The so-called INEC con­tro­ver­sies

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

There has been a lot of con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion as the elec­tions ap­proach and this is nor­mal. Many peo­ple are gen­uinely con­cerned about the ques­tion whether the an­nounced plans for the con­duct of free, fair and cred­i­ble elec­tions are pro­ceed­ing smoothly or whether there are at­tempts to scut­tle the plans and re­turn Nige­ria to the dark days of State rigged elec­tions. Oth­ers are de­lib­er­ately spread­ing ru­mours of rig­ging plans to smear the im­age of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion and cause dis­af­fec­tion around the elec­tions for their own pur­poses.

The cli­mate cre­ated by the like­li­hood of a close con­test be­tween the two lead­ing can­di­dates for the pres­i­dency would al­ways cause con­cern for the op­po­si­tion can­di­date who would as­sume that the powers of in­cum­bency would be used to rig them out. This as­sump­tion would not be com­pletely un­founded af­ter all its com­mon knowl­edge that the 1964, 1983, 2003 and 2007 elec­tions were heav­ily rigged by in­cum­bent ruling par­ties to the detri­ment of the op­po­si­tion. None­the­less, at this time, I would like to draw our at­ten­tion to the other fact that since the 2011 gen­eral elec­tions there has been steady im­prove­ment in the in­tegrity of our elec­tions and that nu­mer­ous pro­cesses have been put in place to en­sure that our elec­tions are in­deed free, fair and cred­i­ble.

The big­gest con­tro­versy over the past cou­ple of weeks has been the ap­point­ment of Com­mis­sioner Amina Zakari to chair the in­ter­nal INEC com­mit­tee in charge of the col­la­tion cen­tre. The ap­point­ment im­me­di­ately led to wild al­le­ga­tions that she was be­ing put there to rig the elec­tions in favour of Pres­i­dent Buhari who was al­leged to be her un­cle. This al­le­ga­tion is in my view friv­o­lous and mis­chievous. The par­ties that led the charge are very much aware that pres­i­den­tial elec­tions are col­lated at the lo­cal govern­ment and State lev­els. They also know that re­turn­ing of­fi­cers are drawn from uni­ver­si­ties and not from within INEC ex­cept for the re­turn­ing of­fi­cer of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion who is the INEC chair and not the chair of the com­mit­tee han­dling the col­la­tion cen­tre.

Nige­ri­ans also have very clear mem­o­ries of how the col­la­tion cen­tre func­tioned in 2015 when

When I was a con­sul­tant to the In­ter-Party Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee be­tween 20132015 and Amina Zakari was INEC Com­mis­sioner in charge of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, we worked closely with her. She is very smart, com­pe­tent and con­sci­en­tious in her work. The fact that Pres­i­dent Buhari’s se­nior sis­ter was mar­ried to her fa­ther be­fore she was born should not be the is­sue. She has been an INEC com­mis­sioner since 2010 and if she has done any­thing wrong or un­eth­i­cal, the charges should be brought for­ward, in­ves­ti­gated and acted upon if true.

re­turn­ing of­fi­cers from the States came to the col­la­tion cen­tre and read out their num­bers them­selves on live tele­vi­sion. The na­tional re­turn­ing of­fi­cer there­fore re­ceived the State re­sults at the same time as all Nige­ri­ans watch­ing the event so the idea that Amina Zakari would hood­wink all Nige­ri­ans and en­ter fake re­sults is sim­ply ridicu­lous.

The irony is that if the op­po­si­tion party is against Amina Zakari, they should have con­grat­u­lated Pro­fes­sor Mah­moud Yakubu for re­mov­ing her from the most pow­er­ful INEC com­mit­tee on Op­er­a­tions and lo­gis­tics; where she was re­placed by Pro­fes­sor Okechukwu Ibeanu to the much less in­flu­en­tial com­mit­tee on health and wel­fare. Her chair­ing the col­la­tion cen­tre com­mit­tee is there­fore di­rectly in line with her com­mis­sion­er­ship du­ties of en­sur­ing cater­ing, health and sit­ting ar­range­ments to the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the 91 po­lit­i­cal par­ties and other stake­hold­ers that would be at the venue. Her INEC com­mis­sion­er­ship had duly re­ceived Se­nate ap­proval so it would be un­rea­son­able to say that she should not per­form as­signed INEC re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The con­tro­versy over Amina Zakari was wors­ened by the pres­i­dency it­self when they re­leased a press state­ment that she has no blood re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Buhari. She her­self said the same thing when in­ter­viewed by the BBC. The state­ments then im­posed the next ques­tion any­one would ask, what ex­actly is her re­la­tion­ship to the Pres­i­dent. Trust Nige­ri­ans, they do their re­search fast. We all now know that the Pres­i­dent’s se­nior sis­ter was mar­ried to Amina Zakari’s fa­ther be­fore she was born. This means that there is a fam­ily re­la­tion­ship and its disin­gen­u­ous to sim­ply say that there is no blood re­la­tion­ship. We also know to­day that the fam­ily re­la­tion­ship has been sus­tained be­cause when Pres­i­dent Buhari was at the PTF she and her two broth­ers, one of whom is cur­rently a min­is­ter had busi­ness re­la­tions. The “no blood re­la­tion­ship” in­sis­tence sim­ply raised sus­pi­cions.

When I was a con­sul­tant to the In­ter-Party Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee be­tween 2013-2015 and Amina Zakari was INEC Com­mis­sioner in charge of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, we worked closely with her. She is very smart, com­pe­tent and con­sci­en­tious in her work. The fact that Pres­i­dent Buhari’s se­nior sis­ter was mar­ried to her fa­ther be­fore she was born should not be the is­sue. She has been an INEC com­mis­sioner since 2010 and if she has done any­thing wrong or un­eth­i­cal, the charges should be brought for­ward, in­ves­ti­gated and acted upon if true. The fam­ily re­la­tion­ship should not be the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor and in any case, Se­nate knew about it be­fore they con­firmed her sec­ond term.

The other INEC con­tro­versy mak­ing the rounds is the re­turn to the pro­ce­dure of voting im­me­di­ately af­ter ac­cred­i­ta­tion. It would be re­called that in 2015, voters were asked to move away from the polling unit af­ter ac­cred­i­ta­tion and re­turn in the af­ter­noon to vote. Af­ter the 2015 elec­tions, both po­lit­i­cal par­ties and ob­server groups re­quested that INEC should stop the de­cou­pling of ac­cred­i­ta­tion and voting for the sim­ple rea­son that many peo­ple who leave af­ter ac­cred­i­ta­tion do not re­turn. For the 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple who were ac­cred­ited did not re­turn to cast their bal­lot in the af­ter­noon and this should be a mat­ter of con­cern. INEC lis­tened to the rec­om­men­da­tions of ob­server groups and po­lit­i­cal par­ties and since the Jan­uary 2016 gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion in Bayelsa State, voters have been able to vote im­me­di­ately af­ter ac­cred­i­ta­tion. This has had a pos­i­tive ef­fect on voter as­siduity and re­duced queues and wait­ing time. It is there­fore sur­pris­ing to hear some peo­ple now say­ing it’s a new trick to rig the elec­tion for some­one. Nige­ri­ans need to be a bit care­ful at the type of sto­ries they choose to be­lieve.

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