February 7, 2023

The killer job at INEC (2)

By Eric Teniola

From last week continues the narrative on the individuals who at various times held the position of Nigeria’s electoral commission boss, beginning with Eyo Esua  

A STATEMENT from the President denied Sir Ahmadu’s allegation that the State House meeting of December 29 was to discuss secession. The object was to preserve Federal unity. Chief Esua also conducted the 1965 election in the Western Region which was marred by misconduct and thuggery. The then Prime Minister appointed Chief Michael Ani to replace him. In his book, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Allison Akene Ayida (1930-2018) gave insight into how Chief Ani was appointed to the head of the electoral commission by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (December 1912 – January 15, 1966).

Chief Ayida wrote: “When I was appointed to act as Permanent Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Economic Development, in 1963, I was the youngest permanent secretary in the federation. It was part of an experience to try out the then new breed in the civil service as permanent secretaries. I had to look up to senior colleagues such as the late Chief Ani for guidance and leadership. We received their full co-operation. If the experiment succeeded, it was partly due to Chief Ani’s fatherly guidance and support. 

“It is not generally known that Chief Ani retired prematurely from the Federal Civil Service in 1965 to accept the challenge of the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, for him to be appointed the Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission. I was one of those people he consulted and I advised against the move. But Chief Ani decided to accept the appointment for two reasons: first, as a good civil servant he felt obliged to respect the Prime Minister’s wishes and, second, he was anxious to demonstrate that Nigerian elections could be conducted fairly and justly without fear or favour. Before he could demonstrate this, the Military seized power on January 15, 1966 and Chief Ani suddenly became an unemployed pensioner at the tender age of 49 years, judging by the standard of those days. But an act of providence, when the Obasanjo administration was, in 1976, conducting the search for a suitable person to head the Federal Electoral Commission to supervise the elections for return to civil rule in 1979, I was the Secretary to the Federal Military Government and Head of Service. When consulted, I advised that the man the late Prime Minister appointed in December 1965, never functioned and was untainted. But I told  General Obasanjo that the late Chief as a good civil servant, might not be sufficiently independent of the Government to be seen to conduct the election fairly and that the Federal Military Government  might be seen to have a preference for one of the presidential candidates. 

“The General, to my surprise, replied ,’that is the man we want’. When Chief Ani was approached, he came to my house to seek my opinion once again as a trusted friend. I told him candidly what transpired between General Olusegun Obansanjo and me and once again, I advised him against accepting the reappointment as Chairman of FEDECO but he still saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to establish that Nigerians could conduct an impartial and fair democratic election. The rest of the story is better left to the verdict of history but I believe the Chief did his best in the difficult circumstances of the countervailing powers and conflicting instructions on the 1979 elections”.  

During the tenure of Chief Ani as chairman of Electoral Commission, he was very generous to me in giving me exclusive stories on the commission, including the disqualification of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe(November 16, 1904 – May 11, 1996) and Mallam Aminu Kano (August 9,1920 — April 17, 1983) from the 1979 polls until the court restored them, the 12 two third issue on the outcome of the 1979 presidential election and many other numerous stories. Through the then INEC Commissioner, Alhaji Alade Odunewu alias Allah De (November 20, 1927-July 26, 2013), former Editor of The Daily Times, I was able to access Chief Michael Ani regularly. He was a seasoned civil servant and I will say a patriotic Nigerian. In anticipation of a stalemate in the Presidential election, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Head of State promulgated a decree. The decree is titled Decree 32 of July 23, 1979, which created an Electoral College to decide the Presidential Election. The Decree states: “Supplement to Official Gazette Extraordinary No.34, Vol. 66, July 23,1979 Electoral (Amendment) (No. 3) Decree 1979.

Decree No. 32,  July 23, 1979, the Federal Military Government hereby decrees as follows: Section 34a of the Electoral Decree 1977 (as inserted by the Electoral (Amendment) Decree 1978) is hereby amended as follows, that is— (a) for subsection — (3) thereof, there shall be substituted the following new subsection— “(3) In default of a candidate duly elected under subsections (1) (b) and (2) of this section, the Electoral Commission shall, within seven days  of the result of the election held under the said subsections, arrange for an election by electoral colleges composed as follows, that is to say— (a) of all persons who were elected to both Houses of the National Assembly and convened at the same venue; and (5) of all persons who were elected to the House of Assembly of every State in the Federation with each such group being convened separately for each such State; with a view to determining which of the two candidates shall be elected President, and the candidate who as a simple majority of all votes “cast at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected as President.” ; and (6) for subsection 6) thereof (as substituted by the Electoral (Amendment) Decree 1979), there shall be substituted the following new sub-section— “(6) In default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection (5) (6) of this section, the Electoral Commission shall, within seven days of the result of the election, arrange for an election by an electoral  college comprising all persons who were elected to the House of Assembly of the State concerned at which the only candidates shall be— (a) the candidate who secured the highest number of votes at the election ; and . (b) one among the remaining candidates who secured a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas in the State, so however that where there aré more than one candidate with a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas, the candidate among them with the highest total of votes cast at the election shall be the second candidate ; and the person who has a simple majority of votes cast at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected as Governor of the State.” 

presidential election. Finally, a Chief National Electoral Commissioner worth his calling would own accountability and responsibility to his conscience and his family.

As I stated earlier, any action that is not in accordance with the dictates of ones conscience inflicts a permanent psychological wound on the person. Conscience and family honour were two steady companions that strengthened me throughout the difficult days of June 10 and 11, 12 and 23, 1993. Above all, whoever believes in God will be rightly guided in all his endeavours in good conscience done in the service of humanity”. No doubt, Professor Nwosu and his team did all they could to ensure a successful 1993 Presidential elections. 

At the eleventh hour of announcing Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola GCFR (24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998) from Abeokuta in Ogun state  as the winner of that election, the Armed Forces Ruling Council of General Ibrahim Babangida (81)GCFR, issued the following statement “in view of the spirit of litigation pending in various courts, the federal government is compelled to take appropriate steps in order to rescue the judiciary from intra-voyaging. Those steps are taken so as to protect our legal system and the judiciary from being ridiculed and politicized, both naturally and internationally. 

In an attempt to end this ridiculous charade which may culminate in judicial anarchy, the Federal Military Government has decided to stop forthwith, all court proceedings pending or to be instituted and appeals thereon in respect of any matter touching, relating or concerning the presidential election held on June 12, 1993. 

The Transition to Civil Rule Political Programme (Amendment November 3), Decree Number 32 of 1992 and the Presidential Election (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provisions) Decree Number 13 of 1993 are hereby repealed. All acts or omission done or purpoted to have been done by any person, authority etc, under the above named decrees are hereby declared invalid.

The National Electoral Commission is hereby suspended. All acts or omissions done or purported to have been done by itself, its officers or agents under the repealed Decree number 13, 1993 are hereby nullified”. 

The rest is history.

From 1993 till 1999, we did not have any election. Certainly no one can blame Professor Nwosu for this. 

Now turning to the February election, money cannot be a problem to Professor Yakubu and his team. The INEC is to spend three hundred and fifty-five billion naira. The National Assembly had earlier approved three hundred and five billion naira but the electoral body has budgeted another N50 billion for its annual budget in 2023, an increment of N10 billion compared to 2022 budget which was N40 billion as approved by the National Assembly.

According to INEC, the N2.6 billion would be used  for the provision for elections , referenda and recalls expenses such as : Operation dept cost covering , printing of ballot papers, result sheets , printing of forms and Envelopes ,arterials and supplies , logistics expenses , honorarium for officials , supervision, RAC preparation, security /intervention support etc “Election ICT system support, printing of voters’ register for off season and bye elections , F$A Election fund management logistic.” According to INEC, in the 2023 Budget of the agency, N50 million will be spent to buy firefighting equipment, Motor Vehicles – N150 million, N250 million to repeat offices and residential building.

Professor Yakubu has got a date for the Presidential election. He has got the personnel to conduct the election. He has got the money too. What else?

When he was appointed the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission on October 20, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, two questions came to my mind. Why has a woman not been appointed to the position of the Chairman of INEC and why has someone from the Southwest not appointed to that position. 

 I never knew much about the man except that he was a lecturer, guerrilla warfare expert, and Professor of Political History and International Studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.  Prior to his appointment as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood served as the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, being appointed to office in 2007 by then-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. 

During his tenure as secretary, a National Book Development Fund was established, supporting 102 journals of professional associations. Professor Yakubu Mahmood also served as Assistant Secretary of Finance and Administration at the 2014 National Conference. I am told he is a team player. 

The other question that have been troubling me since, is that as human, can Professor Yakubu’s partisanship decide the outcome of the election or rather does the INEC Chairman has the power  to short change voters inspite of assurances, pronouncements and declarations? No one can answer that question except Professor Yakubu and his team and they can only answer the question by their actions.  The question becomes relevant because the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin(1879–1953) said “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how”. 

The Foundations of Leninism (1924) also added that “The State is an instrument in the hands 

of the ruling class, used to break the resistance of the adversaries of that class”.

The INEC job over all these years had become too impossible. Through that job you can be a hero or a villain, you can be popular or esoteric. Professor Nwosu conducted a free and fair election; the events that followed were not of his making. He did a good job. Till today he has not been compensated with a National award. Same with Chief Esua. 

The Military took over on January 15 1966 citing the irregularities of the 1964 and 1965 elections as an excuse. Chief Esua witnessed the civil war—a fallout of the military coup. He never witnessed democracy till he died in the ancient city of Calabar on December 3 1973. He died in utter disappointment. 

The killer job at INEC has all the elements of failures and successes, adoration and condemnation. I don’t know what will happen after the election. Life is necessarily ambiguous and just when we think we have a clue about what’s next, things shift again. The constant flux can be exhausting and exacerbating. Given how much we want to know and the extent to which we crave understanding, a rigged election will threaten the fragile stability we are experiencing in this artificial country. Professor Yakubu should know this. A rigged election may lead to imminent danger, for we are already sitting on a powder keg which may explode into violence and chaos. 

“This is because the provision and expansion of access to water is a very vital programme of poverty alleviation. In line with the policy of inculcating maintenance culture, the Panel recommends an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to the Federal, State and Local Governments through the initiation of massive public works programmes. This is to embark on project based programmes tailored towards the maintenance and restoration of critical public infrastructure and the environment. These programmes should be designed to provide meaningful ‘hands-on’ employment to large numbers of people wherever feasible. Such schemes would discourage the use of heavy mechanical equipment, thereby providing employment for unemployed youth, idle work forces, and those displaced or retired during the on-going processes of rationalisation in both the public “and private sectors. It will also aim at inculcating and improving better attitudes towards a maintenance culture, injecting a sense of sustainability in Government’s investments in infrastructure and restoring pride in our surroundings. 

“Rural Development is a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of the people in the rural areas. Over 70 % of the 67 % of poor Nigerians are found in rural areas. The rural poor are a heterogeneous group, including small-scale farmers, the landless, the nomads, pastoralists and fishermen and women. But they share common disabilities, limited assets, environmental vulnerability and the lack of access to public services and amenities especially education and health facilities. The main concern in rural development therefore is the modernisation of rural society through a transition from traditional isolation to integration with the national economy for equitable and balanced development of the nation. 

“In making its recommendations, the Panel has emphasised the need for a focus on eradication of absolute poverty rather than poverty alleviation because of the belief that deliberate steps must be taken urgently to destroy the psychology of poverty and the sense of helplessness amongst Nigerians. We have recommended strategies that will encourage personal initiative and community co-operation and lead to enhanced productivity and prosperity. Nigeria cannot truly be considered great and democratic if it is unable to provide minimum material comfort – the basic necessities of modern civilisation, that is, food, light, water, shelter, clinics, schools and jobs – for the vast majority of its citizens”.

These recommendations are for the next President to implement. I wish the next President goodluck.