Whereas President Muhammadu Buhari has done the right and proper thing regarding last week’s appointment of National Commissioners and National Chairman-designate for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with a view to constituting a proper Commission, there are still many rivers to cross.
Indeed, Sunday Vanguard had consistently harped on the need to appoint commissioners to the Commission so that its required quorum would be met, culminating in penultimate Sunday’s publication of a subsisting Federal High Court judgment which declared that not less than five commissioners can form the quorum for INEC, as against Madam Amina Zakari andAmbassador Lawrence Nwuruku (even with a sword of doubt hanging over the head of the former), which Buhari heeded, is worth commending. However, the nature of the nominations, as well as the caliber of the nominees, remains curious.
This report will show why President Buhari needs to do more to ensure that the goodness he benefited from an impartial electoral management body, is not denied other Nigerians whose elections INEC would superintend, by nominating men and women of impeccable and sound character to the Commission.
A SHOCKER FOR NATIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE
President Muhammadu Buhari did it again last week. You could call it a matter of style.
The no-nonsense fifth executive President and Commander-in-Chief avoided all the niceties of packaging, to present his nominees for the offices of national commissioners and office of national chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to members of the National Council of States, NCoS.
He read out the names: Professor Mahmood Yakubu, as Chairman; Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari, the immediate past acting INEC Chairman, representing the North-West; Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbile, commissioner representing North-Central; and Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo from Borno as commissioner representing the North-East. Others are Dr. Mohammed Mustapha Lecky from Edo as commissioner representing the South-South and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon from Ogun State representing the South-west.
A source at the meeting told Sunday Vanguard that some jaws dropped as Mr. President made his presentation.
In fact, pieces of information made available to Sunday Vanguard, about what transpired at this first meeting of the NCoS since Buhari’s inauguration, suggest that some of the governors were shocked. Interestingly, most of those who were shocked were governors of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
The reason for this, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand, stemmed from the fact that they were not consulted before the nominees were brought to the NCoS.
That was the first shocker.
A few of the governors, upon hearing the names, wondered what manner of INEC President Buhari was attempting to establish – these ones were predominantly of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
DECONSTRUCTING BUHARI’S INEC
But the PDP governors did not wonder afar.
It soon became a joke, that one of the commissioners Buhari had just nominated was part of the self-same Commission that oversaw the defeat of Buhari as presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. And the same President Buhari had complained openly about seeming partisanship of INEC during the 2007 presidential election, especially as his appeal was being tossed from court to court before it was finally dismissed in what he described as controversial circumstance.
It was during that period of open lamentation that saw Buhari come in the open to lament the future of Nigeria in view of what some described as the grand electoral robbery of 2007, an election in which the winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, acknowledged the flaws.
Specifically, the nominee for the South West zone was also a national commissioner during the 2007 presidential election.
So, the joke is: What new appurtenances of credible election are being expected with the appointment.
Since it has been generally acknowledged that the Professor Attahiru Jega-led INEC brought Nigeria closer to electoral sanity, it is indecipherable at this point why President Buhari has appointed a national commissioner who served in what some say was a discredited INEC.
The rationale behind that nomination, in the estimation of some, remains curious.
More curious, one of the governors at the meeting said, was the insistence of “Mr. President to still appoint Amina Zakari, inspite of the overwhelming familial connection” which has diminished the real essence of the woman.
Another individual, among the nominees, was alleged to have collected money from two contending parties during a gubernatorial election some years ago. This actually led to an open confrontation between the nominee and one of the parties in the open – it had to do with a governorship election in Abia State, to be specific.
Yet, the nominee from Edo State, who hails from Auchi, the same area one of the national leaders of the APC comes from, is another addition in the list.
ATTAHIRU JEGA, 1,957 DAYS AGO
One thousand, nine hundred and fifty seven days ago, specifically on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan settled for Professor Jega as national chairman of INEC and presented his name, along with some others, to the NCoS..
Appointing Jega did not come easy.
However, the overwhelming desire of Nigerians to have an election management body that would conduct elections that would be acceptable, free and fair, appeared to have guided and guarded Jonathan’s choice of Jega.
Indeed, before that day’s meeting of the NCoS, the government had flown a kite, throwing into the public domain the names of Olisa Agbakoba, Barrister Buari and Jega.
Because of Jega’s antecedents, Nigerians pointed in his direction.
Jonathan had no option than to appoint the Professor from Kebbi State.
Against all odds, Jega did well – in his own way.
Given these speculations of possible partisanship, observers are compelled to ask what happened to all those INEC commissioners that Nigerians know very well, who served creditably during Jega’s time and whose integrity and publicly acknowledged commitment helped to build the reputation that INEC enjoyed up until June 2015?
How can this administration expect to earn public trust by appointing only Madam Zakari, not even known as the face of INEC, until her controversial appointment as acting national chairman, an appointment which was in itself treacherous in the face of the law?
Where are those commissioners who served as the face of INEC at critical moments when members of the public needed to clear the fog?
How does President Buhari hope to instill institutional memory in the Commission?
Like Jonathan after barely a year in office, why is President Buhari attempting to decimate his own goodwill?
It was Olusegun Obasanjo who described the 2007 presidential election as a do-or-die affair and, therefore, went ahead to intimidate those at INEC. Now, Buhari is President and his nominees, for now, do not inspire the type of confidence that Nigerians are looking for.
Does this signal the conclusion which Nigerians must now come to accept, that all former military heads of government consider elections as a do-or-die affair and therefore have no concern whatsoever for credible election managers? Where are all the credible election managers whose credible conducts led to the emergence of the transition that the current government is enjoying? Will the current government deny Nigerian the freewill to choose in elections which helped to usher them in as a source of hope and accountability? The remaining nominations which the government will make to lead INEC at national and state levels will serve to reassure Nigerians that all hope is not lost, or confirm that indeed enduring Democracy as we hoped for, will not come to Nigeria in the near future.