Nigeria: Why INEC - a Carrier of Political Coronavirus - Must Be Scrapped

26 February 2020
opinion

So INEC chairman's spokesman and my friend, Rotimi Oyekanmi, wrote an article which was widely-circulated, titled "Between INEC and unending conspiracy theories'. See https://www.thecable.ng/between-inec-and-unending-conspiracy-theories.

Ordinarily I should have ignored the article for several reasons; one, Oyekanmi is my friend and I know him to be a gentleman. Secondly, as a chairman of a political party which is an institution under INEC's supervision, I should only respond to the INEC Chairman directly and not a mere spokesman. But Rotimi has been given an assignment that he must perform as a civil servant, and someone needs to respond from our end as institutions. Secondly, INEC has put us in a war situation and we cannot go to a bomb fight with featherdusters, INEC goofed big time in its hurried and purported 'deregistration' of political parties and one would have thought they were more enlightened than to take such a premature and half-baked decision what with the number of learned people in the organization. But that is what dirty politics turns people and institutions to. That INEC is struggling and falling over itself to respond to some of our media engagements, and even allegedly sponsoring charlatans and chancers who claim to have set up some associations of 'surviving political parties' is enough indication, ultimately, that that organisation is shorn of its most important constitutional requirement - independence - and as a coronavirus and ebola infected animal, INEC needs to be put down; scrapped and reinvented.

The politics of Nigeria has always been afflicted with serious cancer but in this season of anomie, guided along by toxic fellows in the marauding, nihilistic ruling party, INEC has introduced some of these incurable viruses to finish the work of damaging democracy in Nigeria, while fast-tracking the demise of this 20-years experiment. The sheer impunity, arrogance, carelessness, impudence, and nonchalance towards political parties and those who support them, by INEC who supervises and regulates them, couldn't have been more evident than from reading Oyekanmi - and by extension the INEC Chairman's - diatribe against the so-called deregistered parties. What they didn't know is that the same disrespect shown to those they have unjustly and cavalierly treated is extended to those whom they have left standing in their opaque, shoddy, and ramshackle exercise. All but two; PDP and APC. It is unfortunate how a whole so-called 'independent' electoral commission is so beholden to ruling parties, past and present. The playing field is far from level. Someone needs to kick some sense into INEC and stop that institution from continuing with institutionalized rubbish. I must bring to the attention of every reader, some of the cultures and actions within INEC that shows that the institution has since capitulated to mediocrity and that it stands no chance of standing up whichever piper is paying the tune. These revelations were stoked by Oyekanmi's unwarranted and arrogant diatribe against distinguished citizens of Nigeria who forked out a non-refundable fee to this same INEC with the hope of forming and running political parties which can help correct the course of our nation. I should itemize:

1. The PDP and APC hardly, hardly ever attends any meetings called by INEC. They don't give a rass, as they have seen INEC on its knees over time while begging for salaries, allowances and money for operations. INEC on the other hand is not ready to change the status quo by pointing attention to the Uwais Commission report that suggested ways of dislinking INEC from government finance

2. The executives of INEC are appointed by sitting governments so they could as well be card-carrying members of ruling parties or somehow beholden to the parties. Again, INEC leadership today is not interested in building a stronger institution of itself for posterity but more interested in following the prodding of ruling party political hawks in clearing the scene of any budding political party. It is indeed a big shame.

3. The INEC tries to cover the fact that it levies new political parties N1million non-refundable fee for 'administration' purposes, despite the fact that the Nigerian people through their taxes, fund INEC fully for all purposes.

4. INEC tries to suppress the fact that as an umpire it has never created a level playing field for political parties and plays catch-and-release with the younger ones as it deregisters and re-registers via court orders. This reveals a sick organization playing ping pong with the destiny of Nigerians and from which nothing good could ever emerge apart from the recycling of corrupt politicians.

5. From Oyekanmi's article, we can see an INEC that has given up doing a good job of its mandate and now waits for the courts to be the last arbiter of elections and the entire political process in Nigeria. This is evident in the references to how INEC deregistered 39 parties which were promptly re-registered between 2011 and 2013 by court order. Also a new party; BOOT Party was registered recently by court order while APP is still on INEC list by court order. Whereas it is fitting and appropriate for these parties to seek the weaponry of the courts, it is however disgraceful, wasteful and voyeuristic for INEC to wait for the court to interpret its every wrong decision and lecture it on how things could be done better. One aspect no one seems to think about is the trauma that people who float new political parties go through and the fact that INEC rigs the process from Day 1 by traumatizing young parties so that they may never balance or win anything much less cause a change in Nigeria.

6.Oyekanmi's reeking arrogance shows the sheer impunity, carelessness, disdain and disrespect that young political parties are put through in Nigeria. The constitution of Nigeria does not confer impunity on anyone. The constitution does not give the Nigerian Police the right to shoot alleged armed robbers, yahoo-yahoo boys, Badoo cult boys, or even suspected Boko Haram members on sight (by Jove these ones are being rehabilitated and reabsorbed at the people's expense presently). In the same vein, the constitution - and its amendment - does not confer on INEC the right to summary deregistration (outright killing and damaging) of political parties by INEC. It can only be a gross infection of institutional illiteracy and organizational Ebola that could make Oyekanmi or anyone in INEC think they can treat political parties in such a despicable and unacceptable manner. The CBN governor cannot wake up and withdraw the licenses of banks without serious back and forth. NCC cannot withdraw the licenses of telecoms companies anyhow or talk down on operators. INEC must be disinfected of stupidity if not totally collapsed to be rebuilt.

7. INEC should show the basis of its actions. One would have thought the result of the inspection of all parties will be published - including those who have published campaign expenses, those who have conducted their primaries and those with audited accounts. Because INEC knows that its sponsor parties did not scale some of these hurdles, Prof Mahmoud, who is otherwise a gentleman, chose to capitulate to the whims of some powerful APC politicians and bully small parties with a view to obliterating perceived threats of those with new ideas. This will not stand. It can never stand.

8. INEC surely has a mandate to regulate political parties but only treats parties with levity and scorn - except of course APC and PDP which often treats INEC with scorn too. INEC must learn lessons in regulation. Commissioner Festus Okoye for one is on record to have been going around bad-mouthing and talking down young political parties thereby ruining our chances in every election. He must get in the dock at some point to explain whether as a regulator, he and INEC are meant to be working for some big party or the other and how will INEC and himself compensate the parties and people whose chances they ruined.

9. INEC, despite its embedded intellectual superpower, chose to misread what is as clear as crystal in the amended Section 225 a, b and c of the Nigerian constitution which was clear that all elections should be concluded - down to the wards - before INEC can make a call on which party did well and which ones didn't. INEC - clever by half - is hiding behind a finger by saying it is only concerned with FCT local governments even though it supplies names of voters and other logistics to state local governments. I don't know if anyone has to mount a rooftop to tell INEC that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is concerned with the entire Nigeria and not with any compartmentalization that INEC wishes to do. The constitution is not concerned with who conducts an election so long as the elections are conducted. The constitution did not mention - in Section 225 - that INEC must conduct elections. They could as well be FEDECO. However, the constitution is worried about representative governance at EVERY level in Nigeria and in particular among the downtrodden Nigerian people who reside in local governments and wards.

10. INEC refused to advise the legislators properly while those ones out of political chicanery drafted an unworkable amendment and shot themselves in the foot. The sole aim of the amendment drafted by partisan legislators and hurriedly assented to by an absentee president, was to simply block and eradicate small and young political parties floated by some 'enfant terribles' who are trying hard to push new ideas for national development. But they don't own Nigeria and they are not superior in any way to the rest of us.

11. INEC has admitted that the criteria for registering new parties have not changed and so 100 new parties will soon be registered. Ditto, most of the deregistered 74 parties are automaticaly qualified to be immediately re-registered. Again, the problem is the 'catch and release', the state of orgasmoga, higi-haga, flux and instability that these parties are subjected to, compared with those whom INEC fed for over a decade with billions of naira in taxpayers' money and who now have their hands in the cookie jar at state and federal levels.

Enough about INEC. Let me talk about myself.

Oyekanmi - a good friend albeit a civil servant who will do and say anything today because his paymasters are breathing down his neck and tomorrow after retirement go round apologizing and explaining himself - did mock the 4,340 votes I obtained in the president elections (which was no election at all). I am proud of those votes and came 36th out of 72. I should have done better in terms of numbers but what we had were vote allocations not an election. I didn't run to win though; I couldn't have won. I am not that popular. But I had ideas to drop in the public space, and I wanted to position for a day like this, when my interventions will worry a government agency such that it will get its spokesman to take me on, my humble self. I ran for impact, for relevance in the public space. I ran for an opportunity to play my part in torpedoing the absolutely rotten status quo - including an uber-inefficient, ultra-corrupt and mega-deluded electoral umpire that has nothing good in store for Nigeria. I will advise my friend Rotimi, to try run for president at least once in his next lifetime. It is an exhilarating and liberating experience. Priceless.

As for the results that INEC purports to have pasted, as at the time of our interview on AIT the results were not on the website. They could have now posted them but when I left AIT on the date of the said interview two weeks ago, I went straight to the website at inecnigeria.org and those fields Oyekanmi mentioned were dummies. I publicized this immediately on Twitter and Facebook. I know they may now have scrambled to tidy up their act, but mutual respect demands that they could have written these parties and sent out the results, not assume that the parties know what the results were.

I will stop there but I am mist disappointed that an institution that should shut up and hide its head in shame has summoned the temerity to engage in the public sphere and can even deploy indecorous words against parties, their promoters, contestants and even election observers. In his closing paragraphs, Oyekanmi advised deregistered parties to engage the National Assembly. Which National Assembly? The same ones who have a sinister agenda to preserve themselves and bully others out? Why can INEC not approach the Assembly and advise them properly on what will work and what will not work? I read somewhere where INEC claimed to have sent very detailed memo to the NA while this law was being put together. I don't see any professional input in the amendment at all. Maybe INEC was blinded by its own compromises.

Hear, hear "Political parties cannot tell INEC, the regulator, how the rules of the game should be applied. It is not in their place to do so. Their obligation is to respectfully comply with all the rules set by the Commission". That is Oyekanmi conveying INEC's idea of how parties should relate with it; subservient, unthinking, defenseless, respectful, compliant, in fact dumb, deaf and blind plus stupid and foolish. Bros, we have not asked INEC not to do its work. We just want you to obey the rules, understand the art and science of regulation, and learn something called mutual respect. Enough already of the one-sided ill-treatment of budding political parties. And under no occasion does enforcement confer summary oppression and such blatant display of execrable and gut-wrenching arrogance.

Oyekanmi concluded thus "Going forward, with the Fourth Alteration of the 1999 Constitution now in force, all political parties in Nigeria will be assessed after every general election and any party that fails to meet the threshold under Section 225A will face the prospects of de-registration, unless the Constitution is amended again". Well it seems the gentleman will make a good staff of the old LASTMA in Lagos - those ones that jump in front of your vehicle, slam you with fees and interpret the laws like zombies. It is very unfortunate. Even the much-vilified military boys were a lot more refined in interpreting laws than these umpires of democracy. Tufiakwa!

Apologies to all my good friends in INEC. The good people trying in-house to make the place, and our politics, much better. They know themselves.

'Tope Fasua, an economist, author, blogger, entrepreneur, and recent presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), can be reached through topsyfash@yahoo.com.

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