On Monday, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu vacated his chairmanship position following expiration of his tenure. Alongside Mr Yakubu, five other national commissioners also left the commission to kick start a new life.
The Ex-chairman, handed over to a retired Air Vice Marshal, Ahmed Mu’azu who left his former position as national commissioner INEC from the Northeast to become the acting chairman of the electoral body.
Before he took the new position, Mr Mu’azu was overseeing the electoral logistics committee of INEC. The question that heaps around the neck of many is “what’s next for Mr. Yakubu?”. The response however is simple. The commission would continue its activities under a new leadership.
For POLITICS NIGERIA, we are not particular about who governs the electoral body, instead, we are concerned about the way the electoral body carries out its constitutional duties.
As a newspaper with interest to strengthen democracy and speak truth to power on behalf of the masses, in this analysis, we look at the activities of Nigeria’s electoral body since inception and then answer the question many Nigerians have been asking; “is the electoral body and its officials independent or not?”.
Since inception, the electoral body is set to determine the choice of Nigerians at every poll but the body’s activities are always influenced by some political elites, especially the ruling class, hence, one wonders whether democracy truly means government of the people, by the people and for some people.
While democracy in Nigeria came with a lot of sleepless night and unending challenges for our past heroes, electoral processes of electing Nigerian leaders have been marred with irregularities since 1999 after AbdulSalam Abubakar succeeded in registering three political parties which were People Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP).
The electoral processes that brought in Olusegun Obasanjo according to political pundits was said to have been characterised with irregularities and that has been the case since then till this moment. This reason for the repeated malpractice cannot be far fetched.
It is simply because the electoral body did not have autonomy as against what the public expected. For instance funds are released by the federal government and the incumbent president can decide to tamper with any election if not pleased with the conduct. A vivid example was recorded in our earlier attempts in 1993 when Ibrahim Babangida annulled June 12 presidential election.
Ordinarily, members of the commission commissions are often appointed by the president. The tendency of selecting his loyalists is high and when those occupying the office are not going by the directive of the presidency, they may risk removal. Anyone who has drank from the water of history will recall how General Babangida treated the electoral body chair, Humphrey Nwosu in 1993.
Nothing has really changed. A remembrance of Maurice Iwu, the former Chairman of INEC under Olusegun Obasanjo corroborated the arguments that the body is seen beyond the power they truly have.
1999 till date
Between 1999 and now, INEC has conducted six consecutive elections without military intervention. The elections took place in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo won the 1999 presidential election with 62.78% over Olu Falae who got 37.22% of casted votes. For international observers such as the Transition Monitoring Group, the International Republican Institute and the European Union (EU), the election was ‘doctored’ and a repeated incident happened in 2003 with Mr Obasanjo emerging with 61.80% votes over Muhammadu Buhari of ANPP who secured 32.3% of all votes casted.
The embarrassing aspect was that local and international observers’ reports revealed that there was massive rigging and ballot stuffing which INEC could not control. Following his emergence, Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 had no choice than to show Maurice Iwu an exit door after witnessing the malpractices that brought him and late Umar Yar’adua into power. Shockingly, all ad-hoc staff that conducted the 2007 election never had any training until a day to the polls.
INEC also claimed some candidates were disqualified a night to the election and since then, Nigeria began to have uniformed elections. In fact opposition parties’ candidates in Kogi, Anambra and Adamawa states were excluded on ballots.
By the time the election came to an end, 1,250 election petitions were submitted. The presidential election had eight while the national assembly, the red chamber which is mostly regarded as the senate had 150, and the green chamber, House of Representatives had 331 petitions.
At the state level, the governorship election had 105 petitions while the state Houses of Assembly had 656 and most of the matters ended up at the supreme courts. Beyond, the matters led to the off season elections that are being conducted in Osun, Ondo and Ekiti.
Like previous years, The elections of 2011 also came with various irregularities. In fact, after the elections, persons that believed that it was rigged against Muhammadu Buhari who contested under CPC took to the streets to express their displeasure.
There were violent protests in Kano, Zamfara, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Niger, Sokoto, Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina and Yobe. Infact the aftermath of the election led to the deaths of 520 in 12 northern states.
Unlike other elections, many appeared satisfied with the conduct of the 2015 election, but there were still some challenges such as card readers failure and underage voting but in all, the Attahiru Jega led-INEC was applauded after the poll.
For Mr Yakubu, the conduct of the 2019 election according to political analysts was relatively good and Nigerians really hope for a more trustworthy election.
It is understood that while INEC leaders on their part are making efforts daily to ensure that they maintain a good record, many politicians and political parties have deployed the use of thugs and even attack INEC officers who try to be credible during polls.
“The reality is that elections do not just revolve around INEC alone. The politicians, their parties and even electorates play a huge role in elections. The first means of finding an everlasting solution to the irregularities that mar elections every time is the willingness of the youths to take away the two major parties”, Stella Banjoke, a political analyst and lecturer at the Olabisi Onabanjo University said.
She stressed that when politics of ‘Godfatherism’ is killed, INEC officials will not also have the need to be loyal to the president that appointed them.
“The fact that appointments of INEC chairman is done by the president is also risky for democracy. The body must truly be independent and be willing to exercise its duties without interference. A new person has been named acting Chairman, let’s hope he’s able to supersede the achievements of the former Jega and former Yakubu.”