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General News of Saturday, 7 January 2023


Politicians after Yakubu, out to rig 2023 elections

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

With barely six weeks to the 2023 general elections, it is now crystal clear to most Nigerians that desperate and corrupt politicians who are scared of the outcome of the elections are doing everything to scuttle the process.

Legal fireworks against the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and attacks on its offices in parts of the country have convinced activists, clerics, senior lawyers, and others of a grand plot to subvert the polls.

The election riggers started from the National Assembly by shooting down INEC’s plan for the electronic announcement of election results until the uproar from Nigerians forced the lawmakers to rescind their decision.

Meanwhile, as there are indications of continued subterranean plots to remove INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, analysts have hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for bequeathing a new Electoral Law to Nigerians. They said with the law and ingenuity of the INEC boss, politicians have been running around like headless chickens, seeking to overturn the apple cart.

There have been at least four attempts to remove the INEC boss, the latest being through an Originating Summons marked FCT/HC/GAR/CV/47/2022 by Somadina Uzoabaka against the Attorney General of the Federation and Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, seeking among other things an order of mandatory injunction directing and compelling the INEC Chairman to recuse, excuse and exclude himself and or step down as the Chairman of INEC pending the investigation and consideration of the various allegations against him by the various law enforcement agencies.

The plaintiff also sought an order from the court stopping Yakubu from holding or assuming any public office for a period of ten years. But a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja during the week frustrated the plans to scuttle the 2023 general election by the removal of the INEC boss over alleged failure to declare his assets. Apart from quashing the allegations of false assets declaration against Yakubu, the court stopped security agencies from investigating him.

Also, the direct assault on the electoral umpire has taken the form of direct attacks by hoodlums who set fire to its offices in some states, especially in the Southern region, and destroyed physical structures, equipment and permanent voter cards.

Amid these challenges purportedly created by the desperation of politicians and their hirelings, some activists, senior lawyers, civil society groups and religious leaders who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, insist that the government must take extraordinary measures to ensure hitch-free polls this year.

They warned that Nigerians would resist any attempt to suspend the elections for any reason, stressing that the unfolding events were foreboding in view of the fact that they suggest a possible conspiracy by yet-to-be-identified persons who are bent on derailing or discrediting the 2023 elections.

Analyzing the development, former presidential spokesman and Arise Television anchor, Dr Reuben Abati and his colleague, Rufai Oseni, faulted the timing of the suit against the INEC Chairman.

They recalled how, only a few weeks back, the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele was in the news and the same court ordered the Department of State Services DSS to desist from making attempts to arrest him based on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

“Imagine if the court didn’t rule this way and it ordered the removal of the INEC Chairman, and then we begin to scramble for a replacement. You begin to wonder who are the people behind these developments and what the motive is”, they contended.

Expressing his personal views on the matter, Abati noted that since 1999, Nigerians have come to see elections as war. “Every election cycle, you see people, fifth columnists coming up with ways to derail the process, to compromise the process, to tarnish the integrity of the process.

“We have seen some people going to court to say that INEC cannot use electronic transmission and BVAS contrary to the stipulations of established law. And at some other time, we have had people targeting the person of INEC Chairman himself to say that he must be removed. They tried it in 2015, but that was resisted, now in 2023, a man called Somadina went before Justice Maryam Hassan in Abuja to ask for an order of mandatory injunction to say that the INEC Chairman falsified his assets declaration and secondly, for the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to be barred for the next 10 years from holding any office in any territory in Nigeria.

“Justice Hassan ruled that the allegations were unsubstantiated and that they were fabricated because Prof. Yakubu was able to provide evidence that he indeed made a proper declaration of his assets and he provided proof of how he came about those assets.

And on the basis of that, the learned judge ruled that he had no case to answer and that those allegations were fabricated.

“With due respect, the only missing link in the ruling of the learned Justice Maryam Hassan is that she did not award costs against the plaintiff because the rules of court do not allow you as a litigant to come before the temple of justice with frivolous and vexatious allegations.

For wasting the time and resources of the court, I think the learned jurist should have awarded some costs against the plaintiff and also warn these lawyers who engage in forum shopping and who see the election season as a time for money making, going to court to make frivolous petitions”, the former presidential spokesman noted.

Abati also hailed the court for protecting the integrity of both the commission and its chairman and for barring security and anti-graft agencies from investigating Prof. Yakubu.

He added that “the second part of the ruling is that the Police, the DSS, and the Code of Conduct Bureau have been barred by the court from further investigating those allegations that came before the court. This is important because, given the timing of the suit, it looks like an attempt to derail the 2023 electoral process. It also looks like an attempt to lower, in the estimation of right-thinking members of the Nigerian and international community, the reputation and integrity of the INEC chairman.

“What the court has done is to protect his integrity and also protect the 2023 electoral process. This does not mean however that some other elements will not approach the courts with frivolous allegations and cases but the judiciary must be very firm in awarding costs against such persons who seek to waste the time and resources of the court and derail the 2023 election process”.

On his part, Mr Oseni said politicians are now running around haphazardly, all in a bid to derail the electoral process. He said; “If for anything, I thank you President Muhammadu Buhari because this Electoral Law you signed is now making politicians run, ‘kaba kaba’ (helter skelter) as we say in the local parlance. It is obvious also, the CBN policy is a good one because all the loopholes are being blocked as we speak and we know it. The first attempt was to discredit the CBN boss just because he came up with a policy before the elections which will not favour politicians.

The court has also ruled in the CBN governor’s favour. And now, it is the attack on the INEC Chairman. Anyway, we saw this coming, and kudos to our very good friend, Barr Mike Igini because he said it here that the crux of this election will be the judiciary standing tall and we say kudos to the judiciary because more of them will still bring these frivolous, backroom dealings to stop the electoral process.

“But I think the next loophole INEC should look at should be the ad hoc staff because now, they are going to target them. We have a country where a lot of people are less busy or jobless. So, politics for them is a win at all costs. If they were joining politics to add value to Nigeria, it would have been better but they join to steal from the government, to crush the people. These are the nefarious needles needling the prospects of Nigeria for their own selfish interests”, said Oseni.

Corrupt politicians afraid of 2023 presidential election results — Sheikh Nuru Khalid

Former Chief Imam of National Assembly Quarters’ Jummat Mosque, Apo, Abuja, Sheikh Nuru Khalid, said that colouration of the recent upsurge in the spate of attacks on INEC’s leadership and facilities indicates that many corrupt politicians in the country perceive that the outcome of the 2023 presidential election may be very strange and inexplicable, and so are desperate to prevent that fear from becoming reality.

He said, “It’s a very unfortunate situation. From what I understand that is going on, we seem not to be sure of ourselves because of the high level of grand corruption, impunity and injustice in the country. Consequently, we have allowed criminals to hijack the opinions of the people. Now, the criminals within the political circles are afraid of the forthcoming elections because it is going to change the current narrative. The gesture in the country is telling us that something strange will happen after the election; that is, the result of the elections is going to be very strange.

This is why we are seeing attacks on the management and facilities of INEC. The INEC chairman is persistent about doing the right thing and we urge him to continue doing so. He should remember that the eyes of all Nigerians and the rest of the world are on him. If he misbehaves, he will not only endanger himself but also the rest of the country.”

Election riggers after INEC chairman — Prof Ofoeze

In his own submission, Professor of Political Science at the Abia State University, Professor Hartz Ofoeze, argued that INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, was being persecuted because of his insistence on conducting a credible poll in Nigeria. This is as the Chairman, the Christian Association of Nigeria, Abia State chapter, Apostle Emmanuel Agonmuo, has expressed concern that the forthcoming elections might not hold after all.

Ofoeze said: “As far as I’m concerned, the persecution of the INEC Chairman is deliberately crafted by those who are afraid of his insistence on the use of modern technology to conduct the forthcoming elections. In the past when we claimed people had won elections, most of them never won any elections. They just went there, wrote figures and declared themselves winners. But now they are afraid that somebody is bent on conducting a credible poll, and that is why they are after the man.

“I’m even afraid for his life because they just want to win at all costs, and would not mind truncating the entire system. They believe that once they remove him, they will bring somebody who can be teleguided and manipulated to abandon the use of BVAS just to allow them go back to the old system that can be easily manipulated. All these harassments are by those who feel threatened over Yakubu’s insistence to do the right things this time around.

“As for the attacks on INEC facilities especially in the South East, the aim is to deprive one of the presidential candidates with a strong base in the zone of his votes. They were taken unawares, and now they would prefer that the election does not even hold at all. If it were to be in those days when there were no BVAS machines, they would have been happier to hold the election but Nigerians are watching”

We’ll thwart efforts of political desperadoes — Rafsanjani

Also, the Executive Director, of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and Head of Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that the plot by those he described as political desperadoes to derail the process of a credible 2023 elections through attacks on the electoral umpire would not succeed as citizens would thwart their efforts. According to him, threats to INEC are not new to Nigerians.

He said, “We are not surprised about all that is currently happening with INEC because we know some groups of desperate people who are determined to ensure that we don’t have peaceful, free and fair elections in this country because of their selfish interests.

But Nigerians are already aware of their plot and much more determined to destabilise their agenda and ensure that we have a successful election by not participating in mass violence. A majority of Nigerians want the elections to happen in a peaceful and issue-based atmosphere.”

There’s a two-pronged dimension to attacks on INEC — Adeyanju

For his part, human rights activist and convener of the civil society organisation, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, stakeholders must analyse the recent attacks on INEC from a very critical perspective and adopt a two-pronged approach to addressing the challenges they pose to the forthcoming polls.

According to him, though the attacks on the facilities of the electoral body in the Southeast may be exclusive of politics, they constitute a potent threat to elections in many states of the geo-political zone.

He stated, “There is a two-pronged approach to the attacks. First, there is genuine insecurity in the Southeast which the current government has failed to curtail. Many of these attacks are unconnected with politics though they will have some impact on the conduct of the elections. On the other hand, there are critical political stakeholders who have used their surrogates to institute legal actions in court to prevent the use of BVAS. These are the people, I believe, who are fighting back against the INEC chairman.”

What govt must do to ensure success of 2023 polls —Hayab

Also, weighing in on the matter, the Chairman, of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna state chapter, Rev. John Hayab, tasked the government to protect INEC and its personnel more and prevent further attacks on the Commission, if the 2023 polls will succeed.

“INEC has consistently assured Nigerians that they are ready and have all it takes to conduct a credible election, but the recent legal fireworks and attacks on its facilities have made it more appropriate to say that, if the attack is not curtailed, then time may not be enough to quickly replace those things that are being destroyed. So, we appeal that the government, as a matter of policy, should ensure that INEC facilities, staff and other things that pertain to the next general elections are secured 24/7 before, during and after the elections because one cannot even understand the motives of those behind the attacks on INEC,” he said.

Attacks on INEC, hidden agenda to elongate Buhari’s tenure — Adegboruwa, SAN
Also speaking with Saturday Vanguard, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, accused some politicians of nursing a hidden negative agenda for elongating President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure even when the President has repeatedly said he would not stay one day beyond his tenure.

Adegboruwa, however, said that Nigerians would not allow the agenda to hatch, urging the citizenry to compel the authorities to do the needful to avert the subversion of the country’s democracy.

According to him, “There’s a hidden agenda by some to prolong the tenure of the president. The secret agenda involves the marginalisation of the Southeast in order to cause confusion there and the invasion of that region in order to create an atmosphere of tension. Also, the polarisation of the Southwest and the suppression of opposition voices in the North is pointing to the fact that there’s a hidden agenda.

“On the other hand is the issue of poverty. The people are being pauperised in order to create insurrection in the system coupled with insecurity to give the impression that it is not safe to conduct elections at the moment.

“There is an agenda to elongate the tenure of the president. They are creating an atmosphere of tension and fear such that it’ll come to a time when the supporters of this agenda will be calling for a shift in the election date, but I can tell you that Nigerians will not agree.”