Rigging election in Nigeria has always been a favourite game of politicians since the current civilian dispensation started in 1999. Politicians who lost an election will allege that their opponents rig them out. But nowhere in the history of elections in Nigeria has an electoral umpire been openly accused of hatching a plot to rig an election that is yet to hold. This is the burden Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will have to carry before he even conducts the forthcoming general elections scheduled to hold on February 14 and 28.
Jega’s albatross started as a rumour that he deliberately skewed odds in favour of a Northern political candidate. But on Thursday, February 5, the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, SNPA, shocked the country when it revealed a detailed plot by the INEC boss and the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, to rig the election in favour of a Northern candidate to journalist at a press conference in Abuja. The plan which has been hatched over the years since the 2011 election climaxed with a meeting Jega had with the members of the NEF in Lagos, through a proxy last year.
The SNPA revealed that there was a subversive, subterranean and dishonourable conspiracy between the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Northern Elders Forum with the sole desire of enthroning a President of Northern extraction at all cost in the February 14, presidential election. The SNPA authoritatively gathered with unassailable and incontrovertible evidence that Jega, who was away in Lagos for an official engagement, through one of his national commissioners that represented him, met with select leaders of the Northern Elders Forum led by Professor Ango Abdullahi on August 20, 2014, where strategies and modalities for enthroning a president of Northern extraction through vote rigging were discussed and agreed upon. The meeting was sequel to an earlier meeting of the NEF held on August 16, 2014, at Arewa House, Kaduna, under the chairmanship of Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule where it was resolved that “all avenues must be explored towards enthroning a President of Northern extraction in the forthcoming 2015 elections” and “a committee … put in place to liaise with the INEC chairman and some States Resident Electoral Commissioners in order to favour the North in the creation of additional polling units.”
Those who were present at the meeting include Professor Ango Abdullahi, Professor Idris Mohammed, Sani Zango Daura, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf, Mohammed Bello Kirfi, Ambassador Shehu Malami and Tima Sani. Also in attendance were Alamin Dagash, Gen. Paul Tarfa, Gen. Saleh Maina, Bashir Tofa, Solomon Dalung, a lawyer, M. B. Wali, a lawyer, Rhoda Ako and Mohammed Sharif who served as secretary. Since then SNPA said it noticed that Nuru Yakubu, a crony and ally of Jega in INEC became the devious hatchet man.
There was another meeting of Finance Committee of the Northern Elders Forum which took place January 21, where further details of the detestable plans to impugn the integrity of the 2015 general elections were taken.
“It will interest you, gentlemen of the press, to know that we have copies of minutes of these meetings. These meetings and plans were hatched in furtherance to the Northern Elders Forum’s obsession that there will be no Nigeria, if a Northerner does not emerge president of Nigeria in the 2015 general elections,” Senator Femi Okorounmu, chairman of the presidential advisory committee on the 2014 National Confab said in the statement he read on behalf of SNPA to journalists. The statement was which was signed by Alex Ekwueme, former vice president and coordinating chairman of the SNPA , Ayo Ladigbolu, South West Leader and Edwin Clark, former minister of information who accompanied Okorounmu to the press briefing along with Walter Ofonagoro and Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra State.
Okoroumu said that as part of the grand design, Jega agreed at the meeting to create astronomical number of additional polling units in the North, over and above what was desirable to ensure the election of a Northern Presidential candidate, that would emerge from the party primaries, in the general election. “We now know that this was responsible for Prof. Jega’s whimsical creation of additional 30,000 polling units with intent to give unearned massive votes to the northern presidential candidate. These additional polling units were agreed to exist only on “sheet of papers” which would be used as votes mill to rig the election,” Okorounmu said. This means that the acclaimed suspension of the implementation of the additional 30,000 polling units by Jega is a grand deceit as same is reported to have continued in parts of the North under cover.
The SNPA alleged that Jega, in consonance with the agreement with the leaders of NEF had two sets of rules for the conduct of the continuous voters registration exercise. Whereas requirements for the registration of voters in the core north was agreed to be “loose” in order to encourage under-aged registration, the same was “stringently” enforced in the whole of Southern Nigeria so as to reduce the number of eligible voters where they believe President Jonathan has the strongest support base.
In furtherance of Jega’s nepotistic bias and ethnocentrism, he reportedly advised the NEF leaders to compromise the state resident electoral commissioners to assist him in perfecting the vote rigging to install a president of northern extraction. Whereas RECs who are willing to play ball are to be deliberately posted to core northern states, others who were considered recalcitrant were to be put under the surveillance of the national commissioner in charge of Operations to achieve their desired results.
A close observation of some of the activities of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, showed glaring collaboration between Jega’s INEC and the former, SNPA said. For instance, despite Jega’s public admission that the Commission has all the funds it requires to conduct the 2015 elections, the SNPA alleged that NEF obtained and distributed 150 pieces of laptop computers to INEC for each of the Northern States. The laptop computers were used by INEC’s adhoc staff in collaboration with Northern Youth activists for the indiscriminate registration of voters during the Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, exercise. This strategy, which abetted and made possible massive registration of voters without restriction on the age, was part of the earlier agreement between INEC and the NEF, without prejudice to the fact that age is a prerequisite qualification for every eligible voter. This prompted the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, to ask whether the Northern Elders Forum is a government institution/agency or a non-governmental organisation, NGO, promoting good electoral conduct and governance that it would donate 150 laptop computers to INEC for each northern state? If yes, why was the donation not made public?
They also asked whether INEC accepted the donation and distribution of 150 laptop computers to only each of the northern states because it lacked funds. “Giving the known age-long uncompromising hatred against President Jonathan and stance that a northerner must become President at all cost by Northern Elders Forum, could the acceptance of these “Greek gifts” place Prof. Jega’s INEC on a pedestal of impartiality to supervise the 2015 elections? Could this be the reason why Prof. Jega arbitrarily allocated 21,850 additional polling units (which gave a voting population of about 15 million extra votes) to the north and 8,150 additional polling units, which approximates 5 million extra votes to the entire South? SNPA asked.
It also wanted to know what experience and skill of the northern activist youths who were recruited for the registration exercise have when specialised training always preceded field operations carried out by adhoc staff in all electoral processes?
In addition and in clear contravention of procedure, the SNPA alleged that Jega reportedly directed the release of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, in their catchment states to Emirs, District Heads and top politicians and not necessarily to the voters themselves, a situation that culminated in some voters being in possession of 2 to 3 PVCs. This accounted for the nearly 100 percent PVC collection rate in especially the North West States as compared with the less than 50 percent collection rate in the Southern States. This is the reason why Lagos state with a sophisticated voter population of over 5.2 million has not distributed more than 2.5 million PVCs; even the war ravaged states in the North East have collected more PVCs than most Southern states. Is this kind of selective treatment borne out of sheer nepotism and primordial bias deserving of a supposed impartial electoral umpire? SNPA asked.
According to the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, “as part of the nocturnal agenda, the Northern Elders Forum, the unrepentant group of ethno-bigots which only living penchant is that President Goodluck Jonathan must vacate the presidency for a northerner, has been given the sole responsibility to recruit all electoral officers, returning officers and polling clerks, in collaboration with their activist youths, for Prof. Jega’s absorption into INEC.”
Contrary to his public posturing and pronouncements, SNPA uncovered that in line with his firm promise to the NEF, Jega is determined to announce General Buhari as the winner of the 2015 Presidential election irrespective of its outcome. And in preparation for the ensuing electoral tsunami that would engulf the country, the Northern Elders Forum has already retained the services of 34 Legal luminaries including 14 Seniors Advocates of Nigeria who shall be on standby for the Tribunal cases. The Legal luminaries were said to have already started their assignment by filing an action in court, challenging the eligibility of President Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election, an action that have been challenged and decided several times by the same federal high court. To make the judgment a fait accompli, SNPA alleged that a committee of the NEF at Jega’s prompting, because of his desire to hide under the cloak of legal and judicial protection, is courting senior judges of Northern extraction to obtain judgment against President Jonathan and the PDP during and after the proclamation of Gen. Buhari as the winner. “Our investigations revealed that the funds for the entire Northern Elders Forum guided operations in INEC is being provided by APC governors in the north, who each contributed N100 million and few Hausa-Fulani irredentist PDP governors who also contributed N167million to perfect these invidious electoral fraud,” SNPA said.
“The impervious desire to orchestrate these agreements driven by eccentric parochialism has unfortunately guided Jega’s internal actions in positioning INEC for the inexorable task of supervising the 2015 general elections. The recent deployment of National Commissioners essentially elected the philosophy of loyalty to Jega’s northern agenda and hence all critical and key electoral departments that will eventually decide the outcome of the 2015 general elections were given to those who have aligned with him,” SNPA said.
“We have also become aware that the recent redeployment of resident electoral commissioners, contrary to public expectation, was based on the plan to secure and protect expected positive results in supposed catchment states while those sent to the South were given specific directive to comply with extant rules and regulations or be sacked. Prof. Jega’s disdainful verve to prosecute his hallowed task of rigging President Jonathan out of office at all cost is further noted from the movement of top directors of Southern Nigeria origin.
“These officers who were hitherto occupying sensitive positions in INEC are now moved to obscure and redundant offices such as the INEC Electoral Institute, which make them completely irrelevant with electoral processes. There has been more forced voluntary retirement for senior staff of Southern origin even when they have up to three or more years in the service under Prof. Jega’s chairmanship. And to take over such sensitive positions of high electoral value, Prof. Jega in defiance of extant rules on federal character moved directorate cadre staff from some Northern state offices to headquarters as replacement with a view to ensuring strict realization of the project.,” it said.
Another allegation against Jega is that he is already circumventing the card readers which are to be used to authenticate and verify voters. For instance, INEC has suddenly realised for the first time that over 2 million Nigerians mostly from the North are amputees. It has accordingly decided to introduce a “special verification” process different from the card reader for this class of Nigerians. But the real fact is that the entire process is being initiated as part of Jega’s hidden agenda to amass a whopping 2million votes for his preferred Northern candidate. This as well as the recently introduced IDPs voting are part of strategies of Jega’s vote mill to rig the election.
The SNPA said it was both inexplicable and confounds commonsense that Jega decided to conduct the 2015 general elections in February in the light of very glaring organisational, technical and operational deficiencies whereas in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the same elections were conducted in April. “We may wish to recall that even with the time leverage in 2011, Prof. Jega was compelled to postpone the conduct of elections to the National Assembly from April 2 to April 9 due to inadequate preparations. Such postponements did not in any affect the sacrosanctity of the 29th May swearing in date. Such postponements never deprecated the sanctity of our elections in the past and would not in any way compromise the integrity of the 2015 elections if postponed to sometime in April 2015 insofar as it provides for the mandatory 30 days in consonance with the provisions of extant rules and regulations in our statutes,” it said.
This prompted the SNPA to ask What could then be responsible for Jega’s petulant haste to hold the elections in February 2015 even in the face of the following critically fundamental operational, technical and organisational challenges that could mar the integrity of the elections other than to deliver on the timetable he has promised the Northern Elders Forum.
According to the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, whereas Jega has premised the integrity of 2015 elections on the use of card readers, the caravans needed for storing them are yet to be delivered barely one week to the presidential election, a situation that has led those responsible to suspend the delivery of additional card readers. This means there may not be enough card readers to service all the 121,000 polling units all over the country.
Also, there are reported polling units specific configuration problems for the card readers that have been delivered which need yet-to-be-provided urgent resolution, particularly against the backdrop that some of the card readers have factory faults, thus requiring full scale audit to determine whether the available card readers can guarantee the integrity of the elections.
SNPA also observed that the late conclusion of party primaries and INEC’s deadline for substitution of candidates grossly delayed the production of customised ballot papers and result sheets. This is an avoidable recipe for multiple post-election crises and litigation.
Perhaps this pitfalls, made the SNPA to doubt INEC’s competence and capability to conduct an impartial election. Given the fact that a high preponderance of the 960,000 adhoc staff for the conduct of the election are yet to be properly trained on the use of the new technology barely eight days to the election, how can Jega convince Nigerians and the international community that he is prepared to conduct a free, fair and credible elections?
“We have presented these facts to show that Prof. Jega is an ethnic and religious jingoist, an unrepentant Hausa-Fulani irredentist and a highly tribalised public administrator. We are not convinced that an INEC superintend by Prof. Attahiru Jega would have any iota of impartiality to conduct a free and fair elections in this country any more. Prof. Jega’s open romance, either directly or indirectly with elements of the opposition, has compromised his integrity, credibility and moral standing to conduct an impartial, free and fair 2015 presidential elections. He has become a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who is not only deeply repugnantly clannish but also brazenly corrupt and fraudulent,” The SNPA said.
It alleged that because Jega was gravely intent on perfecting the strategies to rig the elections in favour of the Northern candidate, he circumvented fundamental and critical requirements in the Public Procurement Act. “We would therefore want Prof. Jega to tell the entire world at what meeting in INEC was the decision to award the contract for the procurement of the Permanent Voters Cards taken? At what time and where were the contract documents forwarded to the Bureau of Public Procurement for consideration and approval? And indeed where the PVCs being processed and printed? Are the PVCs being printed abroad with a reputable firm or they are being printed somewhere in Nigeria within the enclave of Maitama in Abuja? What is the cost of the contract for the procurement of PVCs?”
“As a responsible government agency, it is only germane that Nigerians, whose tax monies are used to fund its operations, are properly informed on these critical aspects of INEC’s activities. We make bold to say that Prof. Jega has betrayed public trust, respect and acceptance, sublime attributes that are necessary for an impartial electoral umpire,” it said.
Consequently, the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly unequivocal demanded that Jega should and must resign his appointment immediately as the chairman of INEC because he has lost the requisite moral rectitude to organise a credible election devoid of the shenanigans of the Northern Elders Forum and their cohorts. They also want an immediate postponement of the February 14, presidential elections to allow for the reconstitution, repositioning and reprocessing of INEC to discharge its responsibility of conducting an impartial election.
It also call for the immediate arrest of Jega for criminally masterminding the procurement of PVCs for under-aged pupils in contravention of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010. The SNPA said that should the federal government fail to take decisive action on these demands it would employ and mobilise with all ounce of energy at its disposal to ensure that there is no election in any part of Southern Nigeria.
“We wish to remind Mr. President that the Federal Government has the sacrosanct duty to maintain peace and order, and to protect the lives and property of the citizens of this country. Therefore government must not allow itself to be intimidated by any group of persons to conduct the elections under these uncertain circumstances that could culminate in the breakdown of law and order in the country. The consequences may be too grave for Nigeria to bear,” the SNPA warned.
Weighty as the SNPA’s allegations are, the Independent National Electoral Commission has not yet denied or dismissed them. When Realnewsgot Kayode Idowu, INEC’s spokesman on the phone he said he had no comment.
Unlike INEC, Lai Mohammed, spokesman of the All Progressives Congress on Friday, February 6, issued a statement, saying the desperadoes will always fail in their evil machinations, because no power is strong enough to defeat a determined people. He said the provocative call by the bogus Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly for the postponement of the elections and the arrest of INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega is one of the new antics of the election postponement campaigners. ”It is shameful that those who should be working hard to promote peaceful elections as scheduled are the same ones doing everything possible to trigger violence. Those who should ordinarily be seen as elder statesmen have degenerated to dangerous partisans and shameless promoters of a narrow, parochial interest, at the expense of the national interest.
“Who does not know that wherever President Goodluck Jonathan’s interest lies, therein you will find Chief Edwin Clark, whether or not it is in the national interest? Who does not know that the anarchic call by Chief Clark and his cohorts are being made at the behest of a frenzied presidency?” he said.
Nonetheless, many Nigerians have reacted to the SNPA’s bombshell which saddened not a few while some people are really not perturbed by the development because they think the signs that the elections will be rigged had been there all along. There are some people who are amused that the Northerners outsmarted the southerners in the scheme of things.
For instance, Anthony N Z Sani, former publicity secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, denied any knowledge of any agreement between Jega and the Northern Elders Forum to rig the elections for General Buhari, may be because he is not a member of the NEF nor does he believe the allegations.
His reason is because Jega has promised the country a free and fair elections. Said he: “We have no reasons to doubt the professor. Both Jega and General Buhari are not people who would like to compromise their honesty and integrity. More so when rigging does not further the cause of democracy premised on triple foundation of liberty, justice and common decency.
In any case, it is unthinking to imagine that the North adjudged by the South to bring up the rear in almost everything under the sun would be able to outsmart the South and rig the elections that are conducted ultimately under the watch of Mr. President who is from the South. We should think positively and avoid giving the presidential contest regional, ethnic and religious coloration,” Sani said.
Kolawole Onifade, a U.S.-based media consultant thinks differently. “It is very important that the SNPA raised the issues. Jega is playing the Northern script. Every agency of the government said they are not ready for the election. Who will go to the North east – Borno, Yobe, Adamawa to conduct the election. Jega is only insisting because he thinks that any delay may affect the Momentum Buhari has garnered. That is why he is insisting,” Onifade said.
On the other hand, Sylvester Idemili, a Benin-based Businessman, said the handwriting has been on the wall and that Jega’s body language speaks volume of his intentions. “It is a good thing that SNPA raised it at this point in time so that measures can be put it in place to stop the rig machinery to ensure that the election is free and fair.”
But Monday Ubani, former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, toldRealnews that Jega’s appointment is tenured and nobody can remove him unless he resigns. “You can make allegations but to prove them is another. I have my doubt about the state of preparedness of INEC, especially when you it wants to run this year’s election with e-cards. I have my doubt with the adhoc workers if they have not been infiltrated. This election will make or mar Nigeria. I have my doubts about it.”