritism. But by practice and in reality, drawing a conclusion from the recent past election in Nigeria, INEC completely lost it. Of course, INEC officials couldn’t have disavowed claim of innocence in the widespread misconduct witnessed during the election. And with what happened during that election, it was as fraught as ever in the way INEC handled the process couple with the overblown results, which called for the people’s nationwide great disappointment that followed suit. Would Nigerians ever forgive INEC? I doubt!
Shockingly, in the just concluded 2023 elections with litigations (still going on here and there) in court, awaiting fair hearing (but I doubt also, if there would ever be a fair hearing!) Generally, the deleterious effect of INEC’s inconsistency or maybe intentionally, without realizing it, skillfully engaged in election maneuvering and manipulations, ultimately, is yet drawing public outcry. And let’s not forget, that the Will of the people is too sacrosanct to be toyed with by any group of people or institution. Truth be told, the unwholesome mannerism on the part of INEC has created a discontentment around the world and apathy attitude among Nigerians (especially the youth population) who now hold on to the notion that their votes doesn’t count anymore. Why? They yet don’t believe that anything good can come out of INEC or does Nigeria have anything to offer them; no, not with this present crop of selfish leaders.
To them, INEC must always do what they know how to do best – “Vote rigging” to their favor or at other times, aiding and abating shady politicians – many of whom, have questionable character. On the side of the devil, INEC have purposefully attracted sharp criticism upon itself, thus, facing the wrath of the people with great condemnation from those who feel in many ways than one, cheated or disenfranchised. On the other side of the deep blue sea, the institution keeps sinking deeper in mess with so many controversies they must have to contend with, which in the future may make or mar the commission. Either way, it will be difficult for INEC to survive the tides; except it make its ways right. However, the attitude of politicians who are often aided by INEC (as alleged) to have been influencing situations in order to always have their way or get what they want at all cost, is unacceptable. To us Nigerians, this is not normal, but an absurd situation if not a notorious miscarriage of justice in which the victor becomes the victim.
Go back in time, you will recall that, there have been many court cases with overwhelming evidences, which ordinarily, should nail most INEC officials for playing one dirty role or another sort of prank during elections, but at the end, the judiciary puts a sock in it, then Nigerians will have no option, then to keep quiet with this kind of ‘Sidon and look’ attitude. But for how long? In this country, how many electoral offenders were caught, prosecuted or jailed for the wrong reasons? If any, I hope it should serve as a deterrent to others. That sometimes, in Nigeria is difficult because power and money must change hand. Corruption becomes the in thing!
In sharing our past experiences, the problem of the Nigerian electoral commission did not start today. Cast your mind back to 1979 election that heralded the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the then FEDECO (Federal Electoral commission) was the electoral umpire and as we have always had it, that election process with evidences was marred by rigging and irregularities as the then NPN party was alleged to have alongside the electoral body, rigged the election. That was yet another case of fascism brought to bear. There has never been a generation of INEC chairman that doesn’t give Nigerians reason to complain. For a reminder, counting from Professor Humphrey Nwosu to the era of Professor Maurice Iwu to Professor Jaga to the present chairman, the story is similar just that the difference between those and now, is that the body is advancing the method and technique of rigging with reference to technology, which is aiding the entire process and making the whole matter worrisome.
So, INEC issue is not about who is there or what tribe he belongs, but it’s about the process, it’s about a responsibility that the body owe the Nigerian people, but they are never ready to fulfill. In which case, there must have to be a broken bound between INEC and Nigerians. This rift may continue to deepen, because of a bad status quo that need to be changed rather than defending it. If you may recall, 8 years ago, the election that brought the ruling party to power was wrapped in controversies, but to let peace reign, there was a solution as the then serving president, Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in order to avoid the story that touch. Everybody knew what happened then, but the people decided to make the nation more important than dragging us into what would have been an unnecessary war.
Apparently, Nigerian situation is that of, the more you look, the less you see. A case in point, in 2023 election and the BVA device manipulation couldn’t have been forgotten in a hurry. That once again, questions the value of INEC. Do they respect the rights of Nigerians at all? For the ruling party, the action or inactions of INEC as far as they are concerned is justified in whichever way, provided they are favored. Even in the face of a broad daylight rape on the mandate of the people just to please a few individuals who have formed a cabal fraternity at the expense of Nigerian growth and prosperity?
What a paradox!
Like I said, INEC ought to have been as it was created to be: unbiased umpire, faithful, patriotic, just, and equitably fair to all, irrespective of party affiliation or ethnic nationality. As an independent institution, how independent were they during the just concluded election of 25th February, 2023? Though most people celebrated the “victory” but condemned in strong terms, the process by which, INEC came about the result upon which, a “winner” emerged. But how popular was that victory? Yes, the process was questionable and even the devils knew it! By the way, an election cannot be said to be credible when the process is bias and questionable. More so, massively condemned by a popular demand.
Against this backdrop, in matters of election, INEC should always provide a level playing ground without having to thwart the ambition of opposition parties. INEC must learn how to conduct a free and fair election, and it is only then that the body can come out clean. But rather than playing a neutral role, like a Right-Wing politician in other clime, whose aim and mandate is usually to favor a strong central government in power and does not allow room for opposition, again, INEC in that instance goofed!
As we know it over the years, INEC as an institution, holds this strong penchant or a strong fascination (directly or indirectly) for parties in power. Understandably so, they were put there by powers that be, therefore, INEC does the will of the masters. No doubt, 2023 election speaks volume and was by all parameter, a shamble marred by so many irregularities and manipulations. For example, here and there in the various States of the federation, the allegations and counter-allegations before and during election, in this instance, those who were thought to have won, were made scape-goats for INEC’S gross misconduct and failure. As a fascist sympathizer (of some sort and haven some kind of soft spot for the ruling party) INEC became distracted and again, their attention was diverted which eventually led to a stolen mandate; especially with an unusual, better still, unprecedented voting pattern that we witnessed, which swept across the country was like a tsunami, but alas, alas, the mandate of the people was scuttled and denied. What a country!
By the way, May 29th is around the corner, the delay of justice so far so good, hoping is not going to be a denial of the people’s popular yearnings. Back and forth, we keep groping inauspiciously in the dark as a nation. But why?
Moreover, with the pockets of cases here and there, INEC was found to be behind the mess and other controversies they are cleverly and doggedly too, defending with the tool of the media. First, in all the controversies, the body should realize that they gave room for it, through compromising their oath of allegiance. Again, judging from the February, 25th election, how innocent could INEC be, if we were in a normal society where things work and justice is free and fair? Of course, any right-thinking person knew how the game of the masters was played out and as for fairness, once again, INEC was found culpable.
To put the record straight and for the purpose of argument, let us link the attitude and impunity with which INEC handle elections in this country on the basis of fascism as I earlier mentioned, is not just unfair but in a way, one would assume that INEC with all its act of authoritarianism is denying Nigerians of their rights and constantly engaging in manipulation of election results, meaning that, the body is intentionally and forcibly silencing the voice and the will of the people. That for me, is “dictatorship”.
A dictatorial process is a situation whereby INEC uses its power in an unreasonable way making Nigerians to do it in their own way and not necessarily listening to the people or care about the views or wishes of the Nigerian people. That is highhandedness. That on its own, is fascist attitude. And, that is treacherous enough. Many a time, INEC have allowed dubious politicians to get votes illicitly taking advantage of us Nigerians by cheating or robbing us of our legitimate votes. As it stands today, Nigerians feel deeply hurt because our right was trampled upon and others, sadly disenfranchised. Let me make it abundantly clear that, I am not writing this article because I belong to APC, PDP or LP. On the contrary, I am airing my view as a disenfranchised Nigerian. People according to their conscience. I also, write according to the prompting of my conscience and I believe no one can gag or muffle my voice or the right to express myself according to a good conscience and then, as a Nigerian.
Of course, any right-thinking Nigerian would disapprove INEC and then question their credibility status as far as the 25th February election is concerned. With the result of that election, Nigerians starred in horrified shock (perhaps some are yet to get over the shock) as they watched INEC dashed their hope. They saw how INEC helped in puncturing an electoral wheel of progress, which would have otherwise, given us as Nigerians our best choice. Yet, again, it was thwarted. In this and other matters of concern, INEC sinned against us! This singular act, by and large, is a big slap on the face of our democracy. Moreover, a shame to our nation.
However, INEC may admit they are not fascist, but, on the other hand, they are supporting fascism by every practice they hold so dear! INEC, as a matter of honesty, if they must earn Nigerians confidence again, trust and reputation, this is the time for them to begin to retrace their steps, otherwise, they might be seating on a time bomb that might eventually consume us all as a nation. They must need to restore their dignity and the only way out is through: fairness, honesty and integrity (if they still have any one left). INEC, if you ask me, is using a system of political repression that restricts the people of their rights to choose who they want. And by the time, they continue this way to control our emotions and desires and not allowing us to express ourselves through the ballot paper, choosing a candidate of our choice, the consequence of imposing candidates on us, would be far-reaching.
Therefore, no one or institution in this country should do anything detrimental or bring us as a people to the brink of revolution. We have just one Nigeria and we must do the right thing to keep the country as one without rancor or initial that begin with INEC stands for ‘Independent’ but today, the powers that be have hijacked that “I” crippling its relevance and now INEC is weakened, taken orders rather than been independent. For that also, Nigerians who feel aggrieved with this kind of ambivalent ill-feeling division.
Paradoxically, the “I” toward INEC and its unfair process, is waiting to one day, throw a stone at these injustices everywhere in Nigeria.
The advocacy here is, Nigerians are saying to the powers that be to please allow INEC to handle decisions without being intimated, negatively influenced by ruling parties or any external body. The institution should have a greater autonomy to discharge its duty, responsibly. Interferences of any kind can easily silent the voice of INEC instead of doing the right thing.
So, rather than creating this war of attrition between INEC and the masses, politicians who are often having selfish motives, should learn how to mind their business and allow the will of the people to prevail over all selfish interest. So long as INEC is not given the freedom to call spade a spade, we shall continue to experience situations similar to February 25th. Let INEC be as independent as it should be. And when it is not allowed to do so, that will continue to attenuated the relevance of the institution. With the level of disappointment people now have with INEC, they will be a high level of apathy in subsequent elections in this country, except we do the needful.