OPINION: No Buhari, We Won’t Let You Destroy INEC!

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“Even as a Senator from one of the affected States , I along with 26 others , did not see any Palliatives distributed by NDDC last year. Since Government is a continuum, the new management of the commission , must appear before the Committee unfailingly on the 22nd of this month”, he said. Akinyelure added that submission of the new management on the alleged scam, will determine the fate of the disbanded Pondei-led IMC , alleged to have squandered the money.

By ‘Tope Fasua

I didn’t have to even search for long. The woman that Buhari is nominating from his team to be a commissioner at a supposedly venerable institution like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a perpetual troll, one of the dirtiest and nastiest minds ever to cross Nigeria’s governance realm, and indeed our cyberspace. It is a tragedy that we somehow still pay someone to totally traumatise the public and the person is about to be elevated because General Buhari has zero respect for posterity, for electoral integrity, for honour, and for decency where decency, decorum and a respect for corporate governance should be upheld. It is greatly unfortunate that Nigeria’s current president, even though trained by this great nation at some of the best military schools around the world, has no inkling of what is called conflict of interest. I shall explain myself in a minute but let me regale you with a bit of contemporary history.

When Obasanjo came to government, the chairman of INEC, which is a body established by the Abdulsalam government, was Chief Ehpraim Akpata. When Chief Akpata died in 2000, Obasanjo appointed Dr. Abel Guobadia, a simple man I remember, who retired in 2005. Guobadia was succeeded by Professor Maurice Iwu, who held on until 2010 when President Jonathan appointed Professor Atahiru Jega. When the President Buhari came into government in 2015, he appointed Professor Mahmood, as Professor Jega had indicated not being interested in a second term in office after the 2015 elections. President Buhari is the first president since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 to have appointed someone who could be described as his kinsman to such a sensitive position, when he ought to have shown restraint and some grace. In fact, Mahmood Jega, from Bauchi State, took over from Mrs. Amina Zakari, who was the president’s first preference, but to whom the populace reacted strongly, for she is the president’s relative by marriage and rumour had it that she partly grew up in Buhari’s house or vice versa.

Earlier, when President Yar’Adua won the presidential election in 2007, he was contrite at the level of electoral brigandage that occurred and openly voiced his unhappiness at coming into power on such a fraudulent mandate – a rarity for a politician in our clime. Gentleman Umaru immediately set up a committee headed by a one-time chief justice of the Federation, Mohammad Uwais. The committee was made up of some of Nigeria’s most-eminent people and persons of integrity, including Monsignor Matthew Hassan Kukah, Barrister Olisa Agbakoba, Professor Okon Uya, Sheikh Muhammad Lemu, Mrs. Toyin Olakunri, Professor Mrs. Grace Alele-Williams and of course, Professor Attahiru Jega, who would later become the INEC chair. Chief among the recommendations of the committee was the need to DELINK the leadership of INEC from any sitting presidency. It is a trite fact that the integrity of such an organisation is eroded once anyone can even allege that it has links to a sitting government in any manner. If the leadership is appointed by a sitting president, it goes without saying that there will be bias. To that extent the committee recommended that the INEC chairman be chosen from a group of people of high integrity chosen by the judges sitting at the National Judicial Commission (NJC). Also recommended was a different system of funding for INEC, that makes that institution evidently independent from the sitting government, as against the current situation where the body goes bowl-in-hand to the National Assembly or the Presidency.

Of course, Yar’Adua (who is known to be perhaps the only honest leader Nigeria has had in a long time) died in 2010 after a long battle with illness. President Jonathan trashed the Uwais report and Nigeria has continued in sin ever since. I believe Professor Mahmood is a fair-minded person, but the deregistration of parties which happened in February of this year will continue to be a stain on his record, as I am sure that the body was influenced from outside; chiefly from hawks in the ruling party and a coterie of confused, selfish and myopic civil society organisations who express disdain towards the political efforts of those who try, but will never raise a finger on their own beyond collecting funds from everywhere – funds which they are fighting now not to account for under the revised CAMA. The political parties proscribed summarily, without communication or fair hearing and in military fashion, and without the opportunity to participate in all elections, as provided for by the constitution, were mostly well-supervised by INEC and were used to reporting, compliance and corporate governance practices. Today, Buhari is trying to totally destroy INEC by dragging that organisation right into the gutter.

Or how else will one describe the attempt to totally insult that institution, and the intelligence and feelings of Nigerians by appointing a foul-mouthed, foul-minded, uncontrollable and openly-partisan aide of his as a commissioner into an institution that is struggling to retain whatever is left of its honour and integrity. In spite of INEC’s apparent goof with party deregistration and the totally unconstitutional move upon which it has been justly excoriated by Justice Dongban-Mensem, the president of the Appeal Court, in her reading of an unanimous decision of the court on August 10, INEC continues to disobey the law by refusing to reinstate all 74 parties (not 22, if one reads the judgment well) in line with the spirit and letter of the judgment. Still, I can see that the hands of Mahmood and his outgoing commissioners are tied. We have decent people at the leadership of INEC, like Professor Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, Dr. Muhammed Lekki, Professor Okey Ibeanu, AVM Muazu, Ms. May Agbamuche-Mbu, Engr. Ahmed Nahuche and Prince Adedeji Soyebi, among others. In the current team, the only person we have issues with is Mr. Festus Okoye, who is on record to have gone around decimating new parties, stating that Nigeria will reduce parties to five (who is he to dictate the number of parties as an umpire?), and calling the parties ‘mushroom’ and other names. He should have known better. The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations presupposes that the young parties be given some time to find their feet before being deregistered. What has happened is simply bullying; a great injustice that must be redressed.

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I don’t know if Okoye is leaving now, but if he is, then it is certain that Lauretta Onochie is meant to replace him and continue with the hatchet job. Let me restate clearly that a sitting government MUST never be seen to be appointing its acolytes, supporters, attack dogs, halleluyah men and women, into an organisation such as INEC. That institution is called INDEPENDENT for a reason. Buhari is stripping that institution of the illusion of independence and I don’t know where the man finds the gumption and the guts to splash Nigerians in the face with such rotten eggs, tomatoes and fecal matter at will. But this appointment cannot, must never, hold. Simple. Let him appoint Lauretta in any other role that catches his fancy. I know that they probably want to slip this through as Nigerian youths are busy demonstrating over #EndSARS. As things stand, this is the kind of thing the youths should demonstrate over because Buhari can spend his time in government and depart in 2023 but he should not totally rubbish our sacred institutions and therefore totally mortgage the future of our youths and unborn children. I have told the youths through the channels I have access to, that at the end of the day they will have to engage in the democratic process. They cannot hope to remove the government through their demonstrations. They must find a way to engage by joining or forming parties and getting ready for the hard and dirty work of building consensus and broad coalitions, funding and sustaining the parties they belong to, contesting for and funding elections. I have seen a few time-wasters and deluded commentators who talk a lot of absolute rab about those who have tried in the past, but when asked to try themselves, they say politics is beneath them. Those are total ‘idiots’ in the description of the Greek sages. We have no choice for now than to engage with democracy or shut up.

So, while we are getting nearer to gutter language, please let me introduce you to Lauretta Onochie. I don’t hate her at all and shook her hands once at the airport while I was on my campaign trail but Lauretta needs some serious feedback as she is being paid from my meagre taxes. This lady has cursed out everybody on twitter. How she will not willfully alter all the results at INEC to favour her party and her mentor Buhari and his chosen successors, how she will not frustrate and snuff out the life of aspiring political movements formed by the youths and tell anyone to go to bleeding hell, will be a wonder given her demeanour and disposition and the way she has conducted herself in the public space.

I didn’t have to search too far. Just a simple googling of her name and boom! There they were. On August 18 of this year, Lauretta tweeted that Pastor Oyedepo of the influential Winners Chapel should buzz off and “go and manufacture his own country”, or put up with the laws of Nigeria, over the latter’s stated misgivings about the amendment of the CAMA Act. The issue is this lady’s choice of words. On August 19, the very next day, she tweeted to Pastor David Ibiyeomie, over the tiff with Daddy Freeze: “You are Evil”. When one member of the public complained about why he was always seeing Lauretta’s tweets, she replied “I blame your useless mother…”. In June 2018, the Christian Association of Nigeria had to ask Buhari to caution Lauretta over her vulgarity. She had tweeted “CAN of worms” to describe the venerable association of Christian leaders. Can you imagine the temerity bordering on insanity and manic depression? Of recent when Wizkid, the popular musician tweeted, “Old man, leave Trump and face your country”, in reference to Buhari’s tweet to President Trump’s COVID-19 infection, Lauretta had replied Wizkid that he was a ‘Dumbkid’. She also called Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe a ‘buffoon’ on Twitter and has insulted everyone from Fani-Kayode to Obasanjo. The painful thing is we the taxpayers have kept paying the salaries of such a deranged individual to come into our space and abuse the lights out of us. Talk about double jeopardy!

There is more. When Lere Olayinka, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart lost his mother recently, Lauretta mocked his dead mother in two tweets, one of which was that Lere’s mother will now be spared of the disgrace that her son has become or something to that effect! Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the serial presidential candidate had to sue this woman for N2.5 billion, claiming that she had caused him great psychological trauma and stress. She wrote in May 2019 that Atiku had traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to “shop for terrorists”. She also mocked the former chief justice of the federation, Walter Onnoghen, by tweeting “Just take your pills and stop insulting Nigeria’s judicial system. You were fine until now”, after the justice had pleaded illness and not shown up for one of his apparently political witch-hunt trials at which he was disgraced out of office by the Buhari government. One of her latest tweets goes: #EndSARS is a coordinated attack by cybercriminals”. I am sure the raging youths will tear her to pieces (virtually) in their own time.

I cannot say more. Anyone who has the time should get on the internet and unearth a lot more of the reprehensible comments of this woman. I can only ask President Buhari in the most polite tone I can muster: Sir, what the hell do you think you are doing trying to damage an already limping institution like the INEC by dragging and pasting it inside the gutter with the appointment of this woman? Are there no more ‘human beings’ around you that can help restore the full dignity of that institution? Oga, abeg stop it immediately. Thank you for listening.

‘Tope Fasua, an economist, author, blogger, entrepreneur, and recent presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), can be reached through [email protected]

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