Trump: Why Nigeria Should Explore A Bi-partisan INEC, By SKC Ogbonnia

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The desperate attempts by President Donald Trump to overturn the free and fair U.S. presidential election of 2020 ought to create every sense of urgency for Nigeria to explore a bi-partisan body for the conduct of its elections. Trump’s behaviour was delusional and does not represent any good example of a democratic mien, but it can serve as a blessing in disguise, especially for nations prone to dictatorship and electoral controversies. That is precisely where Nigeria comes in. Nigeria has seen its fair share of dictators donning the democratic toga, as well as electoral controversies. Instances abound, but the most relative is the tendency of Nigerian leaders to pervert the laws that govern the country’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). As the name suggests, the INEC was envisioned as an independent organisation in line with item F,14(2c) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). This section states that any of its members must “be nonpartisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.” The Constitution also vests the appointment of principal INEC officials with the president of the country. Unfortunately, most of the appointees have been neither nonpartisan nor independent. A prevailing example is the case of Lorretta Onochie, who has been nominated as a National Commissioner for the INEC. Not only is she a rabid promoter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and currently the Senior Special Assistant on Social Media to President Muhammadu Buhari, Onochie is also a virally controversial figure and super spreader of toxic fictions. In short, her every rhetoric is emblematic of an extremist rabble-rouser who clowns around the country, spewing offensive fallacies as federal decrees. The objective motive behind Onochie’s nomination, therefore, is nothing but trumpish — deliberately designed to wreak havoc and stoke controversies. But the dictatorial intrigue within the INEC did not start with Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling APC. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party were no different or even worse while they were in power. Such partisan grip of the INEC has been the major reason Nigerian elections are hardly mentioned in the same breath with the term “free and fair.” However, instead of placing the blame squarely where it belongs, the INEC chairman is typically the scapegoat. For instance, as the country geared for the 2011 election, the debate centered on Maurice Iwu, a renowned Professor of Pharmacognosy, who served as the INEC boss in the controversial elections of 2007. To many Nigerians, Mr. Iwu was the problem, and the problem was Mr. Iwu. It was generally believed that a mere change in leadership of the INEC was the sole panacea for a free and fair election in the country. Accordingly, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed a new chairman in Professor Attahiru Jega, another astute intellectual, a move widely hailed. Yet, after the 2011 general elections, despite the fact that its conduct showed significant improvement, the opposition groups claimed that the ruling party colluded with the INEC to falsify electoral results. In the words of Muhammadu Buhari, the main opposition candidate in the 2011 presidential election, the magnitude of malpractices in the 2007 elections “eclipsed all the other elections in the depth and scope of forgery and rigging. Initially, there were high hopes that after 2003 and 2007 a semblance of electoral propriety would be witnessed. The new chairman of INEC, Professor Jega, was touted as competent and a man of integrity. He has proved neither.”

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