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The Nasarawa Elections Debacle: INEC Assumes Electoral Advisory Role, All Eyes on Courts


By Morgan Omeri

The 2023 general elections in Nigeria have come and gone leaving behind a trail of questions and doubts. Unprecedented number of Nigerians across the country left their homes on the respective days of 25th February and 18th March, 2023 to exercise their civic duty of voting  new sets of their preferred leaders for the federal and state electoral positions. Some of these positions were actually up for re-validation to another term of 4 years or be shown the exit doors out of government house.

At the count and collation of votes, the electoral umpire in this case, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is expected to declare winners of those who participated and won in tandem with the constitution and electoral guidelines act 2022 as amended, approved by the National Assembly and accented to by Mr. President for the elections.

However, given the reported widespread electoral misconducts, irregularities and non-compliance with the electoral laws, it is usually tempting in such situations to ponder in believe or disbelieve on who truly voted and who did not, and if they are included or excluded in the numbers being reeled out?: Was it truly Nigerians or did INEC merely camouflage as conducting elections so as to have opportunity to select who they want? What actually is the role of INEC and its officials whether ad-hoc or statutory in the conduct of elections and whether such staff are free to invent their own rules no matter what the feelings and outcomes would be?

These answers here may not be far-fetched; not after reading a series of tweets and essays by my friend the erudite Professor Anthony Kila who likes writing and noting satires in books, columns and talks on the way we are. To say the least, the latest distasteful shenanigans of the supposed electoral umpire in many parts of the country especially, the gubernatorial and state assemblies’ elections raised more questions than answers. So would the role of some security agencies too.

There were many observed actions by some candidates, security personnel, and even officials of INEC that were at polar parallels with the provisions of the Electoral Act in Nigeria. And most of these contrasting electoral immorality were within the purview of INEC to call out, address, review, or take statutory action to either moderate, curb or eliminate decent to such uncanny behavior. But we scarcely saw any such decisive and constitutional actions except in Abia, Plateau, Adamawa and perhaps Taraba where the State Returning Officers Chose integrity and nation building as the best options. Actually, we witnessed the opposite in many states. Borno, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger and a host of others. We saw INEC in communion and with hijackers of electoral due processes, sponsors of thuggery and electoral vandalism, and perpetrators of the gory disenfranchisement of the people’s will that has almost become the hallmark of governance and politicking in Nigeria doing their thing with gusto and pride. We saw this in many parts of the country, too many to recount.

Perhaps what was most notable was INEC’s assumption of the role of electoral advisor rather than an elections manager, a role prescribed for it in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act 2022 as amended. The INEC assumed this new unconstitutional role at both national and subnational levels by proudly advising frustrated stakeholders in the ill-conducted elections to “Go to court.” The National Chairman Mahmood Yakubu led the way, cueing his cronies at subnational levels. Yet, what these usurpers of Nigerians’ rights and civic franchise missed are; (1) We all know the road to the court and don’t need their advice on that, and (2) They are mandated by the constitution to listen to all aggrieved concerns by all parties and review them objectively and on their merits, before adjudicating outcomes. By this “advice”, INEC summarily averred that their integrity and confidence in the results they announced are in doubt, even by themselves. If not, why ask the judiciary to do what is your rightful duty to execute blamelessly in the first place? More so, did the presiding INEC officials actually miss these important cues or were they acting on instruction or by the impulse of oiled hands from their prior visits to the bedchambers of their benefactors? I am only wondering aloud.

Contrarily in Taraba state, the State Collation Officer, after announcing the result, claimed on return to Bauchi his base, to have done so under duress and fear for his life. The law recognizes his actions and we leave that to the security authorities and intelligence agencies to unravel the factuality and nature of threat. His country owes him this much in order to encourage others to do the right things always. Also, we recall the actions of one Professor Nnenaya Oti who stopped, listen to complains from fellow compatriots and decided to crosscheck the results being announced. Again she acted within the law and this earned her accolades from far and wide including her students to the admiration of many across the globe  Commendable.

Now to Nasarawa state. interestingly, the State Collation officer, one professor Ishaya Tanko did a complete opposite. His the excuse? “ I am only an announcer and would not cross check what was given to me  to announce” This after observations were raised by Party Agents and accredited observers. As INEC official, he had access to INEC facilities most of all the digital device deployed for the exercise which all he needed to do was pause, check or cross check and then proceed to make his announcement. He failed when character tested him unlike his colleagues.

To compound the dire situation, the Resident Electoral Commissioner Dr. Uthman A. Ajidagba confirmed INEC position as being more an electoral advisor than an elections manager. After blatantly disregarding all legitimate and procedural objections raised by different stakeholders at the collation venue, he too said, “Go to court.” Amazingly, how do one explain that a sitting Governor Abdu Alhaji Sule who was losing after the collation of 99.6% of the results in the state suddenly emerged as the winner based on results from only 2 wards at the announcement of the 13th LGA? While you may argue that it is possible—I agree, consider the fact that in the polling units that provided inflated counts—Gayam and Chiroma, the figures for the gubernatorial polls exceeded the total number of accredited voters and the total counts for the State House of assembly member in the same elections. That is outright misapplication or miscalculation of figures in favour of the governorship candidate of the APC—a cheap, mindless one at that. And again, if the REC and his accomplices were well-intentioned, why ask the collation center to reconvene at 9.00 a.m., then arrive between the hour of 5am and 6.00 a.m early Monday morning to declare the result? That smells F.O.U.L.

Furthermore, Gov. A.A. Sule was caught on voice recording sharing with his cronies during a meeting in Akwanga how he rigged the elections by instructing INEC (how ridiculous!) to stall the announcement of results from the two wards in Lafia LGA, which he considered to be his stronghold and an easy manipulation point, until all other results had come in, so that if the results weren’t in his favour, they would inflate the Lafia results to accomplish their shenanigan. Apparently, the governor knew what we all knew, that he was unpopular with the people and he was not their choice for the next four years. Yet, by ill-intentions, he chose to circumvent the will of the people and enthrone himself as their governor against their want. Only irresponsible and morally bankrupt leaders act so, which, unfortunately, the 2023 general elections proved that we have more of in Nigeria than we cared to admit. Now we know them by faces and names.

At this point, with the electoral umpire turned an electoral puppet, all eyes are now turned to the judiciary to right the colossal wrongs. They told us to go to court, at national and state levels. So, lets meet in Court. We are responsible democrats with agile consciences, so we are committed to doing what is right. But will our courts of competent jurisdiction do likewise? Will our courts uphold the timeless trust reposed on them as the last hope and resort of the common man? Will our courts side with the people whose rights have been brutishly stolen and restore their will? The days ahead will tell. And posterity is watching, assured that every man will receive due recompence for their actions, one way or the other.

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