By Tonnie Iredia
When a few weeks back, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, the Electoral Commissioner who ‘supervised’ the rerun Ekiti Governorship election reportedly resigned her appointment, it was hasty if not scaring to rejoice over the cheering news. We doubted it because to start with, we could not immediately verify the story.
Second, it is a strange phenomenon because the culture of public officials resigning from office is virtually alien to us. In other lands, for example, at least one office-holder would have resigned on the basis of vicarious liability if his country like ours was unable to prevent an Independence Day bomb blast that killed some citizens.
That is not our style. What we normally do is to condemn the act as the handiwork of unpatriotic elements and then give the firm assurance that everyone should go about his lawful duty as the law enforcement agencies are forever fully on top of every matter. So, if what normally takes place in all our elections happens in Ekiti why should we not doubt that anyone would resign over that?
Third, since the Lady resigned earlier and later rescinded it, how would one know if this second resignation would be different? After all, the reasons she gave for the first resignation were not frivolous. Part of why she resigned was because votes from eight of the 11 wards in Ido-Osi were allegedly collated at a police station contrary to the provision of the Electoral Act stipulating that votes must be collated at INEC designated centres. In addition, the results were not signed by any agent.
Meanwhile, no one is sure of what Adebayo is up to now as her resignation is not with immediate effect. We hear she would remain on seat till next next month. It is even possible that she is yet to resign because the information was made known by her at an impromptu meeting with her heads of departments and electoral officers in Akure.
It is also possible that she has actually resigned but may have already withdrawn it again considering that she does not normally give reasons for changing her mind. We should also remember that she is one of Nigeria’s lucky few whose resignations are turned down by government.
However, it is unfortunate to compel a man to serve as the referee of a game against his wish. We are thus free to deduce, especially from the silence of government on its role in the Adebayo saga that the electoral commissioner was officially used to rig the election. Against that background, we can condemn the government and the lady but we must stop there.
More public office holders involved in the Ekiti electoral drama ought to be publicly indicted. Prominent among this group are the National Electoral Commissioners who superseded Ayoka Adebayo in the supervision of the event. As Adebayo herself has revealed “I was actually not responsible for the Ekiti poll rerun election, especially in Ido-Osi. Some national commissioners came from the headquarters to take charge and I was just in my office.”
We also know now through her that N250 million bribe was collected by some INEC officials during the rerun gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. If, as Adebayo has now explained she did not take part in the sharing of the money, who and who did? To sweep issues like this under the carpet in the hope that all will be well with INEC because a reputable team led by Jega has been put in place is to say the least naive.
The other day, a friend pleaded with me passionately to help his brother get posted from his present employment to INEC. His brother’s interest I was told was influenced by the fact that their neighbour who works with INEC comes home with a brand new car after every rerun election.
We should never be silent over corruption stories involving election personnel. If we do, being assigned to be part of a rerun election would continue to be for INEC officials what posting to a check-point means to the police. Talking about police, another thing we can ill-afford to be silent over is the ineffectual enforcement of our electoral law. In the Ekiti case, for example, some disturbing events allegedly occurred in two locations – Oye Ekiti and Ido-Osi- that should not be swept under the carpet.
i) Following a tip-off that a ‘distinguished’ Senator of the Federal Republic had engaged some thugs on voting day in Oye-Ekiti, to massively thumb-print ballot papers, in his house, the irate voters mobilised themselves and moved into the venue of the illegal act. Did this actually happen? Is it true that they caught the ‘distinguished’ red-handed with 36 thugs involved in the act? If so, what is the name of the Senator?
ii)Mr. John Ahmadu, the then Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations -DIG (OPS) reportedly appeared at the scene with a team of policemen and saved the delinquents from being lynched. True or false? If true, how did the said DIG (OPS) and the Police institution handle the case?
iii) Is it true that in Ifaki, election did not hold at all because thugs beat up anybody who showed any interest in the election process? If this allegation is wrong who beat up independent election observers and monitors in the town? One of the officially accredited observers beaten up was the respected Dr. Abubakar Momoh. At that point where were the police?
The above points obviously underscore the importance of the recent meeting between INEC and the law enforcement agencies on the issue of securing the election process. Although INEC did well to have initiated that move, it needs to know that it did nothing new.
In our time in the Electoral Commission, we did not only relate with the agencies collectively, we set up a technical committee made up of election and security personnel to continuously deal with the subject. And, this was after a two-day brain-storming session of all the relevant actors in Jos and was declared open by the then Chief of General Staff, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, on Friday, June 22, 1990.
To benefit from the experiences of those who handled the subject in the past, we brought in Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey, former FEDECO Chairman and Mr. Sunday Adewusi, retired Inspector-General of Police.
With all this, it is obvious that the best way to secure our elections is to appropriately penalise any official whose location or assignment experiences any security lapse. Meetings alone will not work as widespread violence and allegations of ballot snatching which characterised last Wednesday’s by-election into the seat of Moba Constituency 1 of the Ekiti State House of Assembly have shown.