Less than 50 days to election, fear of sabotage looms large

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BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

Uba Group

With less than 50 days to cast the first ballot in the 2023 general elections, the fear of some unscrupulous elements working round the clock to sabotage the process and possibly plunge Nigeria’s democracy into crisis continues to loom large across the horizon. The elections that have been tagged “make or mar” for the existence of Nigeria by her citizens and the international community. But the path leading to the electoral contest has been subjected to a series of unfortunate events capable of derailing the processes.

Of 18 registered political parties only one has made its stance clear on the deployment of technology via the use of electronic devices in the conduct of the forthcoming elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission as provided for by law. Others have at one point or the other unequivocally declared that they don’t have confidence in both Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

But the parties’ body language and stance seem not to deter the electoral umpires, whose Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, has persistently assured and reassured Nigerians that the INEC under his watch was determined to conduct free, fair transparent and credible elections, regardless of skirmishes from politicians. He insisted that with the backing of the Electoral Act signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022, the Commission will implement it to the letter.

His resolve has drastically unsettled politicians who believe in the old order of shooting guns sporadically at the various polling units, scaring voters away, snatching ballot boxes, stuffing them and writing results to be forcefully declared. These have been the highlights of the vices that have marred the country’s previous elections.

Notwithstanding the insistence of Yakubu and his electoral team, unfolding events have continued to point to the fact that politicians are not ready for peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections. They are not comfortable with INEC’s resolve to chart a way forward for Nigeria’s elections and by extension Africa, because it has been said at different fora that once Nigeria gets it right, the entire African continent will follow suit.

Before the year 2022 ran out, a very deadly drama ensued trailing a policy by the country’s Central Bank that redesigned the country’s currency and put a limit to the withdrawal of cash. As expected, those politicians who were injured by the policy did not only condemn the decision but went all out for the jugular of the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele. He was accused of sponsoring terrorism against the country. With the speed of light, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) operatives swung into action and moved for his arrest.

“Look at how people who are paid with our taxes are turning to tools of destroying our peace. It’s very unfortunate. We do not need a fortune teller to know that these moves are politically motivated and it is still coming from a particular political party and candidate who believes Nigerian voters have a price “

What surprised many Nigerians was the demands by the DSS to the Court in their quest to arrest and interrogate him on the accusation which of course the Court stopped. If they had their way, Emefiele would have been arrested, detained and investigated while the cashless and redesigning of the naira policy would have been truncated. But the DSS has since clarified that it must do its duties and that no amount of intimidation can stop it or any form of blackmail can make it shy away from carrying out its legitimate duties.

Last few weeks, another deadly drama ensued. The Chairman of the INEC, Yakubu was brought into the eyes of the storm. One Somadina Ugwuamaka went to court to ask that he should step aside while the DSS, ICPC, EFCC and CCT investigate his assets declaration claiming that his declarations were false. To the plaintiff, Yakubu was to step aside while some other person could take over his responsibility at INEC till when the investigation is concluded. Again, the court acted promptly and saved the country from the disaster.

The big questions are: could these be coincidences, why are they happening now, who are those behind these acts and what do they intend to benefit?

Discussing the matter on a national television monitored by our correspondent, legal luminary and politician, Kunle Adegoke, said among other things that the case against the INEC Chairman might have been politically motivated.

He said, “No doubt about it, people are bound to read political meanings or make speculations when cases come at a particular time in the life of the people or in the life of a nation and considering the issue of the CBN Governor more especially with the issue of cashless policy, that is now being reinvigorated and being introduced and with the redesign of the naira, everybody including myself are of the opinion that that attempt to get him arrested by the DSS might be politically motivated. I am sure that politicians, I am one of them, politicians are most likely to be against the naira redesign or re-issue or cashless policy.

“Elections are won today by the amount of cash you can dispense. We have seen cases where the Governorship elections are won by the amount of money a politician is able to spend on the average voter, up to 10,000, 15,000 or five thousand naira. And in a society where we have vote buying as a morbid culture of this nature, it is very important that the authorities intervene to ensure that cash should not be circulating recklessly and aimlessly in all quarters as to afford certain powerful individuals to be able to buy consciences of the less privilege or the less guided and it is in this regard that many of us support the idea of doing everything necessary that prevent the naira from being grossly abused as it has been subjected to over the years and for our political fortune to depend on who has the shrewdest political chase at a particular point in time.

“While the case filed by the individuals involved might have been politically motivated I believe that people who have a valid, sound and viable opinions, one can say these cases must be politically motivated. I don’t see any reason why the DSS should make an application to the court for them to arrest the CBN Governor. It’s their power, it’s their statutory and constitutional power to arrest any individual who might have been suspected of committing certain offences or acts injurious to the security of the nation and the security of the nation is such that can be from any angle. It might financial, physical, or whatever way and where the DSS honestly and sincerely believes that Godwin Emefiele has breached it or has done something that is contrary to the law of the land, the Constitution empowers them to arrest and prosecute him. They don’t need to make an application to the court but by the application they made to the court, to arrest him and detain him for a number of months is actually an abuse of the law”

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria lamented the weakness of the rules and laws of the land which paved way for every Tom, Dick and Harry to run to the court to obtain an injunction, obtain orders against individuals, against institutions, saying, “it is because our rules and orders made it possible. If we have rules in place that allow courts to award hefty costs against frivolous applications and such deterrent costs are not meant to be awarded against litigants alone, even the lawyer that has the guts to file such application.”

Corroborating the legal luminary, Abdulwaheed Abdullahi, Convener of Peaceful Election A Must in 2023, said the security operatives have constitutional powers to investigate, arrest, detain and prosecute any individual or group of people found to be a security risk to the nation but noted that when they decide to perform their function on the orders of moneybag politicians they automatically turn around to become a security risk to the entire country.

“We all know that whether it is the DSS, EFCC, ICPC, or Police the Constitution gives them the power to investigate, arrest, detain and even prosecute individuals based on intelligence available to them. However, the problem is when they are seen to be acting to the contrary by working to please some moneybag politicians. And it’s very clear that both the attempted arrest of the CBN Governor, Emefiele, and the purported investigation of the INEC Chairman is all politically motivated. The moment Emefiele came up with the redesign of the naira and cashless policy, every patriotic Nigerian knew that those politicians who have stockpiled naira note to buy votes were severely injured and would fight back.

They proved it with such laughable allegation that the Governor is sponsoring terrorism and for that, the DSS applied to arrest him, and detain for a period of time to carry out investigation. Their plan was to rubbish the policy. That failed they turned their searchlights on the INEC Chairman. Look at how people who are paid with our taxes are turning to tools for destroying our peace. It’s very unfortunate. We do not need a fortune teller to know that these moves are politically motivated and it is still coming from a particular political party and candidate who believes Nigerian voters have a price.

“CBN"

“What are the sins of INEC, is it the insistent that it will use BVAS and IReV to conduct the elections in order to make our votes count? Those who are still carrying the mind of ballot box snatching and writing of results are bent on sabotaging these efforts that have been tried in Anambra State, Ekiti state and Osun State gubernatorial elections and proved to be above board. How can we continue to progress in error and are still boastful? Election is a contest, when you join the race you prepare yourself to contest against other candidates but if you are not ready, quit, do not try to throw the country into flames.”

Abdullahi further argued that “We have 47 days to go to the polls to elect President Buhari’s successor. Just 47 days and a particular political party is still fighting tooth and nail to make sure the election is derailed. Why am I saying this, I have read in newspapers and listened to both television and radio and the complaints about BVAS and IReV is coming from one political party out of 18 political parties going for the election and that is why I am convinced they are behind the plot against CBN Governor and INEC Chairman. But that is not a big issue, they should use the remaining days to plan their strategy because this destructive strategy will not work. We must have peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections this year. We are behind INEC to conduct elections that will relaunch Nigeria to her position in Africa and the world”.

Reacting, an Abuja-based civil servant who preferred anonymity decried the willingness of some Igbo men to be used for dirty jobs once money is involved. He recalled how the Babangida regime used the late Arthur Nzeribe to truncate the June 12 election of the late Chief Moshood Abiola which was the best election in the history of Nigeria.
“I don’t know, if you have forgotten the role played by Arthur Nzeribe in the June 12, 1993 election. This is 2023 and another Igbo man is going to court to remove INEC Chairman probably because he may have been given money. This is not good for them and they are crying about marginalization, now that somebody from there is having national recognition, they are still the people who want to stop the good work of INEC. It’s all about their pocket. But let them do whatever they like, election must go on, Mahmood Yakubu will remain the INEC Chairman and he will produce a President that will emerge from the popular and majority votes of Nigerians.”