INEC: An Umpire In The Eye Of The Storm – Richard Odusanya

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INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu
INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu
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The most recent example of the elections, conducted by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), in Liberia has become a litmus test and further demised the examples of other countries in Africa, particularly, the Nigerian counterpart Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

By contrast, its counterpart ‘NEC’ in Liberia, showcased independent and unbiased attributes. While INEC since the beginning of the 4th republic, particularly in 2003 and 2007, was a horrible misrepresentation of an unbiased umpire. The organization should have been seen to be manifestly organized, through its actions, utterances, and behavior, in free, fair, and credible elections.

A classic example of a particular character in the Nigeria’s electoral heist is Maurice Mmaduakolam Iwu, a Nigerian professor of pharmacognosy who was appointed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in June 2005, and was removed from office in April 2010. Iwu under the supervision of the executive branch of government then conducted the highly flawed 2007 general elections which was the foundation of where we are today.

More relatively, in a twist of events, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, alleged a few days ago, that its suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Adamawa State, Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari, and his surety were on the run, having evaded arrest. As unfortunate as the Adamawa debacle may seem, this is not the first time we have witnessed the sordid scenario of electoral officials going rogue. It may interest one to know that such an irresponsible actions persist in the system.

Sadly, that nobody has ever been punished for it perhaps explains why the problem has festered in a nation where citizens have come to accept that there are no consequences for bad behavior. Therefore, In my considered opinion, the Adamawa debacle with the propensity to consume the entire system can be classified as 21st century madness. It does not matter whether we agree with the verdict or not – one thing I will say straight away is that while we forward march in equanimity, there is the need to begin the process of rebuilding trust between the Nigeria’s electoral system and the voters.

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Unfortunately, there is a symbiotic relationship between the recklessness of the institutions as exemplified by INEC; Judiciary, Legislative, and Executive. For the purposes of clarity, Nigeria is a structural failure. Essentially, it signposts, indeed confirms, that character is not a happenstance thing, it is built up and leaders emerge from being followers once. Nigeria’s problems can be summed up in one phrase: not just corruption but intellectual poverty. Unless we fix our moral compass we are going nowhere.

Admittedly, a nation progresses or regresses on the quality and values of its leadership. It is thus, imperative that we begin to evaluate the soundness of our judgement, integrity of our system and sincerity of purpose. As a matter of fact, everyone under any democracy knows that this doesn’t worth even the paper it’s written on without the change of mindset. Therefore, the need for ‘Mind Restructuring’ becomes inevitable.

Flowing from the above, much as, I agreed, that judicial intervention is critical in criminal, political and civil matters. However, it’s unfair and big injustice that voters should be disenfranchised by the cancellation of their votes due to no fault of their own but INEC negligence. One of the examples that readily comes to mind is that of Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, which is a travesty of law and continues reverberating today.

Below are some of the issues that are agitating the minds of our citizens and stakeholders which should be properly addressed:

  1. An efficient and effective litigation system ought to be in place such that can ensure to exhaustion of all possible legal contentions arising from election matters, before the Swearing-in of elected public officeholders
  2. Pre-primary election matters are sorted and do not come up in post-election litigations.
  3. In areas where the lists of voters who actually voted are not stamped by INEC, rather than cancel, call for new elections in those places.
  4. Most important is the need for independence of INEC, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary in the election process. This will eventually help create people’s trust in the electoral process and restore confidence in the minds of our citizens.
  5. The power to remove any elected person or determine the winner of any election should be withdrawn from the judiciary. The judiciary should only be vested with the power to call for a new election in disputed areas.
  6. In any area where violence or manipulation is established, elections should be cancelled outrightly by INEC. Unless in situations where the effect of such cancellation substantially affects the overall results, a re-run election may be conducted by INEC before the declaration of final results.
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Put differently, in challenging times like the present situation we are in, the best recipe for Hope’ is to ensure that our institutions particularly INEC stand firmly as envisaged in the constitution. The wisdom that strong governments rest on strong institutions is reflected in modern democracy through the separation of powers, a system which allows for checks and balances. It is only in a retrogressive society, that you will find strong individuals rather than strong institutions.

It is noteworthy however to take into critical cognizance the human angles to these issues, being very much aware of the peculiarity of our social systems in Nigeria.

It is a fact that the majority of Nigeria citizens have over time become exceedingly unruly and Indisciplined which altogether engenders such disorderly political culture in the citizenry, a penchant to always try to circumvent the laws and systems. This certainly will continually make a mockery of legislative efforts at achieving perfect electoral laws.

There is the challenge of politicians who may have justifiable motivation for desperation to win their election into political offices considering the enormous costs of prosecuting electoral matters in Nigeria.

INEC and the NASS therefore have a great duty to fashion a suitable system that could create such fields as would make political participation as cheap as possible, and draw in more credible people who may otherwise have been scared away by their inability to mobilize a financial war chest and therefore generally make politics and political offices not so attractive.

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In conclusion, permit me to share with us the profound words of former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama while addressing the Ghanaian Parliament during a courtesy visit to Ghana in 2009.

Obama remarked as follows: “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 per cent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end. Africa doesn’t need strong men; it needs strong institutions.”

Richard Odusanya

@Richard_Odusanya is 9News Nigeria special guest writer on Politics, Africanism, African Emancipation and Humanitarianism
@Richard_Odusanya is 9News Nigeria special guest writer on Politics, Africanism, African Emancipation and Humanitarianism
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