APart from serial demonstrations of gross incompetence by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under Professor Attahiru Jega, which we analysed in the first part of this article, the nation’s Chief Electoral Officer seems determined to implement a dangerous sectional agenda that will guarantee explosive outcomes starting from 2015.
Before I go on, let me reflect on my understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of the creation of the INEC in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
Even though the INEC is one of the Federal Executive Bodies, the word “independent” is meant to depict its non-attachment to any branch of government or alignment to any political interest. A careful examination of the Third Schedule (Part I) of the Constitution which creates the INEC and spells out its functions reveals, in a nutshell, that the INEC is a regulator of elections and political parties, as well as an unbiased umpire moderating relations between the political parties and political interests in the country. To underscore this, the Constitution empowers the President, subject to the approval of the Senate, to appoint the INEC Chairman and 12 other National Electoral Commissioners, who shall be elderly and experienced people of “unquestionable integrity”.
In effecting this appointment, our amiable President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, ensured that the 12 National Commissioners were evenly distributed among the six geopolitical zones, with two coming from each. The Chairman, being the 13th person, is expected to be a tie-breaker, and to use that power in the overall interest of the nation. He is not to deploy it to promote the narrow interests of any political party, political interest or sectional interest.
As I noted in the first part of this article, successive INEC Chairmen and Boards before Jega (except Prof Humphrey Nwosu) were always accused of sloppy jobs that tended to benefit the ruling parties and governments. They were accused of dancing to the tune of the piper’s paymaster, and hence the high clamour for people of integrity who would stand firm and assert the Commission’s independence. I have yet to read or hear anyone accusing past Boards of pursuing dangerous ethnic or sectional agenda. This is the sad aspect that Jega is bringing on board. This much is evident in some of the recent reported activities in the Commission. Of particular reference are the hot-button issues of the suspended 30,000 additional polling units and the posting of certain officers to handle crucial aspects of the Commission’s job in manners suggestive of colluding with external forces to foist an evil, anti-democratic agenda on us.
Less than one year to the 2015 general elections, Jega announced the Commission’s intention to establish additional 30,000 polling units in the country. His reason, on the surface, sounded patriotic. According to him, the idea was to decongest polling units and reduce the stress which voters go through on polling day. If Jega had followed the law and respected the philosophy of being an unbiased umpire, this would have been greatly welcomed as a step forward for our democracy. But the way he distributed the polling units triggered an explosive controversy which forced him to shelve it after realising that insistence would be foolhardy.
Jega reportedly shared the polling units without taking along the National Commissioners and the Resident Electoral Commissioners in the 36 states of the federation as the law expects. Secondly, he did not follow the constitutional prescription of using the Registration Areas. If he had done so, there would have been 8,809 new polling units, as reported inSunday Vanguard penultimate Sunday. The sharing formula between the three geopolitical regions of the North and those of the South would have been 4,611 for the North and 4,198 for the South. Nobody would have complained beyond the old grouse that the North’s numerical advantage over the South is based on mere political favoritism. Life would have moved on.
Jega, instead, shared out the extra polling units in a most provocative and shamelessly skewed manner, giving the North 21,000 and the South 8,000. Had he applied the albeit criticised existing formula, it should have been North: 15,610; and South: 14, 413. Not only that, Jega’s breakdown of the 30,000 polling units by geopolitical zones went as follows: North – 7,900; North East – 5,291; North Central – 6,318; South West – 4,160; South-South – 3,087; South East – 1,120 and FCT – 1,160. The share of the North West alone rivalled those of the combined three zones of the South, while the South East, core home to the Igbos, one of Nigeria’s three major ethnic groups, got less than the FCT! No explanation that Jega offered made any sense or justified this unbelievable sharing formula.
Perhaps, as part of the hidden plot towards manipulating the 2015 elections to produce a predetermined result, Jega appointed those clearly identified as Northern “hawks” based on their established record of unabashed narrow-minded approach to their job at the Commission, to head departments that will determine the deployment of staff and logistics. While Nuru Yakubu was given charge of Logistics and Operations in recent postings, Hajiya Amina Zakari was posted to take charge of recruitment of new staff.
The overall implication of all these administrative shenanigans by Jega and his closed circuit of ethnic cohorts in the Commission, analysts believe, is part of ongoing plots on several fronts to ensure that a Northerner emerges as president by all possible means in 2015. According to this line of thought, the 30,000 could give the North access to millions of extra votes which could be allocated to a Northern candidate by manipulating figures. Secondly, the nightmare faced by Nigerians in all parts of the country as a result of shortage of registration materials could be a dress rehearsal for the presidential election, whereby there could be deliberate failure of logistics and operations as well as deployment of staff in certain targeted areas.
The INEC can announce any figure for the presidential candidate favoured by Jega’s cabal in the Commission and their outside supporters/sponsors, and dare anyone who disagrees to go to court. This may seem like a mere wild speculation, but then, it can happen. By then it will be too late. The country could spin out of control, and there may never be a Federal Government for anyone to preside over with ill-gotten electoral mandate.
Apart from this hypothetical scenario, it is also evident that Jega has divided the country with his unpatriotic posturing as a sectional warrior. It is no longer a hidden fact that the National Commissioners are split along the lines of Arewa (North East and North West) versus the rest (South East, South West, South-South and North Central), and he is on the side of Arewa against the rest. This has never happened.
It is a total betrayal of the spirit, letters and philosophy of the INEC. Jega has taken the Electoral Commission from frying pan to fire, and all well-meaning Nigerians should come together and persuade him to step down or be bundled out. Those who are egging him on are enemies of the unity, peace, progress and continued survival of Nigeria. They are a tiny minority among us, yet we know that diseases that eventually kill usually start small and grow big, unless they are squelched early enough.
We want a free, fair and acceptable election in 2015. Whoever wins let him be president of Nigeria. Let Nigerians decide with their votes. Away with sectional demonry!