I am writing this piece as a humanist – I believe in the sanctity of human life – and as a timely intervention at ensuring the successful conduct of free, fair, transparent and widely acceptable elections come December 10 2016 in Rivers State, when the rescheduled constituency and senatorial elections into the State House of Assembly and the National Assembly would hold. It is, however, unfortunate how every institution making up the fabric of the “working-Nigeria” has been held down by corruption, sabotaged by disingeneous individuals who have continued to array themselves towards destroying our communality as a people, passionately frustrating our collective efforts at building a virile, egalitarian society, lest we should attain a prosperous and an enduring nation.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appears the most stigmatised of all Nigeria’s public institutions, and about the most compromised outside of the national headquarters of the Commission.
What our nation’s Chief Electoral Commissioner must do, in order to conduct a bloodless and an evil-damning elections in Rivers State in the next few weeks, is to mobilize the required number of staff needed for the “Rivers Rerun” elections from the commission across the nation to conduct the December 10 2016 elections in Rivers State.
One thing an INEC staff would not do is to be entirely responsible for the victory of a politician participating in an election in which he is an umpire. INEC’s dependence on civil servants, teachers and corps members, as “Ad Hoc staff” will always compromise the polls at certain levels and make it as bloody as it usually is in the “Rivers of Blood”, as some call it.
It is in the process of admitting lists of names of various workers sent in from various branches of govt that the basis for the usual bargain between INEC staff at the level of such “Ad Hoc” recruitments and the politicians who want to win their elections “by all means” is initiated.
The recruitment of Ad Hoc staff by INEC absorbs the actual INEC staff of absolute responsibility for the elections he is conducting, save the “Chief Returning Officer” who beats full responsibility for the outcome.
INEC has no mechanism to “check” the authenticity of the lists of men and women they admit for consideration as their Ad Hoc staff. INEC also does not have the mechanism to check who is a true NYSC member except for the uniforms they wear, because the names on the lists of Ad Hoc staff do not bear certain biometric information needed for the usual checks on the true identities of those admitted to conduct the elections.
INEC is structured in a way that allows for decisions taken on election results to emanate from field reports by the staff deplored at various stages during the elections. That a result in an election is returned or cancelled derives from the field reports by the deployed staff. Imagine when these staff are compromised.
Going further on the matter of the over-rescheduled 2015 legislative elections in Rivers State, I think Governor Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike should spare Malama Amina Zakari his usual political harassments, because, as the representative of the INEC Chairman, Malama Zakari, only authenticated and announced the content of the field report she got on the results relating to the Tai Local Govt Area in the last legislative rerun elections of March 2016. The PDP in the State also enjoyed the upholding of already announced results at various levels in the same elections in more than 8 Local Govt Areas of the State, so why is APC’s 1 of 9 Local Govt Areas an advantage so great to induce an electoral loss for the PDP to warrant the deliberate tagging of an innocent woman with criminality.
If the results announcement for Tai LGA in that election preceded the cancellation of the announced result by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State, such result announcements supersedes its cancellation by any authority in INEC, except it is in the reverse. INEC can only cancel election results before they are announced in all cases.
When election results are announced, wherever, at any level of the elections, INEC ceases to have powers over such declared results, only competent courts of jurisdiction can upturn such announced results.
Governor Wike, by his instigating the resistance against Malama Zakari has behaved as a sportsman with a bad spirit: by seeking to dent the integrity of INEC because the responsibility fell on Amina Zakari to announce the new position of the Commission on the results of the elections held in Tai Local Govt Area of the State, after due diligence, is sad and in bad taste for political governance.
On the matter of INEC printing fake results sheets at a printing press in D-Line in Port Harcourt: only those who are ignorant of the operations of the logistics stores in INEC would believe such unconditional machinated script of preemptive melodrama acted our in Port Harcourt and promoted slyly by the Governor of Rivers State.
First and foremost, that Amina Zakari is the National Commissioner in charge of Elections in the INEC does not translate to her been in charge of, nor confer on her the powers of procurement in the INEC. It was noteworthy how the National Assembly compelled Prof Attahiru Jega, erstwhile INEC Chairman, to print the Commission’s sensitive materials for the 2015 elections with the Nigerian Printing and Minting Company (NPMC), and that made national “sense” for the savings that accrued from that decision in terms of finance, and the foreign exchange conserved and reserved.
Attahiru Jega’s INEC made to print sensitive materials abroad but was curtailed. Printed materials meant for the 2015 general elections, including the result sheets, are under an existing contract until the conclusion of that “branded” election. As long as the 2015 elections are concerned, and under the same approved guidelines, the company that was contracted to handle printed materials still has a valid contract until all the 2015 elections are concluded. So, to hurriedly bring INEC and Malama Amina Zakari into the matter of the printing of fake results sheets in Port Harcourt is an artful political distraction.
Apart from this, all supplies to INEC State offices from the National Headquarters, in any election, are done from the central stores in Abuja; and sensitive materials, particularly, are especially guided, received, transited, transmitted and delivered in the presence of all stakeholders. It is therefore very inappropriate and bad-nursery for Governor Nyesom Wike to accuse INEC and Malama Amina Zakari of such political sabotage, chronic social ill-response and childish irresponsibility.
Governor Wike, in my view, is a preemptive political strategist, a political “eagle eye” who sights his political advantages far ahead of time, and has succeeded with his political acts so far, except for his Ali Modu Sheriff gamble. Governor Wike was the self-made adoptive PDP Chairman after sitting Uche Secondus, who was acting Chairman at that time, down and tutoring him on the concept of “Wikeism”: Chairman Secondus could not pay staff salaries at the PDP national secretariat, and Wike could not help him. He however succeeded in making Ali Modu Sheriff pay off all the accumulated salaries of PDP staff at the national secretariat. Governor Wike met a stronger political match in Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, the only Nigerian who, among a very few, rejected ministerial nomination at a point in his life.
I would have tolerated Governor Wike’s dragnet of political condemnation better if he had accused Rotimi Amaechi of aiding the printing of the fake result sheets in Port Harcourt than to point his short fingers at INEC and Malama Zakari. At least Wike would have had another platform to attempt the tumbling down of Amaechi from the “ministers’ hill”.
Bringing INEC into such contraption is socio-politically anarchical. He, the governor has noted this fact by himself, and this only reveals Wike’s surreptitious intention to cause a self-conceived resistance against the federal government. He’s been on political offensive against the Federal government is not cimpletely hidden.
If Amina Zakari is accused of been a member of the APC, an accusation I cannot defend her from, and she is a National Commissioner of INEC, who then is ignorant that Ogbuefi Lawrence Nwuruku, an incumbent National Commissioner of INEC, is a card carrying member of the PDP? He is a two-timed National Commissioner, who was an Obasanjo Minister of State for Industries and a Jonathan foreign Ambassador. Both Lawrence Nwuruku and the late Senator Polycarp Nwite set the fire under the then Governor Sam Egwu’s ass in Ebonyi State. Let the PDP remove the log in its eye before seeing clearly to accuse an innocent woman and a Nigerian institution.
I am particularly irked by Governor Wike’s questioning of how the printers of the fake result sheets got INEC’s serial numbers if INEC was not involved in the irresponsibility. I still think he should not bring INEC into this. I was a voter in Rivers State in the last elections. It was before me that Oji Ngofa, the incumbent National Assistant Secretary of the APC and a recent Ambassadorial nominee, who was a Council Chairman then, asked the presiding officer for the Presidential/National Assembly elections at my polling unit to produce the result sheets for the unit and none was available for him to show. Oji stopped the elections by asking his people to vacate all polling units and the elections. It was on national news that “no elections held in Rivers State”, but that news came from Rotimi Amaechi’s directive that all LGA officials must stop elections in their areas of jurisdictions.
Amaechi attempted to stop elections but left the election materials intact, and in the hands of hungry looking NYSC members. And because he had no such powers to stop an election, the PDP had a free ride in that election. Amaechi mistook immunity for impunity. But his complaint was notable: that the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State had compromised the election result sheets. PDP was accused of having the result sheets, and Gesila Khan was accused of giving it out to them in a Jonathanian arrangement to short change Amaechi’s political hold over Rivers State.
So some Rivers men and women have INEC’s 2015 results sheets for the National Assembly elections and could deploy same for the printing of fake result sheets in Port Harcourt.
This is Nigeria and I am a very enlightened Nigerian, and I cannot be fooled. I was with INEC Rivers State at the time of the preparations for the 2002 Voters Registration exercise. I was at the point of been indulged in a bad franchise invited into an office occupied by a well respected chieftain of the ruling party, who a few months later became a senator of the federal republic, where I saw so many thousands of INEC registration forms already colour-copied exactly like the originals. Someone had sneaked a copy of the less than 5,000 original ones meant for distribution, out of INEC. The forms were for applicants who would serve as (Ad Hoc) Registration Officers in the conduct of the Voters Registration exercise that year against the 2003 general elections.
So accessing INEC’s documents for multiplication can be by the hands of a cleaner in the Commission who stumbles over a “misplaced” copy.
Now the scenario in 2015 shows that all result sheets were compromised. It should therefore not appear “the big story” that INEC and Amina Zakari are involved, as it is clear where the 2015 Rivers election result sheets are.
Governor Wike is a very good preemptive political strategist, and it has been very good for him all along, but his forceful pursuance of political gains just needs to be tampered this time. It is important for INEC to cut all access of politicians to the staff and election materials for the coming election. This can only be achieved if the INEC chairman would use the commission’s staff to conduct the December 10 2016 elections and save lives that would surely be lost if it insists on admitting Ad Hoc staff to conduct the elections in the State.
INEC has no mechanism to check where their staff take the list they admit for posting as election staff, and this is the avenue where the “do or die” politician use to infiltrate INEC with their agents, paying huge sums of money to the commission staff to ensure their agents deployment to strategic areas of importance to them. All the commission’s staff does and pocket millions of Naira is to ensure the name of the election-agent is on the list of election staff and his deloyment is to the demanded area, and the staff would probably enjoy a new car, a new house, a new lifestyle and a good business concern. He is not responsible for the irresponsibility of the man he enlisted and posted for election duties. No one cares how many innocent people lose their lives: this is sad.
It is said “a stitch in time saves nigh”. A word is therefore enough for a “wise” INEC. A foolish INEC will return another rescheduled elections in Rivers State and some new Rivers graves. Governor Nyesom Wike seems to go about with death in his briefcase for any rigging INEC staff. I pray that his death threats covers every INEC staff who rigs the forthcoming elections for the PDP: electoral malpractice in an election is like a two-edged sword – there are “both ways”.
Ini A Morgan writes from Port Harcourt. He is an architect, writer, teacher and a social critic. He can be reached via “email@example.com”.