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2023 Election: How Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC Betrayed Nigerians

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By Eric Elezuo

Call it shameful, shambolic or unprofessional, one will not be far from the truth regarding the just concluded Nigerian Presidential election, which eventually and controversially produced a former governor of Lagos State, and ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as president-elect.

Across the divides, across the regions, across ethnic and religious affiliations, individuals, groups, corporate entities and foreign observers, one fact has remained undisputed, and that is the entire process was a huge charade, flawed with spectacular irregularities. The conduct, and the announcement of Tinubu as the winner left many Nigerians in a state despair, worry and indecision as they wonder why the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would allow an election that has been so condemned to stand.

Prior to the elections of February 25, 2023 when Nigerians in their millions trooped to various polling units to exercise their franchise and elect President Buhari’s replacement, a lot of promises were made; promises that were soothing, evolving and tended to create a new Nigeria. From the signing of the Electoral Act to the procurement of electronic devices to frustrated rigging, both the Buhari-led federal government and the INEC appeared ready to conduct the best of elections. The populace were not left out as they waddled through thick and thin to procure their Permanent Voter Card (PVC); the only that qualifies anyone up to the age of voting to vote.

In February 2022, and after many failed attempts, President Buhari appended his signature on the electoral bill, bring an end to years of waiting and dilly-dally, and giving Nigerians renewed  hope to believe that elections will wear a new cloak of transparency, where anyone declared winner will be winner indeed. But that was not to be as the hopes of Nigerians, who throng polling units across the federation were dashed as result of failed promises, molestation, harassment, outright violence, stealing and destruction of ballot papers and boxes and collusion of INEC officials with corrupt governments and candidate. This is not forgetting the bypassing of the almighty BVAS, which had incubated the hopes of the electorate.

While signing the Act, an elated Buhari, who believed it was major legacy to Nigerians, said in line with established tradition, he received inputs from relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government after careful and thorough reviews of the Bill and its implications to democratic processes in Nigeria.

“It is gratifying to note that the current Bill comes with a great deal of improvement from the previous Electoral Bill 2021. There are salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations. These innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.

“The Bill would also improve and engender clarity, effectiveness and transparency of the election process, as well as reduce to the barest minimum incidences of acrimony arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.

“These commendable efforts are in line with our policy to bequeath posterity and landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible and sound electoral process that we would all be proud of.

“Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, from the review it is my perspective that the substance of the Bill is both reformative and progressive. I am making this bold declaration because I foresee the great potentials of the Bill. Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of the Bill with particular reference to sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11) among others.

“This, however, cannot be said about one provision as contained in the proposed Bill, which provision constitutes fundamental defect, as it is in conflict with extant constitutional provisions.

“Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at Conventions or Congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the National Election. The section provides as follows: “No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election”.

“This provision has introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection.

“The practical application of section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election.

“Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of practical application of section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.

“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the Bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the Bill and request the Nationally Assembly to consider immediate amendments that will bring the Bill in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84(12) accordingly,” Buhari noted.

As a follow up to the promises of transparent election, INEC’s chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu and the Commission’s Commissioner on Voter Education, Festus Okoye, on different occasions and in many fora, assured Nigerians that nothing can go wrong as the commission was fully ready to nip every challenge in the bud, including vote buying.

In one of his speeches, at the Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, held in Lagos, Yakubu stressed that votes would determine the winners among the 15,322 candidates contesting various positions, reiterating its commitment to deliver credible, free and fair elections, with a reassurance that the votes of the electorate would definitely count.

“The 2023 general election is fast approaching. It is now 141 days to the Election Day. Polling units will open at 8.30am on Saturday, February 25, 2023, for national elections (presidential and national assembly), and at the same time on Saturday, March 11, 2023, for state elections (governorship and state assemblies).

“Campaign in public by political parties officially commenced on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Therefore, the tempo of political activities has increased as parties, candidates and their supporters commenced campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertisements to canvass the support of the electorate.

“The Commission has published the final list of 15,322 candidates contesting for 1,491 seats (one presidential, 28 governorship, 109 senatorial, 360 house of representatives and 993 state assembly constituencies) in the General Elections”, he assured.

He further explained that the technological innovations introduced by the Commission would guarantee and protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls.

He said: “For this reason, the Commission has introduced many new innovations, supported by the deployment of appropriate technology, to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls, ranging from voter registration to voter accreditation and result management. The deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) with its dual fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation process has ensured that only genuine voters are accredited to vote during the elections. This has curtailed the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter accreditation during elections.

“The BVAS has come to stay and will be the only means by which voters will be accredited in the 2023 general election.

“Furthermore, the introduction of the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal has made the result management procedure more transparent. Polling Unit results are now uploaded in real-time to the IReV portal for public view”, he said.

But the belief Nigerians bestowed upon the Commission was truncated, betrayed, leading to the conduction of one of the worse elections ever held in the country. From every polling unit, tales of BVAS malfunction or unavailability became a slogan. Where INEC officials, including youth Corps members were not manipulating results, thugs loyalty to some political parties, especially the APC in Lagos State were threatening opposition and other race other than the southwest race to either vote for the APC or go home. Wher elections were conducted, thugs returned to destroy every electoral materials and votes already cast. The people began to lose hope in the bogus of INEC, and called for the cancellation of the election. As the results trickle in, it was discovered that the ruling party were having an upper hand albeit undeservedly. This was collaborated by evidences of massive collusion leading to rigging with high ranking INEC officials.

The distrust culminated in the walking out of the results collation process by the PDP and the LP among others, led by Dino Melaye, who was PDP party agent. Since then, the controversies have ranged with prominent bodies and governments giving the process a thumb down.

Declaring the official results, INEC’s Yakubu said Tinubu polled a total of 8,794,726 million votes to defeat his closest challengers, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) who polled 6,984,520 million; 6,101,533 million and 1,496,687 million votes, respectively.

The Financial Times of London is among the those who scored the election very low, saying it was badly flawed, lambasting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for misfiring. The newspaper also advised the courts to take a hard look at the emergence of the president-elect, Mr. Bola Tinubu if his victory was challenged in court by his opponents. It would be recalled that the PDP and LP candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi, have disclosed their readiness to challenge the election in court. As at the moment, the Appeal Court has granted the parties leave to examine the election materials. And it promises to be one of the major legal battles in the Nigerian electoral history.

The London-based publication gave the advice in its editorial published on Thursday, adding that Tinubu’s tally of 8.8 million in a country of 220 million people gave him the weakest of mandates. It warned that the former Lagos State governor would be faced with one of the most difficult jobs in the world as Nigeria has been teetering on the edge of catastrophe with a breakdown of security and an almost total absence of growth.

The paper has argued that all that Nigeria needed was a clean election to reiterate the basic message of democracy where a sovereign people could choose its leaders, saying “sadly, it did not happen.” It maintained that the, “election which appears to have delivered the presidency to Bola Tinubu, a wealthy political fixer running for the incumbent All Progressives Congress — was badly mismanaged at best.” It added that the presidential election failed to set the example needed for West Africa, where too many national leaders have extended term limits or resorted to seizing power at gunpoint, and noting that, “Nigeria remains a democracy, but only just.”

The paper praised the emergence of Labour Party’s Obi as a viable third-party candidate, saying it had brought ‘excitement and forced candidates to talk about policies, if only a little’.

It further frowned at the disappointment that INEC became as neutral observers had thought that the electoral body was in good shape and that they had high expectations that the electoral umpire’s promise to transmit voting tallies electronically from polling stations would eliminate ballot stuffing adding that “the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, had staked what remains of his tattered reputation on a clean contest.

“Yet the INEC badly misfired. Voting started late in many districts, depriving millions of the right to vote. The system to upload results from 177,000 polling stations stuttered, causing legitimate concerns of vote tampering during long delays. “Violence was troubling. Party goons invaded many polling stations in what appeared to be blatant acts of intimidation. The Financial Times witnessed armed men remove a presidential ballot box in Surulere, Lagos.” The London-based media outfit stated.

It further said, “More worrying still was voter turnout, which was pitifully low at 27 per cent. If official results are right, two-thirds of the 87 million people who lined up for hours to collect their voter registration cards failed to cast their ballot. Apathy cannot explain it.

“Something, including the possibility of widespread voter suppression, must have prevented them from voting. Total turnout of 25mn votes in a country of 220mn people is unacceptably low.

“Tinubu’s tally of 8.8 million gives him the weakest of mandates.”

Using the examples of Kenya in 2017 and Malawi in 2020, it advised Nigeria should not shrink from annulling individual contests or even the whole result if any suspicion is proved.

In the same vein, Yiaga Africa, a civil society organisation, fully approved to observe the election, faulted the presidential election results in Rivers and Imo States declared by the INEC, saying the results were inconsistent with its observations.

In a statement signed by Aisha Abdullahi, the board chair and Samson Itodo, the executive director, Yiaga Africa, the group said

“The state-level presidential results for Imo and Rivers are inconsistent with the Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) projections for both states.

“For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC or 44.2%; 175,071 for LP or 33.4%; and 88,468 for PDP or 16.9%. This is in sharp contrast to the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Rivers which are: APC 21.7% ±5.0%; for LP 50.8% ± 10.6%; and for PDP 22.2% ±6.5%.

“For Imo, INEC announced 66,406 for APC or 14.2%; 360,495 for LP or 77.1%; and 30,234 for PDP or 6.5%. Again, this is at variance with the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Imo which are: APC 5.1 ±2.3%; LP 88.1% ±3.8%; and PDP 5.7% ±2.3%,” it said.

It therefore said “INEC should clarify the inconsistencies in some of the results, especially presidential election results from Rivers and Imo states”, and called for a fundamental reform of INEC to allow the electoral commission to have authority over its state structures and ultimate responsibility for the conduct of elections.

As it stands today, it is only the judiciary, which the duo of Atiku and Obi had turned to for succour, can restore the confidence of Nigerians in any other electoral process, even as the governorship election holds next Saturday.

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Akpabio Lied, No State Received N30bn from FIRS – Makinde

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Oyo State Governor and Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that there was no truth in the claim by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, that states of the federation got an additional N30 billion each outside of their statutory revenue allocations, to address food insecurity in their states.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Suleiman Olarenwaju in Ibadan, the state capital, said the state has not received any N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service or the Federal Government, and that his administration has been and will always be open and transparent to the people of the state.

The Governor, who added that he has been doing everything to cushion the effects of the economic hardship on the people, warned that leaders should instill confidence and hope in the citizenry in this trying time rather than playing the blame game.

Makinde stated this in Iseyin where he commissioned the newly-renovated multi-billion naira Iseyin Central Mosque facilitated by a legal icon, Ahmed Raji, SAN, hailing the religious harmony in the state as being exemplary.

The Governor decried Akpabio’s reliance on unverified reports, clarifying that states couldn’t get funds from the FIRS, since all revenues go into the Federation Account and belong to the FG, states and local governments.

“The only fund that Oyo State got from the Federal Government outside of statutory allocation was N2 billion out of the N5 billion promised to all states in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy, adding that the Federal Government had even been asking for the refund of the N2 billion,” he stated.

Makinde added that his government has been doing its best to mitigate the hardship on residents of the state, having been the first to announce and implement measures to cushion the effect of the hardship through the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery.

He said, “This is a very difficult period in our nation’s history because all of us are aware of what we are going through economically. But for us as an administration, I can say we are the first in Nigeria to announce and implement measures on the 9th of June 2023, to cushion the effect of this policy through SAFER.

“We have been doing our bit. And the reason I came here is for us to talk to ourselves and intensify prayers. So, this is one of the edifices through which we can reach God, though we have done our bit. We have health insurance for our own people, we give farm inputs to our farmers but, at this stage, we need to cry to God.

“For the workers, we have been paying a wage award; N25,000 for workers and N15,000 for pensioners, and we have paid for close to six months. Only last week, I announced an extension for another six months so that we can have the time to conclude the discussion on minimum wage. Well, we know there is much to be done and we will continue to do everything within our power to support our people through this hard time.”

Makinde cautioned that “this is not the time to play politics, as we have real issues that deserve real solutions. But yesterday, I saw the video and read in the news where the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, made a statement, though he said it was an unverified report, stating that the state governments received an additional N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, outside of our statutory allocation, in the last few months, to address food security.”

The Governor added, “Please, listen to me loud and clear. I can speak for Oyo State and can also speak for any of my colleagues. This is because, as the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I know when things are happening.

“If I want to play politics, I will keep quiet and let this slide, but I am not going to let this slide. FIRS cannot give money to any state. It is not possible. All revenues accruing to the country go into the federation account and it is distributed to all tiers of government.  The FG does not give states money. The money in the federation belongs to all of us; it does not only belong to the Federal Government.

“So, if the Senate President, who is the number three citizen in this country, could be quoting an unverified report, people are looking at us as leaders. This is the period that we are supposed to give confidence to our people. It is not the period to start playing politics or to start looking for scapegoats.”

“We need to engage with our people. If our policies are not working, we need to listen to the people and amend them. So, if the number three citizen had nothing but an unverified report, why did he need to say it? Does his statement give confidence to the people or solve the problem of hunger and anger in the land?” he queried.

“Let me say it clearly, as for Oyo State and for most of my colleagues, there is nothing like N30 billion being given to states for food security and I stand to be challenged.

“Yes, the Federal Government promised the states N5 billion and out of that, it only gave N2 billion and they are even asking that the N2 billion should be refunded right now.

“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to manage the fiscal situation in Nigeria and manage the inflationary trend we have in the country right now.

“We have been transparent about everything we are doing here and this is the time for us to stay together as a nation to solve the problems we are facing. It is not the time to engage in blame games and propaganda. Hunger and anger are real and, as leaders, we must address them.”

Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appreciated Makinde for attending the event and for speaking passionately as expected of leaders, saying the state governor is on the right track.

Earlier, the facilitator of the Iseyin Central Mosque renovation project, Raji, appreciated the governor for his presence, urging citizens of the country to continue to pray for its leaders and to pray to God to lessen the burden of the people.

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Enough is Enough, PDP Governors Tell Tinubu

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By Eric Elezuo

The government of President Bola Tinubu has continued to come under serious knocks across Nigeria’s geo-political zones, sectors, individuals and political parties. The latest of the knocks is coming from the main opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is serving a red card the administration, saying enough is enough.

The knocks and barefaced condemnation are not unconnected with the economic hardship in the country, which is a direct consequence of very unpopular economic decisions the administration has taken so far, ranging from the removal of petroleum subsidy and floating of the naira to removal of tariffs on electricity and other essential services.

As at date, the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is floating between N617 and N650 depending on the part of the country. In the same vein, the dollar is worth a whopping N1600 as at date. The ripple effect has resulted in the exorbitant rise in the prices of essential food items such as rice, garri, beans, flour, sugar, tomato and other household items, and families are groaning in excruciating agony.

As a result, angry and hungry Nigerians have denounced the emilokun (meaning it’s my turn) slogan, and chose ebi mpawa (meaning we are hungry) in exchange.

Consequently, rising from a one day retreat on the state of the nation, the PDP Governors Forum, also found faults and looming loopholes in the nine months old administration of Tinubu, thereby asking the president to step aside as the challenges confronting the nation seems to have overwhelmed him and his team. The Forum advised the APC-administration headed by Tinubu to as a matter to ‘Throw in the towel if you can’t govern Nigeria anymore’.

The governors, who were elected on the platform of the PDP, noted that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, has failed woefully, and should graciously throw in the towel if it cannot mobilise Nigerians as well as all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions to the various problems plaguing the nation.

The governors specifically noted that the hardship and suffering being faced by Nigerians have no tribal, religious or party colouration, stressing that “a hungry man is an angry man”.

They further reminded the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government of the need to be guided by the fact that it is (APC) that sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria, not to compound them or shift blame and use propaganda to confuse issues.

The PDP Governors Forum’s advice is contained in a statement signed by its Director-General, Hon CID Maduabum in Abuja.

The PDP Governors expressly pointed out that the buck ultimately stops at the President’s table as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Chief Salesman and leader of Nigeria.

The PDP-GF, nonetheless, assured that as stakeholders in governance, it would continue to work collaboratively with the President in finding lasting solutions to “a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015”.

The PDP Governors frowned at the Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the APC-led Federal Government who criticised the the PDP-GF for their suggestions, advice and patriotic intervention on the way forward for the country in a communique issued at the end of their recent meeting in Abuja.

The Forum categorically declared, “It must be noted that though Nigeria is a Federation, there is indeed only one economy.

Accordingly, the governors said while all tiers of government have a role to play, the APC led Federal Government has a disproportionate role to mobilise Nigerians and all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions, adding that “If it cannot do so or is unable to do so, it should graciously throw in the towel.”

The statement reads in details:

“Hardship and suffering being faced by Nigerians have no tribal, religious or party colouration. A hungry man is an angry man.

“While all tiers of government have a role to play, the APC led Federal Government has a disproportionate role to play in mobilising Nigerians and all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions.

“If it can not do so or is unable to do so, it should graciously throw in the towel.

“Attempts by the Honourable Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the Federal Government who criticised the PDP Governors’ Forum for their patriotic intervention should be guided by the fact that the APC sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria not to compound them or shift blame, or grandstand or use propaganda to obfuscate or confuse issues.

“PDP governed States are comparatively the best in Nigeria in terms of developmental policies, programmes, and projects that benefit their States positively, regular payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities, and minimum wage to their workforce.
“State governments that are delinquent on these issues are not of PDP extraction. It is false to say so.

“Even the food crises are exacerbated by insecurity and high exchange rate issues, among others, which are largely federal subjects.

“The PDP Governors as stakeholders in governance would continue to work collaboratively with Mr. President to find lasting solutions to a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015. We believe in co-operative Federalism.

“The buck ultimately stops at Mr. Presidents table as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Chief Salesman and leader of Nigeria.

“We are not in doubt that he is trying his best. We only hope and pray that his best is good enough to take Nigeria out of the woods in the shortest possible time.”

The PDP, like every other Nigerian, has continued to lend its voice to what a major cross section of the nation has termed ‘total mismanagement’ of the economic fabric of the nation.

“Nigerians have not had a day of peace since Tinubu was sworn in on May 29, 2023,” a respondent told The Boss, echoing the lord complaints of majority of the citizens.

It would be recalled that Tinubu, on inauguration day, on inauguration ground, waved away petroleum subsidy, thereby throwing the nation into the darkness of hardship that has refused to ease nine months after.

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‘Bwala, Not Ex-Aide to Atiku Abubakar’

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The Atiku Abubakar Media Organisation has said that Mr Daniel Bwala, who worked for the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation during the 2023 elections, was never an aide of the former Vice President, warning that the media and members of the public should desist from addressing him as such.

A statement from the Atiku media office clarified that Bwala offered his services as a spokesperson for the campaign organization, and never an aide to the former VP, adding that he moved on with his career after the elections.

The statement reads:

Bwala is a former spokesperson of Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation and not a former aide to the former Vice President

It is important that the media and the general public take corrective note of defining Mr. Daniel Bwala as an aide to His Excellency Atiku Abubakar.

Bwala offered his services and support to the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization as a spokesperson – and it was a position he held during the last presidential campaign.

Subsequently, and after the election, the need for a campaign spokesperson has terminated, and Bwala has moved on with his career.

This, therefore, serves as notice to the media and the interested public to desist from defining Bwala as an ex-aide of Atiku Abubakar.

We duly urge the public to henceforth recognize, introduce, and define Daniel Bwala by his current vocation and alliance.

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