Columns

December 4, 2022

Pre and post-election crisis likely in 2023

By Dele Sobowale

What experience and history teach us is that people and governments never learn anything from history” – George Hegel, 1770-1831

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, recently published new guidelines. Among the new set of guidelines one stated as follows: “A political party shall not accept any monetary or other contribution which is more than N50,000,000 except it identifies and discloses the source of the contribution to the Commission.”

Nothing can be simpler to understand and well intentioned; yet nothing can be potentially more crisis-provoking as this guideline. The road to hell is always paved with good intentions. However, mankind has long learnt that good intentions are never enough. INEC and security forces will soon discover that they have a whale of a problem interpreting and enforcing that guideline. Two great warriors have taught us one important fact about armies. 

First, US President George Washington, 1732-1799, said: “Without money an army must break up”.  Then Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821, added: “An army marches on its stomach”. Party organizations are civilian armies. They are maintained with money – especially during elections; and in a large country like Nigeria. The guideline is treading on dangerous grounds; whether INEC realizes it or not.

Incidentally, I got hold of one of the N1,000 bills distributed at a rally recently. It was very badly torn and the recipient informed me that all the rest were the same. The odour could kill a horse. Obviously, it has been long buried and only recently exhumed. All the “foot soldiers” received a lot less than they were promised; and some have threatened not to respond when called upon next time. What they received did not cover their transport fare.

Let me start from the most obvious defect in that guideline. It can easily be circumvented. It is not my intention to disclose how that can be done. The parties have enough ingenious individuals to solve the problem. It might turn out to be an exercise in futility; which merely enriches our corrupt security officials. They will apprehend small offenders and allow the elephants to go – while all the while smiling to their banks. Take it from me, it won’t work as envisaged.

INEC might have reasoned that releasing the new set of guidelines, so late in the process would substantially curb vote-buying and other malpractices. To some extent, that is correct; especially coming at a time when thousands of Nigerians, with filthy lucre stored away in various hiding places, are still trying to figure out how to exchange them for new notes without drawing attention to their criminal sources. Donating huge sums to political parties might be regarded as a plausible option. Using parties to launder ill-gotten gains might constitute a clever

“investment in a good cause” – as Obasanjo declared in 1998 when he, bankrupted by Abacha, donated N230 million to the PDP a few months after being sprung loose from jail. INEC, however, has now exposed itself to the charge of changing the guidelines capriciously in the middle of the contest in order to favour a certain political party or candidate.

To most of us it might appear frivolous for a losing party to go to court seeking nullification of an election on account of INEC bias. But, given the desperation of our politicians, any reason would do to turn the election result into a crisis. And, nobody can honestly deny that INEC has not shifted the goal post in the middle of the game. Why were the spending guidelines not released before the primaries?

Furthermore, the guidelines did not mention what is to be done if several donations of N50 million or more had been received before the release. Is all the excess donation, which might have been spent, supposed to be returned and who is supposed to do it? Discernible readers can easily spot a loophole there.

Finally, for now, one must ask if the N50 million limit applies to the candidates themselves. Those who dropped N100 million just for nomination form and who greased palms during conventions will regard N50 million as a drop of water in the bucket. Are they also limited to donating N50 million towards their own campaign? Again, what if they already exceeded that limit?

NUMEROUS COURT CASES STILL PENDING

“The next thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” – Shakespeare, 1564-1616.

Killing all Nigerian lawyers will only result in another holocaust. We might actually consider deporting them to Ukraine. They are like vultures feeding fat on our decaying democracy. Literally, hundreds of cases are in various courts minting naira for lawyers. They don’t care if a constitutional crisis predates or follows the 2023 elections. In fact, they welcome it; just as vultures applaud the presence of corpses. The more the merrier for them.

Unless the election dates are again shifted, it would appear as if INEC and the political candidates have more cases in the courts than can be resolved by February 2023. To make the situation worse for our dear country, virtually all these cases are still in the Federal or State High Courts; and at the preliminary stages.

The courts will go on recess for Christmas and won’t resume until the first week in January 2023. Irrespective of the outcome at the lower courts, everybody will troop to the Court of Appeal; and, regardless of the verdict there, the Supreme Court will be flooded with cases. Even the village idiot can see that we are headed for a lot of trouble.

Using the presidential election as example, readers should be asking themselves what will happen if one of the candidates of the four big parties is disqualified by a lower court and INEC is instructed to delete his name from the list of candidates. They should also ask what would happen if the Court of Appeal upholds the verdict of the lower court; only for the Supreme Court to reinstate the candidate.

INEC will be stuck. We were in that situation in 2007, when Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, attempted to prevent Atiku, of the Action Congress, AC, from contesting. Ballot papers had to be hurriedly printed in South Africa, flown to Nigeria at the last hour and distributed by the Nigerian Air Force. Massive rigging followed.

But, the country was still tolerant of lapses. Not much followed. Any repetition of that Obasanjo-induced nonsense will result in unwanted tragedy because politicians have become more desperate and we are heading for a tough year in 2023 with the economy. The question is: how can we avert disaster?

DEMOLITION OF INEC OFFICES AND MATERIALS

“Hoodlums set Ebonyi INEC office ablaze” – News Report, November 28, 2022.

Offices and assets of the Electoral Commission had been attacked in the past; but, that was after the results were announced. Nigeria is experiencing a novel form of electoral malpractice – pre-election arson and pyromania.

More INEC offices have been set ablaze this year than at any other time in our history. Nothing suggests the Ebonyi attack will be the last. What hoodlums have left untouched, nature has demolished. Hundreds of INEC offices were flooded and materials destroyed during the flood. INEC is racing to replace them.

WHO WANTS TO DIE?

“Oga Dele, there will be no election in many parts of our state.”

The scary message came from Dutsin Ma, near Daura, Katsina State. He went on to say that INEC and the political parties will find it extremely difficult to find workers for rural areas of Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states. He ended by asking: “Who wants to die?” INEC has a problem; we have a bigger one on our hands.

I have left untouched the problem of bandits and kidnappers still roaming…

To be continued…

JOIN COMPATRIOTS; SAVE NIGERIA — 1

“When evil men must seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must try to bring into being real order of justice” – Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr, 1929-1968.

Irrespective of which candidate or political party a Nigerian supports, as we approach the 2023 elections, one thing is clear. Very few Nigerians really believe that the result will solve our problems. Even the Labour Party, LP, which now presents a relatively new face, will not save us. A President without a majority in the National Assembly, NASS, will become a hostage to parliamentarians of other parties. He will need the support of an organized, principled and strong civil society to escape attempts at impeachment.

COMPATRIOTS have arisen to gather together such like-minded patriotic Nigerians, like you – starting now – to reverse the dangerous trend in our politics which has now led us to despair. You really don’t need to do much, now, to help our country. Join the COMPATRIOTS; and to join, just call or text me.

One reader sent me a text message declaring the idea “dead on arrival”. I replied with a prayer. Approximately 45 years ago, I met a young lady for the first time ever at somebody’s wedding party. “I want to marry you”; that was my first statement. “You must be mad”; that was her reply. We have been married 43 years. That is a warning to all those who think this is a joke.

For the rest, please join us. We don’t need to keep waiting for God. “Here on Earth, God’s work, is truly our own” – US President John Kennedy, 1917-1963.

Let us do it together – with YOU, your neighbours, friends, church members.

To be continued…