The killer job at INEC – Part 2
Chief Esua also conducted the 1965 election in Western Region which was marred with misconduct and thuggery. The then Prime Minister appointed Chief Michael Ani to replace him.
In his book, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Allison Akene Ayida (1930-2018) gave insight into how Chief Ani was appointed to the head of the electoral Commission by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (December 1912 – 15 January 1966). Chief Ayida wrote “When I was appointed to act as Permanent Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Economic Development, in 1963, I was the youngest permanent secretary in the federation. It was part of an experience to try out the then new breed in the civil servant as PermSecs. I had to look up to senior colleagues such as the late Chief Ani for guidance and leadership. We received their full co-operation. If the experiment succeeded, it was partly due to Chief Ani’s fatherly guidance and support.
It is not generally known that Chief Ani retired prematurely from the Federal Civil Service in 1965 to accept the challenge of the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, for him to be appointed the Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission. I was one of those people he consulted and I advised against the move. But Chief Ani decided to accept the appointment for two reasons: first, as a good civil servant he felt obliged to respect the Prime Minister’s wishes and, second, he was anxious to demonstrate that Nigerian elections could be conducted fairly and justly without fear or favour. Before he could demonstrate this, the Military seized power on 15 January 1966 and Chief Ani suddenly became an unemployed pensioner at the tender age of 49 years, judging by the standard of those days.
But an act of providence, when the Obasanjo administration was, in 1976, conducting the search for a suitable person to head the Federal Electoral Commission to supervise the elections for return to civil rule in 1979, I was the Secretary to the Federal Military Government and Head of Service. When consulted, I advised that the man the late Prime Minister appointed in December in 1965, never functioned and was untainted. But I told General Obasanjo that the late Chief as a good civil servant, might not be sufficiently independent of the Government to be seen to conduct the election fairly and that the Federal Military Government might be seen to have a preference for one of the presidential candidates. The General, to my surprise, replied, “that is the man we want.”
When Chief Ani was approached, he came to my house to seek my opinion once again as a trusted friend. I told him candidly what transpired between General Olusegun Obansanjo and me and once again, I advised him against accepting the reappointment as Chairman of FEDECO but he still saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to establish that Nigerians could conduct an impartial and fair democratic election. The rest of the story is better left to the verdict of history but I believe the Chief did his best in the difficult circumstances of the countervailing powers and conflicting instructions on the 1979 elections”.
During the tenure of Chief Ani as chairman of Electoral Commission, he was very generous to me in giving me exclusive stories on the commission including the disqualification of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe GCFR (16 November 1904 – 11 May 1996) and Mallam Aminu Kano (9 August 1920 — 17 April 1983) from the 1979 polls until the court restored them, the twelve two third issue on the outcome of the 1979 Presidential election and many other numerous stories.
Through the then INEC Commissioner, Alhaji Alade Odunewu alias ALLAH DE ( 20 November 1927-26 July 2013), former Editor of THE DAILY TIMES , I was able to access Chief Michael Ani regularly. He was a seasoned civil servant and I will say a patriotic Nigerian.
In anticipation of a stalemate in the Presidential election, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Head of State promulgated a decree. The decree is titled Decree 32 of July 23 1979, which created an Electoral College to decide the Presidential Election.
The Decree states “Supplement to Official Gazette Extraordinary Na.34, Vol. 66, 23rd July, 1979 Electoral (Amendment) (No. 3) Decree 1979 Decree No. 32. [23rd July 1979]
The Federal Military Government hereby decrees as follows:—SS . 1. Section 34a of the Electoral Decree 1977 (as inserted by the Electoral Amendment (Amendment) Decree 1978) is hereby amended as follows, that is— (a) for subsection — (3) thereof, there shall be substituted the following new subsection— “(3) In default of a candidate duly elected under‘ subsections (1) _(b) and (2) of this section, the Electoral Commission shall, within 7 days ‘of the result of the election held under the said subsections, arrange for an election by electoral colleges composed as follows, that is to say— (a) of all persons who were elected to both Houses of the National Assembly and convened at the same venue ; and (5) of all persons who were elected to the House of Assembly of every State in the Federation with each such group being convened separately for each such State ; with a view to determining which of the two candidates shall be elected _ President, and the candidate who as a simple majority of all votes ‘cast at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected as President.” ; and (6) for subsection “6) thereof (as substituted by the Electoral (Amendment) Decree 1979), there shall be substituted the following new sub-section— “(6) In default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection (5) (6) of this section, the Electoral Commission shall, within 7 days of the result of the election, arrange for an election by an electoral _ college comprising all persons who were elected to the House of Assembly of the State concerned at which the only candidates shall be— (a) the candidate who secured the highest number of votes at the election ; and (b) one among the remaining candidates who secured a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas in the State, so however that where there are more than one candidate with a majority of votes in the highest number of local government areas, the candidate among them with the highest total of votes cast at the election shall be the second candidate ; and the person who has a simple majority of votes cast at such election shall be deemed to have been duly elected as Governor of the State.” 2. For section 2: of the Electoral (Amendment) Decree 1979, that is Decree No. 26 of 1979, there shall be substituted the following, that is— “Citation. 2. This Decree may be cited as the Electoral (Amendment) _ (No. 2) Decree 1979.” 3. The Electoral (Amendment) Decree 1979, that is Decree No. 15 of 1979, is hereby consequentially repealed. 4, This Decree may be cited as the Electoral (Amendment) (No, 3) Decree1979.
MADE at Lagos this 23rd day of July 1979.
GENERAL O, OBASANJO, Head of the Federal Military Government, ‘ Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, _ Federal Republic of Nigeria _
To be continued tomorrow
Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.