NO matter who is sworn-in as the next President of Nigeria on May 29, 2023, he must commit from Day One, to overhaul our electoral process to make it more accountable, credible and acceptable.
He must emulate the noble gesture of the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, who admitted that the election that brought him to power was flawed. He subsequently set up the Justice Muhammad Uwais Electoral Reform Committee. After about one year of painstaking collation of the views of well-meaning Nigerians, the Uwais Report recommended ways of ensuring that the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, went beyond mere flat or fraudulent rhetoric.
One of the avant garde ideas the Uwais Panel introduced was the suggestion that the managers of the electoral umpire, INEC, should not be appointed by the President. A player should not appoint the referee in a game. It would surely tamper with the “independence” of the INEC.
The Panel called for the National Judicial Council, NJC, which is made up of Supreme Court Justices, to shortlist names of people of proven integrity from the open society, to the National Assembly for selection and approval. The president’s only role would be to swear in whoever is appointed. Also, the Commission was to enjoy financial autonomy.
Unfortunately, Yar’Adua’s Federal Executive Council, FEC, on March 9, 2009, rejected this recommendation, insisting that the president must appoint the Chief Electoral Officer and other board members. They thus torpedoed noble efforts to stop a sitting president and ruling party from paying the piper and dictating the tune for the INEC.
That left the ball in the president’s court. President Goodluck Jonathan opted to appoint a popular choice – Professor Attahiru Jega in June 2010. But when Muhammadu Buhari took over, he threw caution to the winds. He first appointed a member of his family, Hajiya Amina Zakari, as Acting INEC Chairman before transferring the role to Professor Mahmood Yakubu. APC chieftain, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, recently disclosed that Yakubu was recommended to Buhari by one of the party’s leaders. After a brief sunshine with Jega in charge, we are “back to Egypt”, where a ruling party and its president are empowered to perpetuate themselves in power by appointing compromised INEC chiefs.
The just-concluded election failed woefully despite the massive deployment of technology and adequate funding. The same technologies that worked like magic in off-cycle elections flopped when they were needed most, largely because of human factors: corruption, greed and lack of patriotism.
Our electoral history has shown that the character of the person who leads the electoral commission matters a lot. Professor Humphrey Nwosu and Prof. Jega demonstrated this satisfactorily. We must hand over the appointment of the Electoral Umpire Chairman and Board to the Judiciary for the National Assembly’s approval, as recommended by the Uwais Commission.
We must restore the people’s confidence in our elections.
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