INEC will bungle March 11 election, but the will of Nigerians can stop it —Ubani
The chairman, Section of Public Interest and Development (SPIDEL) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr Monday Ubani, reviews INEC’s conduct of the presidential and National Assembly election with DARE ADEKANMBI, submitting that the electoral body failed in all parameters, stressing that only the sheer will of Nigerians can turn the tide against those making the country unworkable for the citizens.
The presidential and National Assembly election has come and gone with controversy trailing the manner Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) went about the election. What is your own take on how the election went?
INEC promised so much and made so much mouth about the credibility of the process to be experienced in the election. But, unfortunately, if you examine what INEC did, you would see that in every parameter, INEC failed abysmally. In logistics, it failed. Only in a few places did we have what we can call prompt arrival of electoral officials and materials. We had issue of [electoral officers] coming late or not even coming with the necessary materials in some of the polling units. We even had an issue of INEC omitting the names and logos of some political parties on the ballot papers. This was an election that INEC had four years to prepare for. Between the four years, INEC collected so much money from the system, including all the money it got from international donor agencies. INEC was not able to deliver a free and fair election. All it was interested in is taking so much out of the system. INEC failed big time. INEC failed in registration of voters, failed in giving Nigerians PVCs, failed to conduct an election that is transparent. INEC did not transmit results of election as it promised. INEC ‘made so much mouth’ it would send the results real-time from the polling units to its IReV portal for people to see. INEC did not fulfil this promise, but instead it started giving excuses of threat to its server and before you knew it, we saw people thumb printing and doing all manner of manipulation that we thought,with the new Electoral Act, we would not experience such brazen impunity in the system. So, INEC has taken us back to 2011. That is the point.
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What options do you see for parties and candidates that are aggrieved?
There is no other place for parties that are aggrieved than the judiciary, believing that the judiciary will live up to expectation.
The new Electoral Act opens a seven-day window for people to raise objections and for INEC to look at the objections…
I don’t see this INEC responding to anything. This INEC headed by Mahmood Yakubu won’t do that. INEC was given an opportunity to review some off the results before announcing them. But INEC has said anyone who is not satisfied should go to court. So, what are you reviewing about the commission which has already asked people to go to court? If people expect INEC to review and probably reverse anything, they are just wasting their time. So, the best place to review the outcome of the election is still the judiciary. That is the only place and the next line of action. If there is evidence of infraction of the Electoral Act, it is the court that remains the last hope.
Three days before the election, INEC chairman said raw figures and results would not be transmitted to its server because of likely compromise of its cyber security. People expected that parties would have raised issues at that time. But questions were asked by the media about what INEC did with its budget of N117billion which it said was meant for procurement of anti-hacking software to put in place a robust cyber security system…
I was not aware of that report of INEC saying it would not transmit raw figures. You are just bringing that to me now. It then means that EFCC should move in and probe INEC. If they actually set aside such huge amount of money to put a robust system in place and three days to the election they started telling a different story, then INEC should be investigated. What has happened to that money? Who ‘ate’ the money? So, they must have ‘eaten’ the money because this is a country that anybody can do anything and get away with it. But I tell you something: all the people that participated and conspired in order to waste our resources in this country will pay for it and their generations unborn will pay for it. They will bleed and will never enjoy the money; neither will their generation enjoy the money as well. If INEC has taken so much and now come back to tell us it can’t transmit results to its server right from the polling units, it means there will never be peace in the hearts and families of those who have taken that money in order to enjoy themselves at the expense of Nigerians. They will suffer punishment and go to the hottest part of hell because of what they have done to the resources of the country.
Ohanaeze, Labour Party and the PDP and others have rejected the outcome of the presidential election and talks about protests from youths are being mentioned in some circles in Lagos. What role do you think President Muhammadu Buhari can play for tension not to build up?
I was part of the people that had a meeting with the Commissioner of Police in Lagos and we all agreed that nobody should do anything that will cause crisis in the country. We agreed we will toe the line of enlightened engagement which means the only place we can have a resort to now, in the light of what has happened, is the judiciary. Meanwhile, I tell you that we have moved some inches. There are results in some states where we saw people who we had thought would remain in power forever losing their seats and all that. Despite the calamitous outing of INEC, there is some progress we have made. INEC always bloats the voter register figure, claiming millions have been registered. But at the end, we don’t have up to 25 per cent of the numbers who participated in election. It has been on for a long time, but the 2023 election has exposed INEC. We all saw the enthusiasm of the people who came out to vote. Despite all that, BVAS has now really shown that those figures in the voter register belong largely to animals and not human beings. So, they are all lying and this has really exposed the ‘yansh’ of INEC. I think what we should do is to toe the path of peace and not to engage in any crisis that will create problems because if there is any crisis in the country, it will affect children, women and everyone and there will be economic standstill and life will not go forward. We have made some recovery, but what we need to do now is to complete the process. We now know we can use our votes to vote out bad governance. We must keep on improving the system by making sure those who we appoint to head INEC and those who will run our electoral process are people that must be examined very well. What we have at the moment is that many criminal gangs, thieves, armed robbers have infiltrated and have been made to now work at INEC and those thieves are now the ones that are spoiling what is going on in Nigeria. We will not allow them anymore and it is the alertness of the populace that will stop the nonsense. The will of the people when they come together can change anything. The issue I have is that this will of the people is being truncated by the politicians. But things appear changing with what happened in last Saturday’s election. In my polling unit, I saw people voted for APC, PDP and I saw Yoruba people voting for Peter Obi. So, consensus is being built. In the South, we don’t have any problem regarding this. We need to concentrate on the people from the North to really liberate them. A majority of them are still wallowing in terms of being deceived by their political elite. They are not fully on social media because a lot is done through the social media that created a large army of enlightened voters and you could see the reflection in those areas where there is large population of enlightened populace. We need to get the Northerners to key into this. Once this happens, in two or three years, Nigeria will never be the same. Even the new government that is coming in, it will not be business as usual, I can assure you that. What we will do now is to gather people to keep the government on its toes on every of its policy and programme, including budget implementation and so on. There will be huge citizen participation so that everyone follows everything from end to end so that if the government does not fulfil its promise, we will see what will happen on the streets and in the lives of those who are running the country. Their lives will not be safe anymore.
The Labour Party presidential candidate, Obi, said the total number of vote cast in last Saturday’s election went down by about four million from the votes cast during the 2019 elections despite more Nigerians showing interest in the 2023 election. According to him, this is a testimony of that the votes scores by him were suppressed…
That is correct. If INEC told us 87.2million people collected PVCs, we expect the total votes scored to go up from the 2019 figures because a lot of people showed up to vote this time and may have voted for the very first time. There was suppression of votes in so many places. We saw that in many places in Port Harcourt and Lagos.
What can we do as a country to get our elections right, 24 years after civilian rule?
What I said before and I have been saying it again and again is that we will never have free and fair elections in Nigeria. Quote me. It will not happen, except we address what the leaders, when elected, are entitled to and what they do that nobody checkmates them. As President Buhari is now, if any person steals N20billion and EFCC arrests the person and the EFCC boss gets a call from the president that he should release the person, EFCC will go ahead with speed and release the person. Do you think such a system will ever be free from manipulation, knowing full well that the moment a person becomes a governor or president and they are in power, they can command anything and have access to the treasury unhindered and give any command and the command will be obeyed? As long as we have such a system, we will never have a free and fair election. We can’t have free and fair elections because there are no institutions that are working. If we have the situation I just painted where the EFCC boss will say ‘Mr President, please you can’t give me such an instruction because I am doing my duty’ and such is upheld and the president can’t even sack the EFCC chairman because the system will deal with the president if he tries it, then no one will be so eager to be president because those excesses and impunity in the system will not be tolerated. What is available to public officers is what is causing the desperation you see from politicians and as long as these things are there, we can never have free and fair elections.
Do you see INEC making amends in the conduct of the governorship and house of assembly election guided by the criticisms that have trailed the conduct of last Saturday’s polls or you think INEC will still bungle it?
INEC will bungle every election, but we will not stop doing the right thing by going out to vote and insisting that the right thing be done. On March 11, INEC officials will arrive late at the polling units and they will not even arrive with the right election material in some places. INEC will encourage the manipulation of figures in some places. The only thing that can stop this is for Nigerians to be alert. Ideally, the criticisms should guide INEC, but we are talking about a commission peopled by those who don’t have conscience.
What about the security personnel…
The security agencies are also compromised. Didn’t you see videos of some policemen helping the politicians to destroy materials? Did you see what happened in Port Harcourt, how both soldiers and policemen were used?