By Emmanuel Aziken
It was not surprising that the error in the certificate of return presented to President Muhammadu Buhari and his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was celebrated in social media as evidence of one of the several gaffes in the election.
After a hard-won victory, the certificate of return presented to Buhari had him as being returned as president while Osinbajo also in his certificate of return was also returned as president!
That slip has caused the commission to be the subject of serious mockery and derision in social media.
As some said, the commission was so fixated in making up the figures that its officials could not do the simple job of producing a clean copy of the certificate of return for the winners of the election.
The gaffe over the certificate of return reflects the many slips that characterised an election that many Nigerians expected to have been an improvement over the 2015 polls conducted under the chairmanship of Prof. Attahiru Jega.
The Mahmood Yakubu commission had promised much. The revolutionary step in setting fixed dates for elections was one of such. Just as in the United States where the elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in an election year, Prof. Yakubu had provided that Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on the third Saturday of February in the election year.
Governorship and state legislative houses would also hold two weeks later
The first progression into error by the Yakubu commission was the illogical decision to hold the presidential election before the lower grade election. Why start building your house from the roof this reporter asked the chairman on the sidelines of a conference in Abuja some months ago. His reaction was neither here nor there.
Elections held at the beginning of the Second, Third and Fourth Republics always started from the grassroots at the local government level and climaxed with the presidency. The reason for this was to build progressively upon what was down at the lower level towards choosing the best for the country. It also helped to avoid the bandwagon effect.
However, incumbent presidents somehow always changed the order. The reason was to compel governors to work for the re-election of the president. Governors who are seen to oppose the president are subjected to the pressure of federal might in the subsequent governorship election. Another is to subject the electorate to the psychological pressure of kowtowing to the result of the presidential election and forcing a bandwagon effect across the polity.
It was for these reasons that the National Assembly sought to alter the order of the elections, but the presidency determined to reap the advantages of the order stood in its way.
That the Yakubu commission succumbed in the matter of the sequence of election may have been the first cause for apprehension. Subsequent efforts at confidence building with the opposition parties were not helped by seeming contradictions within the system. It is now evident that whether Yakubu meant well or not, it is clear that not everyone in the commission means well for the integrity of the nation’s election system as was demonstrated by the spectacular bungling of the election on February 16.
If not, then who and what would have caused the logistic misadventures that prompted the shift to February 23? It is remarkable that almost two weeks after, that the commission has yet to give precise causes of the shift and apportion blames and accept responsibilities for the failures.
Even at that when the elections took place, there were many lapses, votes that did not add up and many incongruences.
How the victor and the vanquished progress in managing their respective lots would go a long way in defining what becomes of our common democracy. Nigeria was at a similar point in 2007, and the winner, President Umaru Yar‘adua promised and promptly set about addressing the issue.
However, suffice it to say that amid the contradictions and foibles of the commission, that a sterling demonstration of uncommon fidelity and integrity was Mr. Mike Igini, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State.
Weeks and days before the election, a section of the political class in the state had taken to the streets to canvass for the removal of Mr. Igini as REC. The reason as it turned out was that those who had captivated the political narrative were not comfortable that he would go along with their storyline that had become disconnected with the reality on the ground.
Mr. Igini has shown that with the requisite moral fiber that Nigerians in public office can do well. He is a good example of those from the human rights community acquitting themselves with positive accolades in the sight of respectable members of the society. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all from the same community.