from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – DISPUTED polls in Nigeria, including the potential election of the country’s first female governor, risk tarnishing the legacy of the departing President Muhamadu Buhari, who aims to exit office upon a legacy of credible polls.
His legacy seemed intact when he signed into law the amended Electoral Act 2022, which cleared the way for the deployment of technology in Nigeria’s elections, starting with the presidential poll at the end of February.
However, it appears he will exit the presidency on May 29 with the West African country in a political shambles after the chaotic polls.
The elections fiasco took another turn this past weekend in the northeastern Adamawa State, one of the areas worst hit by the insurgency by Islamist groups.
Again, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is accused of vote rigging, in a poll that has seen the controversial announcement of Aisha ‘Binani’ Dahiru (51), a candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner.
In the country of 36 states (and the Federal Capital Territory), she would have been confirmed the first female to be elected governor, to succeed incumbent Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Virginia Etiaba, was the first female governor, at the helm of the southeastern Anambra, but she was not elected.
She assumed the position after the impeachment of Governor Peter Obi in November 2006. She vacated the office after three months after the courts nullified the removal of Obi, who contested the polls earlier this year as leader of the Labour Party.
Adamawa has been tense since the past weekend after allegations of bribery and falsification of election results marred the governorship election.
The controversy culminated in Hudu Yunusa Ari, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the INEC, breaching protocol by announcing Dahiru as the winner.
By this action, he usurped the power of the Returning Officer.
“It (announcement) is null, void and of no effect,” stated Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairperson, Information and Voter Education Committee.
Consequently, the collation of results of the supplementary election has been suspended. INEC has also suspended its state’s errant electoral commissioner, Ari.
“Accordingly, he has been directed to stay away from the Commission’s office in Adamawa State forthwith,” Okoye said.
Fintiri reacted to the crisis.
“I call on everyone to remain peaceful and law-abiding, trusting that the world is watching the enemies of democracy at the height of their shameless brigandage,” he said.
The incumbent assured his supporters, “As your leader, I will ensure nobody thwarts your democratic rights.”
The Department of State Services (DSS) is investigating after a video went viral depicting political thugs assaulting an officer of the agency.
The Conference Of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), under which all political formations in Nigeria fall, has in the aftermath of the chaos accused INEC of “deliberately frustrating the deepening of the country’s democratic advancement as well as the only legacy President Muhammadu Buhari may have intended to leave after signing into law the amended Electoral Act 2022, which cleared the coast for the deployment of technology in Nigeria’s elections.”
“The conduct of the Adamawa State governorship election, which obviously did not go down well with many residents, points clearly to the 2023 sham elections in many states,” said Willy Ezugwu, CNPP Secretary General.
“Sadly, INEC under the current leadership presents itself as a cash-and-carry Commission where the highest bidder is declared the winner against the wishes of the electorates and urged to go to court,” he said of the electoral body.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu chairs the INEC, tasked with conducting the biggest electoral exercise in Africa. Over 93 million Nigerians are registered to vote, in Africa’s most populous country (estimated at 219 million people).
Before the 2023 elections, INEC had assured Nigerians of real-time transmission of polls results but the biometric devices failed, forcing the commission to resort to manually transmitted results collation, which opened up the planned electronically controlled electoral processes to manipulation.
Obi and the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar have appealed to the courts after INEC named Bola Tinubu of the APC as the winner of the presidential election.
They cite vote rigging.
“Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Nigerians, the judiciary is yet to prove its readiness to deliver judgment on electoral matters based on the merit of the cases rather than relying on technicalities to deny litigants justice in election petitions,” Ezugwu said.
Courts, particularly the Supreme Court, were already dealing with matters brought before them before this year’s polls.
“The result is the now clearly doomed legacy of free, fair, and credible 2023 general elections which President Buhari would have left behind on May 29 as his outstanding legacy in eight years,” Ezugwu said.
He added, “The Adamawa State governorship election has brought to a woeful climax the unpleasant tale of INEC supervised electoral impunity.”
Buhari (80) was a military dictator in the early 1980s during Nigeria’s decades of rule by the army generals that ended in 1999.
He was elected in 2015 assuring he was a democrat. Besides the electoral chaos, the economy has been unstable, characterised by recurrent shortages of fuel in Africa’s largest producer of crude oil and its biggest economy.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Nigeria’s inflation at 20,1 percent year-on-year in 2023.
However, the local Coronation Bank forecast inflation moderating to 18,5 percent year-on-year by end of the year.
“Our inflation forecast took into consideration positive base effects,” Chinwe Egim, Coronation chief economist, told CAJ News Africa.
Positives include China’s economy rebounding after periods of lockdowns, which slowed down manufacturing activities. Another is the oil prices forecast to remain elevated.
– CAJ News