Sunday, October 23, 2016

Inordinate ambition of Nigerian politicians to capture power


Periodic and credible election is one of the pillars of democracy. Others are independent judiciary, free press, vibrant civil society, strong political parties, etc. Nigeria’s electoral democracy dates back to 1922 when Clifford Constitution came into existence. Many political observers have opined that Nigeria is yet to experience flawless election as each one conducted by the election management body ends up being hotly disputed with myriads allegations of uneven playing field, rigging and all sorts of chicaneries. There are two major actors in the electoral process. They are the election management bodies and the political parties. While the EMBs set the rules of engagement, timelines, codes of conduct and actual conduct of the polls; the political parties field candidates to contest in the elections. In order to ensure credibility of the electoral process, the EMBs accredit the media, civil society and the security agencies to help ‘police’ the process. The legislature set up the legal framework through the enactment of relevant laws while the executive arm provides the funds for the conduct of the polls.

What many political commentators do not know or rather chose to ignore is that the EMB, per se, do not have the capacity to ensure credible, peaceful and successful elections. The EMBs, whether it’s the Independent National Electoral Commission or the State Independent Electoral Commission, need the buy-in or robust support of the other actors and stakeholders for that feat of flawless polls to be achieved. Coming straight to the point, I do hope many of us are following the unfolding revelations since the 2015 general elections were conducted by INEC. I hope we’re tracking and taking note of the humongous amount allegedly taken from Nigerian treasury in the Central Bank through the office of the immediate past National Security Adviser and funneled to prosecute the electoral war of June and August 2014 in Ekiti and Osun States as well as the March/April 2015 general elections by the People’s Democratic Party.

Billions of dollars meant for the fighting of the war against insurgency in the North East were allegedly diverted by the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki to support the PDP candidates in Ekiti and Osun State. Former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro was fingered to be the arrowhead who distributed this slush fund. News report has it that Obanikoro informed EFFC last week that ONSA transferred the sum of N4.685bn to Sylva McNamara Limited (a company allegedly linked to the ex-Minister). He allegedly told EFCC interrogators that N3.880bn of the N4.685bn was allocated to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Iyiola Omisore. He also said he handed over $5.377m (about N60m then) cash to Fayose at Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti in the presence of the former Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party in the state, Dr. Tope Aluko and other party stalwarts.  

In the build up to the 2015 general elections huge sums of money was also reportedly funneled through the ONSA to PDP chieftains in order to ensure victory for the party. Among those who benefited from the largesse were even opposition party leaders and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Apart from ONSA, another centre of distribution of slush fund for the election was the immediate past Petroleum Resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.  A whopping $115m was reportedly distributed to some INEC officials and politicians ahead of the elections. The crime was allegedly perpetrated in cahoots with some bank executives.

Even the accredited observer groups were not left out in the desperate rat-race of Nigerian politicians bid to win at all cost.  According to an April 30, 2016 news story in The Nation, the Transition Monitoring Group said that agents of the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration offered it a bribe of N2bn for the purpose of compromising the outcome of the 2015 elections. The bribe offer allegedly came by way of what the immediate past TMG chairman, Comrade Ibrahim Zikirullahi, branded as a dubious proposal. He was quoted to have said that: ”Specifically, some errand boys from the Presidency at the time came to us with a dubious proposal that 50,000 agents of the PDP be fielded as TMG observers” 

Even the judiciary is not spared. Two justices of the Supreme Court who were arrested during the purported sting operation by the Directorate of State Services on October 7 and 8, 2016, Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, had reportedly written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to the effect that their arrest and persecution are not unconnected with their refusal to do the bid of some politicians to pervert the course of justice. The two justices alleged that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Minster of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu at different times reached out to them to influence decisions of the election petition tribunals. 

Justice Okoro  in his four-page letter dated October 17, 2016 and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said that Amaechi had a hand in his travails because the Supreme Court ruled against the All Progressives Congress’ governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. He said both the minister and the APC’s governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State in the 2015 poll, Mr. Umana Umana, made attempts to use him to influence the decision of the Supreme Court on the election cases.  Similarly, in a letter dated October 18, 2016, and addressed to the CJN, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta alleged said the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu asked him to help influence the apex court’s decisions on the Ebonyi State governorship election case last year. Expectedly, those fingered had vehemently denied ever reaching out to the judges. However, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire.

Nigerian politicians do not also leave out the electorates. One of the major minus of the September 28, 2016 Edo gubernatorial election was the issue of vote buying. Many accredited observer groups reported open distribution of money to voters during and after voting. It would be recalled that in the build up to the June 2014 Ekiti governorship election, Governor Ayodele Fayose said giving out foodstuffs and money to voters is his own way of ensuring his supporters get stomach infrastructure. That was how that crept into Nigeria’s political lexicon. Part of the desperate measures exhibited by Nigeria politician is by using the security agencies to orchestrate postponement of elections under the guise of security threats. This happened in the lead up to the 2015 general elections when the security agents pressured INEC to postpone the elections by six weeks (February 14 to March 28, 2015). This again happened in Edo State when police and DSS sent a strongly worded letter to INEC to postpone the election. The Commission reluctantly yielded and shifted the poll by about 18 days.

It is important to state as follows: Desperate politicians are to be found in all registered political parties in Nigeria particularly those with significant membership and moneybags.   It is also not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon. Even the United States of America with 240 years of electoral democracy is experiencing her own level of politicians desperate to capture power at all cost in the forthcoming 2016 elections. In order to moderate this desperation from the political elites, the regulatory agencies such as the security agencies and the EMBs would have to retool their strategies to effectively combat this menace. However, there are no easy solutions because members of the institutions such as the legislature and the executive who should lead in the reformation agenda are themselves beneficiaries of the adoption of Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’ in Nigerian politics.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.