Saturday, 10th June 2023

Quarrelsome campaigns, voter rebellion, and threat of poll shift lingers

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
12 February 2023   |   4:26 am
Leader of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, recently noted that the forthcoming elections in Nigeria should not be seen as an ordinary poll. The respected Yoruba leader urged the electorate to take the ballot seriously because it.....

Labour Party’s Presidential candidate Peter Obi (C), flanked by wife Margaret (R) and his running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed (L), greets supporters during a campaign rally at Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, on November 23, 2022, ahead of the 2023 Nigerian presidential election. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP) (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

• Crisis Of Litigations, Court Decisions Fester

Leader of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, recently noted that the forthcoming elections in Nigeria should not be seen as an ordinary poll. The respected Yoruba leader urged the electorate to take the ballot seriously because it holds the key to Nigeria’s future.

Pa Adebanjo spoke against the backdrop of the unending stream of invective, and character assassination by the two oldest candidates for the February 25 presidential poll. Nigerians have also expressed worries that the electioneering by the political parties and their candidates have not dwelt on the crucial issues militating against the social well-being of the citizens.
The economy has been battered by the soaring exchange rate of the dollar against the naira, even as the country could not afford Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) for its domestic consumption despite being among the top petroleum-producing countries in the world.
On top of all that, insecurity tops the concerns of citizens as abductions, mass killing and terrorism make life chaotic and unpredictable in the country. It was therefore against the background of those serious socio-political issues that many watchers of the lead-up to the general election anticipated the gladiators to lay out their plans to redress the anomalous social conditions.
But, the two leading presidential standard bearers of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) -Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – sort of appeared to have overlooked those issues as they set an example of old politics of name calling and use of trigger words.
Both politicians, who have been close allies dating back to the 1993 presidential poll during which they supported the same candidate, have settled for a crude verbal joust as they canvass for votes.
Sounding like a former United States President, Donald Trump, Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, had while addressing a rally in Ilorin, Kwara State, bad-mouthed his competitors. He had yelled: “I want to advise Nigerians to vote wisely. A vote for Atiku or Obi would be a waste.
“He (Atiku) doesn’t want to do the brave and hard work required to build a better nation. Instead, he would rather sell your birthright to the highest bidder and run off with the proceeds. He cares little that his policies and actions will impoverish you and leave you with nothing.
“Obi had a chance to show how progressive he could be when he was governor of Anambra State. All he could do was boast that he saved money. But, I tell you it is a wicked parent that holds money in his hand yet allows his children to starve.
“Likewise, it is a heartless governor who holds back money when people went hungry, and schools, roads, and clinics went into disrepair. Neither the city-dweller nor the farmer prospered under him. In the end, he refused to save the people, because he preferred to save the money.”
Doubling down on the use of expletives, Tinubu told prospective voters in Akure that the PDP presidential contender was “only interested in the presidential race to enrich himself and his friends.”
The former Lagos State governor declared: “The PDP candidate in the race is well known for selling everything that has the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s name on it. If it is part of the public treasure or national patrimony, he is looking to pawn it with one of his shady partners.
“He wants to sell off your chance at a decent job, good schools, a nice home and a happy life. His aim is to sell and turn our public assets into his private profit. He wants you to go hungry so that he can feast off the abundance of the land.
“Before today, we used to call him Mr. Privatise. But today, we must give him a new name. One that comes from his mouth.” The APC candidate was alluding to the phoney claims by one of Atiku’s former media handlers, Michael Achimugu, who alleged how Atiku set up SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) companies for money laundry.
Stung by the acerbic verbs, Atiku fired back, stressing that as Nigeria Customs Service officer in charge of Enforcement and Drugs, he stopped Tinubu and others from bringing hard drugs into Nigeria.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, the former vice president described Tinubu as a frustrated drug courier that has no moral ground to denounce internet fraudsters, popularly known as Yahoo boys.  
Speaking through a statement by Phrank Shaibu, his special assistant on public communications, Atiku said Tinubu was frustrated. “Tinubu’s daily gaffes are evidence that he has no business going to Aso Rock Presidential Villa, but he should rather be seeking urgent medical attention.   
“Tinubu’s frustration is quite understandable given the fact that in 1989, while Atiku, a federal officer, was serving as the Deputy Director of Customs in charge of Enforcement and Drugs and was protecting the country’s borders from smugglers and drug dealers, Tinubu was in bed with two notorious drug kingpins, Muiz Akande and Abiodun Agbele.
“American authorities revealed that Akande took Tinubu to First Heritage Bank where he opened an account for himself and his wife, Oluremi in 1989.  
“While opening the account, the Lagos godfather revealed in documents that he worked with Mobil Nigeria Limited and his salary was $2,400 and he had no other sources of income. But records from his First Heritage Bank account showed that in 1990, he deposited $661,000 into his money market account, and in 1991 deposited $1,216,500 into the same money market account.
“In a bid to protect their reputation, Mobil representatives told US authorities that even though Tinubu was a treasurer, he had no direct access to the company’s cash and thus could not deposit funds on behalf of the firm.
“To date, Tinubu has not been able to explain to any human being how he was able to save over $1.8 million from his monthly pay of $2, 400. Luckily for him, he was able to negotiate a deal with the US government, which saw him forfeit over $460,000 in cash.
“Perhaps, the biggest indictment against Tinubu is Alpha Beta Consulting, a company given exclusive rights to generate revenue on behalf of the Lagos State Government since 2002.
“A former Managing Director of the firm, Oladapo Apara, said in court filings that Tinubu runs the company by proxy. Apara claimed the firm generated over N1.5 trillion ($3.48bn) for the Lagos State government between 2002 and 2018 and received a commission of about 10 percent on average.
“Apara told the EFCC in a petition that as the head of the company, he began looking into its finances and he made many startling discoveries such as mysterious transfers of over N20bn ($46.5m) in different currencies to some companies linked to Tinubu. Ahead of the election, Tinubu entered into a secret financial settlement with Apara and the case came to a sudden end in court.
“Tinubu should hide his face in shame rather than try to pontificate about morality. How can he even be talking about reforming Yahoo boys in Edo State given his dark past with US authorities? He should remove the log in his eyes before trying to remove the speck in the eyes of others,” Atiku’s aide replied.
While the two presidential contenders washed their inner linens in the public square, they failed to expatiate on the prodigious policy ideas and programmes contained in their campaign manifestoes.
However, the highpoint of the brickbats was when the APC standard bearer went to Akwa Ibom and tried to deride the state governor, who is also the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation.
Tinubu had told Akwa Ibom people, “You will not suffer again. That boy that brought Atiku here, that calls himself governor, tell him enough is enough. He lived in my backyard in Lagos. If not that we are one, I would have driven him home.”
Nonetheless, situating Tinubu’s descent to personal attacks, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, explained that “When you leave what you can do for people and be talking about other people, it means you don’t have anything to offer people.”
While drawing a contrast between Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, the governor disclosed that it was not their style to speak about individuals but their programmes.
Emmanuel stated: “I also go to other states, if you watch our campaign, my principal had never spoken about any governor, my principal had never spoken openly about Asiwaju before. 
“I don’t want to answer him, but I will answer him one day and he should forget, when Asiwaju came back from NADECO, the first point he launched out to become a politician today was from my table in my office. I can tell you the exact amount that was given to him.
“And today, coming to my state, I have given you all the cooperation, the stadium that I maintain, the airport you are landing, I am the one maintaining the airport, not the Federal Government, I have never gotten the support from the Federal Government by one naira before.
“I have applied for a free trade zone because of the MR up till today, the Federal Government has not answered me, so I gave you everything, including the apron that you are parking, I am the one doing that and Akwa Ibom was just there watching, I mean come on, he is insulting 7.9million people.
“I also have a principal, you will never hear my principal talk about people, we set our rules straight. In all our campaigns my principal had never mentioned him one day, my principal had never spoken against any governor, we have gone round everywhere.”
Perhaps, perturbed by the diatribes of the two major political party candidates, a socio-political group, Zikist Aminu Kano Patriots (ZAP), urged Nigerians to look beyond Atiku and Tinubu to choose the next president.
The group said voters should use their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to retire the septuagenarian former vice president and APC leader respectively.  ZAP’s Secretary General, Dr. Steve Igweze decried the counter-court actions by the two camps, saying that the cases bordered on factual corrupt tendencies.
While pointing out that the two have outlived their political values, Igweze alleged that their lack of interest in the crucial issues is evidence of do-or-die politics.   
The group said Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) should be x-rayed by voters. “So, where do we start to chronicle the unbecoming antics of these two presidential gladiators which are of public knowledge?
“Tinubu wants to capture the other half, all in the vain glory effort of actualising their inordinate ambition to become President by fair or foul means, ZAP alleged, adding, “This obvious desperation is evidenced in their cross-exposition and court action against each other, hence washing their dirty linens naked in public. What is more, they have been using their ill-gotten wealth to overheat the polity, stoking ethno religious lines, stoking the fire and putting Nigerians in harm’s way,” ZAP added.
Also, the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu, said the verbal pugilism by the two political leaders signals a looming anarchy in the country.
Kachikwu said that Nigeria is in trouble going by the manner of campaigns, stressing that the people have become casualties of war.   “Priests are being killed, a judge was killed in Imo State, 42 vigilante members killed in Katsina, the president’s state. Scores were kidnapped and scores killed across the country, either by herdsmen, bandits, or terrorists, all in the last two weeks.
“As if this is not bad enough, the most political Central Bank Governor in our nation’s history seeks to plunge our nation into further chaos. How else can one explain this ill-conceived Naira Redesign Policy that is rumoured to target a certain presidential candidate from the SouthWest but now threatens our very existence as a nation?
“Nigerians are groaning in agony; people are being dehumanised as they endure long queues under the scorching sun to withdraw their hard-earned money. My heart broke as I watched the videos of those who stripped naked in banking halls all in a bid to collect their money.”
The ADC presidential contender lamented that the real issues are not receiving attention from the frontline candidates.  He enumerated the following as questions that should occupy voters and the candidates:
“No money, no food, no power, no jobs, no security, all ingredients of anarchy. How do we deal with the corruption at our ports that are at the heart of inflation in an import-dependent economy? How do we stem the brain drain and keep our middle class happy and content in a working Nigeria?
“How do we defend our borders, secure our highways and protect our farmlands? How do we bring the aggrieved Ibos back to an equitable table? How do we repay our loans and balance our budget? How do we recreate the value our naira once had?
“How do we fix our infrastructural deficits, refocus and revive the educational sector and rebuild our healthcare sector from the ground up? How do we master plan and build out modern cities across Nigeria, grow our broadband networks and stem the rural to urban migration that threatens the economy of most states?
“How do we build a nation that is free from corruption, institute a people’s constitution and ensure that Nigeria will forever be known as a nation that works for everyone? So many questions begging for answers and solutions but it seems that some Nigerians are more interested in nice sounding phrases and cliches.”
Kachikwu, however, said all hope is not lost, noting that “the elections before us presents our nation with an opportunity to go in a completely different direction.”
“Those four Presidential candidates whom the media has sold to us as the frontrunners are no different from each other. If you elect any of them into office, that same day they will all meet to celebrate and share the spoils of war,” he declared.

Dawn of Voter Rebellion
FROM the rally grounds, especially in Akwa Ibom, Delta, Katsina and Ogun states, it became obvious that voters are becoming bolder and more assertive. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will guide the electoral process.
The commission declared that gone are the days when warehoused PVCs are deployed during elections, stressing that empowered by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, it was ready to deliver credible elections.
Those assurances by INEC might explain the recent show of voter power in Asaba during the PDP presidential campaign stop in the state. Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki had mounted the rostrum to pitch for PDP and its presidential candidate.
After informing the attendees that both Delta and Edo people have resolved to support PDP back to the presidency, he asked those present at the rally ground whether they would vote for PDP. ‘Nooo’ was chorused. A similar outward show was demonstrated in Akwa Ibom and Ogun states.
At Katsina, which is the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, the masses also chorused Ba Mayi (We won’t) when the APC presidential campaign addressed a rally in the state.   

Crisis Of Litigations, Court Decisions
Preparations for the election have been dogged by a crisis of judicial pronouncements. Despite the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, which stipulates that pre-election litigations should be dispensed with before the polls, many cases continue to await judicial approval.
It could be recalled that in November last year the Federal High Court set up a Special Task Force made up of judges to undertake swift hearing into pre-election petitions. Chief Judge of FHC, Justice John Tsoho, had explained that “the task force became necessary to designate a team of Judges following the large volume of pre-election suits that have flooded the court.”
A circular by the court’s Assistant Director of Information, Dr. Catherine Oby Christopher, said: “Judges who are members of the task force will suspend all regular cases in their respective courts, due to the urgency of electoral cases, which are time bound.
“In view of the large volume of pre-election cases filed so far, with the imminent attendant risk of lapsing, it has become necessary to constitute a task force to speedily dispose of the matters, particularly in those Judicial Divisions with a glut of them.”

Similarly, the Court of Appeal President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, recently disclosed that the court had so far received 600 pre-election matters from its 20 divisions. Dongban-Mensem, who spoke when the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Samuela Isopi, called on her office, added that 60 panels were already set up in the various divisions to hear and determine all pre-election appeals.
While describing transparency in the electoral process as one of the core values of democratic stability in the nation, the Appeal Court President stressed: “The Electoral Act 2022 has introduced laudable innovations to strengthen our democracy and ensure credible elections.
“The Court of Appeal has reviewed, developed, and expanded the scope of working materials for Judges. There is now a Judicial Electoral Manual that incorporates decisions of the Supreme Court” and those of the appellate court as well as critical stipulations of the Act.
However, Dongban-Mensen regretted that the Appeal Court is in a dilemma, since according to her, “we have just 21 days to the general elections, and the special intervention fund to conduct the Election Petition Tribunal is yet to be released.”
“It is expected that by now, provisions would have been made for the procurement of necessary materials and equipment needed for the smooth running of the various tribunals, she remarked, noting that the development would impact negatively on the activities of the court and tribunals in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Threat Of Poll Shift Persists
IT could be against the background of the observations by the Court of Appeal President that Nigerians express concerns about the possibility of the election holding as scheduled.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig. General Yushu’a Ahmed dismissed speculations that the general elections will not hold as scheduled.

However, following the petroleum scarcity and cash squeeze that trailed the currency re-design, the INEC boss expressed reservations about the fidelity of the election timelines. “In view of the recent policy involving the redesign of some denominations of our national currency, and the limits placed on cash withdrawals, we consider this meeting important in addressing some of the areas of concern with just 17 days to the 2023 General Election.

“We are confident that arising from this meeting, we can assuage the anxiety expressed by some of our service providers. We are determined to make the 2023 general election one of the best organised elections in Nigeria but we cannot do it alone.
“That is why the commission is mobilising every critical national institution for the success of the election. This meeting is part of this effort,” he disclosed.
Speaking when he led a delegation to the office of the Central Bank (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Prof. Yakubu stressed that “Nigerian election is a huge and complex undertaking which requires the engagement of critical services.” 
Doing a brief on specifics, the INEC chairman stated: “In line with the provisions of extant laws and regulations, service providers are generally paid by means of electronic transfer to their accounts. 
“There are equally critical areas such as transportation and human support services that have to be immediately remunerated either partially or in full before services are rendered. Emergency situations might arise requiring immediate cash payments, also, some of the critical service providers are unbanked.” 
The CBN boss told the INEC chairman that the Federal bank has been a partner in progress with INEC, remarking that the bank “appreciates the fact that INEC supported by the Nigerian populace had the trust and confidence in the ability of the CBN in playing the roles that it had played for you so far, to ensure that elections hold without any hitches.” 

Assuring that CBN would not be a stumbling block on INEC’s timelines and operations, Emefiele stated: “I know that just a few months ago, I visited your office and you raised the issue of how foreign exchange can be procured to you to import Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other forms of election material that need to be imported and I gave you my word that foreign exchange will be provided for that purpose. 
“I stand here to confirm that as of today, all Dollars needed to import those items have been provided and those items have been imported. So, it’s all part of our commitment. Now, regarding this issue of logistics for people who are going to be transporting election materials, certainly, the assurance I give to you is that because we regard the INEC project as a topmost or an urgent national assignment, and therefore, it cannot fail and the Central Bank would not allow itself either to be used or to be seen as an agent that frustrated a positive outcome of that election.”
As the Supreme Court granted an exparte motion for an interlocutory injunction against the Presidency and CBN to go ahead with the February 10 deadline for the use of old currency denominations till February 15, it would be seen how far the institutions have cleared all roadblocks to the poll commencing on February 25.
Some Civil Society groups protested against the Apex court ruling, urging President Buhari to get around the judicial intervention through an Executive Order, especially given that CBN reserves the final say on monetary policies.
With barely two weeks to the much talked about 2023 general elections, a lot needs to be done to ensure that the outcome is not only credible, but also that the processes are foolproof.