Yes. I am back. From the cold. The decision to mute my online footprints from the political space was deliberate. I needed to recalibrate, refocus and declutter. After all, most of the candidates that I supported for public office except one, won their elections on the first ballot. What more did I need? I was concentrating on the bigger picture and taking care of the home in a more impassioned manner. To me, there was no need continuing to speak up because the election and electoral period was done and dusted. Winners needed to savor their hard-won victories while the losers needed time alone to heal. That was my thinking, until the bizarre events of the last forty-eight hours in Adamawa, jolted me back to normal.

Normal in Nigeria is the abnormal in other climes. Since the INEC REC in that state took the stage to announce the winner of the supplementary election without any prove of victory or result, our country has been on tenterhooks. Analysts and media personalities have been falling over themselves to castigate and demonize the REC for the audacity of his recklessness. Yesterday, on-air-personalities in ARISE TV such as Reuben Abatti, Emmanuel Efeni and Oseni Rufai were on full blast to insinuate that the REC who announced an “illegal result” should be sent to jail. INEC HQ has followed that up with a letter to the REC – Barr. Hudu Yunusa Ari, ordering him to “stay away” from the Adamawa State Office of INEC. The embarrassment is building up and ridiculing the electoral process. The shame is getting out of hands. But how did we get here?

As per Electoral Act 2022, the REC in a State, who himself is appointed by the President, is the “Chief Returning Officer” in a state election. On March 18, 2023, elections were conducted to choose state governors in Nigeria, including Adamawa State. In Adamawa, the stakes were higher because the ruling APC in the center, fielded a Muslim woman – Senator Aishatu Binani, to vie for the position against incumbent Governor Aminu Fintiri, a Muslim man of the PDP party. The contrast couldn’t have been starker considering that the main opposition Presidential candidate – Atiku Abubakar, is from that State. On polling day, it emerged that many of the results from polling units in at least seventeen LGA’s were falsified. INEC declared the result inconclusive and ordered a supplementary election. Dissatisfied by the verdict of the returning officer, the candidate of the APC who believed that she won the initial poll, was everywhere on major television networks, to calling on INEC to review the results. Her allegation was that most polling units did not use the mandatory BVAS machines to accredit voters. Rather, compromised polling officials, working in cahoots with PDP party agents simply stuffed ballot boxes with thumb-printed ballot papers in flagrant violation of the process, for incumbent governor Fintiri. She called on INEC to review these results to distill valid votes from the rest and arrive at the proper result. This was largely ignored by INEC HQ.

I have been told by those who should know that the REC wrote to the INEC Chairman, complaining about the illegalities that pervaded the election of March 18 in Adamawa. He sought the approval of INEC HQ for the results and BVAS to be reviewed within seven days, in accordance with the 2022 Electoral Act. INEC HQ turned down the REC’s request and rather went ahead to prepare for supplementary election in a select number of polling units, excluding the ones in contention. On the day for the supplementary election, INEC HQ sent two national commissioners to Adamawa to take charge of the election. The Commissioners in turn, sidestepped the REC and connived with the ad-hoc returning officers to conduct the election.

Prior to the general election, I had credible information to the effect that INEC National Commissioners were openly cutting deals with politicians and taking sides to manipulate the system for a fee. The matter came to a head when the immediate past REC in Akwa Ibom, Barr. Mike Igini, who was having a running battle with entrenched and corrupt interests in INEC HQ, was described by Barr. Festus Okoye, the spokesperson for INEC as a mere appendage who had no powers except the ones “donated to him” by the Commission. When Okoye made that statement, I knew that there was a cesspit of infamy brewing within INEC. It was not long before Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Governor Dave Umahi, Governor Aminu Tambuwal and former Governor Godswill Akpabio, who never took part in any party senate primaries, were cleared to contest the election upon the testimony of INEC that there was nothing wrong with their purported nominations. Since then, heaps and tons of rancid and odoriferous deals have been cut within the walls of INEC which completely rubbish all the public grandstanding of the Chairman – Professor Mahmood Yakubu.

The Adamawa case is symptomatic of an organization that has been eaten up by grand corruption. The decision of INEC HQ to go ahead with the supplementary election without the participation of the REC or attention to the report that REC wrote against the shenanigans of March 18, pushed the poor old man to resort to self-help, which has today exposed the entire country and its electoral system to huge embarrassment. Ordinarily, the ruling APC would never have bothered a whimper if it did not stand to benefit from the counter-crime. But because Binani is their own, they provided full security cover for the REC to stage the coupe.

The Adamawa shame points to the full and total unravelling of INEC and its unholy ways. The resort to execute the counter-plot has thrown the entire electoral process into uncharted territory. Like a well-choreographed movie, Senator Binani read out her “acceptance speech” as soon as the REC announced her as the winner. The Returning Officer – Professor Mohammed Mele (that name sounds like mine) who was suspected of being in the camp of the PDP, has literally disappeared from the horizon. INEC scrambled to arrest the situation with no clear options as it issued meaningless press release to keep the REC “away” from office in a move that smirks of panic. It has also ordered the suspension of further collation and promised to “review the situation and take a position”. That the full appurtenances of the security apparatchik escorted the REC into the collation center to announce the result points to the fact that something grand is in the offing. I have read that Senator Binani has obtained a court injunction to restrain INEC from tampering with her “victory”. But must we continue like this?

This writer believes that equity should beget equity. If Governor Fintiri colluded with bad eggs in INEC to arrest the March 18 election and force it into a rerun, INEC should have done right by listening to Binani’s complaints and taking steps to ensure that the system was transparent. It should have instituted a credible and open review to weight the veracity of all claims. But it did absolutely nothing. I put the blame for all the shenanigans in Adamawa on the doorsteps of INEC which fertilized the ground for parties to resort to self-help.

Now that we are here, I urge restraint on all sides and for INEC to swallow their pride, go back to the beginning to find where things went wrong. After all, Mike igini did it in Akwa Ibom State in 2019 and the heavens did not fall. Those who pursue the weak argument that the REC lacked powers to interfere in the declaration of the result should know that REC’s have done so in several elections before, including the infamous Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Election of 2019 which landed a returning officer in prison after Mike Igini intervened. The heavens did not fall. The current attempt to bully and demonize the REC, subjecting him to media ridicule without offering him a chance to say his own side will be counter-productive.

After all, JF Kennedy famously said in 1962 that “those who fail to make peaceful change possible, make violent change inevitable.” Fat and untouchable lawbreakers in INEC HQ, who continue to bend the rules for powerful politicians and sit in the comfort of their offices to determine election outcomes need to be fished out and punished for the shame in Adamawa not to recur elsewhere. Else, we will see many more Adamawa States, as we continue to evolve in our political journey.


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