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Supreme Sanctuary For Election Riggers By Peter Claver Oparah

February 28, 2016

I hope those who have now formed an emergency vanguard for the defense of the Supreme Court just because it played an unusual Father Christmas in rewarding their electoral roguery fully understand the long-term implication of the controversial rulings, how they badly assail the credibility of the electoral process and how they stand to affect the political interests they are trying to protect. I say this because certainly, we will live with the intended and unintended negative implications of the Supreme Court adjudications in last year's governorship election unless President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC decide to be magnanimous enough to allow the continued reform of the country's electoral system which the Supreme Court abridged by their ludicrous judgments. They have a gargantuan choice to go by the Supreme Court, discard the card reader, adopt every vile means including mass killing and ensure their party remains the sole party in the land. At least, the Supreme Court, by its strings of confounding judgments in last year's governorship election, feels these are within the ambit of the law.

Before getting to the meat of my report, let us recall the country's hard and tortuous journey to reform the electoral process so that outcome of elections can reflect the wishes and democratic choices of the majority of Nigerians. Let us recall that the country's elections and electoral processes have been continuous mishmash of election rigging, violence, manipulation and all sorts of negative vices that always reward the strongest, the vilest, the most brutal, the most callous, the richest, the most powerful and the crudest irrespective of the electoral choices of the people. Let us call to mind that in 2007, the out-going President Obasanjo, in cahoots with the Maurice Iwu-led INEC went brazenly in manipulating the elections to return Obasanjo and PDP's desire. The horrific fraud was so nauseous that the eventual highest beneficiary of that macabre rape. Late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had to admit publicly that his election was fraught with malpractices, but that did not stop the Supreme Court from affirming his victory. Despite the Supreme Court affirmation, President Yar'Adua, in deference to the shrill outcry against his election, empaneled an Electoral Reform Panel, heading by Justice Muhammadu Uwais to come up with far-reaching recommendations on how to cleanse the electoral process of the enduring putrefying stench that had dogged it.

The Uwais Panel engaged in an elaborate exercise that took it all round the country, taking in recommendations from diverse spectrum of the Nigerian population and finally came with a much-lauded report that significantly addressed the ageless hitches bedevilling the Nigerian electoral system and proffering  recommendations for mending. The Uwais Panel Report covered such areas as; Appointment of INEC Chairman and Electoral Commissioners, Tenure of INEC Officials, Removal of INEC officials, Funding of INEC, Tenure, Independent Candidacy, Determination of Electoral Tribunal Cases. The intent was to offload the thick cobwebs that entangle the electoral system and make the process freer and more credible to reflect the wishes of the people during elections.

Yar'Adua was to die before the submission of the reports of this epochal panel. The Jonathan regime that received this report did not spare a second look at it as it threw it out from the window. To it, the electoral sham can continue so long as it benefits it. Assailed by wide-ranging criticism over the decision of his regime to discard the extensive reports of the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel, Jonathan was to make a ludicrous claim that the reports of the panel were mere recommendations that were not binding on his regime. So the bewildered nation continued to totter through sham elections, organised by partisan umpires that were mainly selected by and from the ruling party. However, the determination of Attahiru Jega as InNEC Chairman was to imbue some confidence on Nigerians that something positive will happen to cleanse the electoral system and align it with the democratic choices  of Nigerians.

Appointed few months to the 2011 general election, Jega was to do little to prevent the same age-old ennui assailing the conduct of elections in Nigeria during the 2011 elections. His INEC wobbled through the 2011 general elections and returned the sane questionable outcomes as previous elections. Despite the syndicated effort to laud that election as free and fair, there was still no credible explanations to the horrendous figures that were churned out from the Sourh East and South-South regions where nearly 100 per cent of all registered voters were alleged to have turned up on Election Day and in record time, voted for one single candidate in the presidential election. With the benefit of hindsight, it was obvious that Jega knew this howling parody but bided for time to introduce a mechanism that will deal with electoral fraud at source. That mechanisms he brought in were the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and the Card Reader with which he aimed at eliminating padding of voters register with millions of fake identities, stopping multiple voting and these he meant to do with such personal identity inputs that will frustrate efforts to duplicate either the voters cards or actual voting on Election Day.

Jega's innovations were hailed across the board both within and without the country as Nigerians became increasingly aware of its capacity to sanitise the country's mangled electoral system. It was curious that it was the then ruling party, the PDP that rose up stridently against these devices as election dawned. It was obvious as PDP engaged in a dirty, extensive and expensive campaign against the PVC and the card reader, that the party has been busted in its traditional antic of reaping bountifully from manipulating the electoral process since 1999 and the entire country and the international community rose against its antics which saved the 2015 elections and ensured that a PDP that hitherto flowered on uploading phantom election results at every election, was voted out of power in that epochal election- thanks to the care reader and the PVC.

So, if the Supreme Court should now make a strange rule against the card reader and resurrect the notorious temporary voters register, Nigerians especially the opposition and its cahoots that are now engaged in wild reverie for being allowed to go home with stolen goods, should have good reasons to feel concerned. The fact is that by gloating that the Supreme Court has allowed it to keep Rivers and Akwa Ibom States where the farcical comedy of elections took place and where dozens of people were murdered, the PDP is inadvertently signing its death warrant.

Of the elections in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States, let us revisit the reports of international election observers to the parodies in both states. The leader of African Centre for Leadership Strategies and Development, Humphrey, Bekaren, who spoke on behalf of international observers a day after the April 11, 2015, governorship elections said, “We request all lovers of democracy to join us in calling for the outright cancellation of the phony election. Unless this is done, we would have sown the seed that could eventually grow into providing a shade of fear and death over us,’’

According to Bekaren, what happened in Rivers was a far cry from what election should be. “What we saw did not meet the international standard of electioneering, not even the ones set by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC,’’ he said.

He said there were reported incidents like deliberate delays and diversion of electoral materials, attacks on electoral officers, widespread arson and voter intimidation.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM)  in a preliminary report of the governorship election presented in Abuja on Monday, April 13, 2015, called for an investigation of systematic poll fraud in Akwa Ibom and the Rivers States.

What happened in both states on April 11, 2015 was like an open sesame which every Nigerian, including the Supreme Court judges, knows. The dastardly killings, the brazen employment of violence and force and the farcical cooking of figures. Nigerians know that INEC gave a directive, in order to forestall what happened in the South East and South South during the presidential elections, that the conduct of the governorship election must be done in total compliance with the card reader facility. In Rivers State, for instance, the card reader recorded a voters accreditation of only 200,000, but the PDP claimed it scored over one million votes! The situation in Akwa Ibom was equally damning. This was the open sham the Supreme Court affirmed in a curious magnanimity that aims to rubbish the gains the country's electoral system has gained in recent times.

This was the same election the Supreme Court affirmed for very flimsy reasons. By removing the wedge to electoral fraud, which the card reader is and returning us back to the era of padded fake voters register, did the Supreme Court clearly reckon what its ruling can mean in the hands of a predatory ruling party? What happens if the APC should send everybody to his tent and take the country back to the era of the shambolic election where election results are manufactured at whims, which of course, the Supreme Court must affirm? Who will be the loser in such circumstances? Certainly it is the gloating PDP that has practically declared a permanent rendezvous that it was allowed to keep the states it stole so brazenly last April. Let me ask, is the PDP prepared to accept the type of Wike and Udom results in subsequent elections? Will they keep their mouths shut if APC procures such results that the Supreme Court affirmed for it in coming elections?

This is why I alluded to the magnanimity of both President Buhari and APC in discarding the obnoxious Supreme Court ruling and going on with reforming the electoral system to ensure that despite the Supreme Court and its curious judgments, Nigerians will enjoy an electoral system with inbuilt mechanisms to protect the electoral choices of its citizens. Both President Buhari and APC have the luxury of resorting to the same shambolic elections the Supreme Court wanted to bring back to haunt the nation and discard all talks about electoral reform. They can decide to throw the card reader away as the Supreme Court affirmed and resort to brazen such cooking of election results as the PDP made an integral part of the country's elections.  Let me ask, who will benefit if we agree to obey the Supreme Court and revert to the kind of jungle tactics that was brutally brought to play in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States during the last elections?

I understand the position of the PDP and why it is engaged in wild orgy in celebrating the queer magnanimity of the Supreme Court but if it has the gift of deep reasoning, it should rather be troubled by such Greek Gift. The PDP was rather over-pampered by the Supreme Court beyond its own expectations. It knows that asking it to go for a more credible test of its popularity in both Rivers and Akwa Ibom after the horrendous events of last April, as both the States Election Tribunals and the Appeal Tribunal did, was enough favour but asking it to walk away with its loot was such an unexpected benevolence beyond its wildest imaginations.

But for a party notorious for fetching the firewood with which it is roasted, it may be too much to expect the PDP to think across and weigh the full import of the Supreme Court's poisoned favour. Let us remember how the PDP reacted when Wahab Dosunmu, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Gbenga Ogunniya and others traded off senatorial seats belonging to the defunct Alliance for Democracy to the PDP in the early days of this democracy in 1999. The PDP frustrated all efforts to have these rebel senators defect without their senatorial seats and In fact, engaged in the most cannibalistic poaching of opposition parties and their elected positions. While this lasted and the opposition pinned in helplessness, PDP threw wild parties and reveled to no end as opposition parties were ceaselessly poached through defection to collapse to the PDP, which bathed itself in every flattering light. But then, the table turned with the coming on stream of the APC and the poacher became the poached as PDP office holders defected in droves to the APC and the whirlwind it provoked in the country's political space. It was then that the PDP realised the dangers of defection especially in allowing office holders to defect with their offices. It made frantic efforts to secure the stable door but then, the horse had bolted, and it never survived that pestilence. The rest, including the PDP, as a ruling dominant party, has become history. Let us hope the PDP and its enablers who have been gloating and over-celebrating the Supreme Court strange magnanimity pray that in that ruling and their efforts to justify what is certainly a judicial miscarriage, they are not writing their final obituary.

Peter Claver Oparah

Ikeja, Lagos.
E-mail: [email protected]