Sadly, many of us have become used to the macabre drama that frequently plays out in the country, which I’m sure often leaves many non-Nigerians nonplussed wondering what kind of people we are. And more often than not, the dramatis personae are those saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of more than 200 million of their fellow citizens.
In fact, it is because they are in such sensitive positions that make whatever they do or fail to do so important to the wellbeing of the so-called ‘Giant of Africa.’ It also raises serious questions over the process that throws up such personnel into such critical portfolios, which has contributed immensely to the nation to fulfill its enormous potential. For instance, whereas a country like Britain is run by politicians who attended Ivy League institutions, like Oxford and Cambridge, the reverse is the case here were our constitution stipulates that the person aspiring to the highest office in the land, the presidency, only needs to have been educated up to at least West African School Certificate level or its equivalent! British leaders are also backed up by a well-run civil service where most of the top echelons in the Whitehall hierarchy also went to similar schools and, therefore, complement each other. But here we are often regaled with top shots making statements, which putting it mildly, are often laughable, leaving one wondering whether it would not have been better for the official to have kept quiet.
From the mundane reasons frequently adduced for the repeated rounds of fuel scarcity experienced in one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations, to a senior presidential media aide saying ‘was it not better to stay alive rather than dying trying to hold on to one’s ancestral land.’ We have virtually heard it all. Then there is also the case of Nigeria’s comatose refineries which, in March 2021, energy experts revealed that the cumulated $26.5 billion maintenance cost spent on the four refineries in over 25 years was enough to have built three new ones!
And if this was not bad enough, two years ago $1.5 billion (about N600 billion) was approved by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the prostate Port Harcourt Refinery, which has an installed capacity of 210,000 barrels per day. This was higher than the 10-year capital allocation to the fragile healthcare sector, and enough to build a new refinery. By the way, despite the huge capital injection (as we’re meant to believe), the refinery is still not working optimally. However, the latest drama to have played out was what happened in Adamawa State two Sundays ago during the governorship supplementary election when the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, controversially declared Mrs Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, popularly called Binani, the winner of the election, instead of Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri. Creditably, INEC reacted swiftly by declaring the result as “null, void and of no effect”, claiming that Yunusa-Ari had no power to do so, especially since the process had not been concluded. According to the electoral law, the announcement should have been made by the Returning Officer of the election, who is a different person, usually an academic appointed by INEC for that purpose. “The action of the REC is a usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer. It is null, void and of no effect. Consequently, the collation of results of the supplementary election is hereby suspended,” INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye had said. He then added: “The REC, Returning Officer and all involved are hereby invited to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja immediately.” The first question that springs to mind is: was Yunusa-Ari not aware of the law before embarking upon his action? However, the drama then took a dramatic turn (please pardon the pun) and became more interesting because news then emerged that Yunusa-Ari, who reportedly flew to the nation’s capital city (Abuja) in a private jet, had ‘disappeared’ into thin air! This was confirmed by no other than INEC itself. Speaking last Friday during a live television programme, Okoye said Yunusa-Ari had failed to show up at the Commission’s headquarters as directed. And that the REC has not been answering phone calls and his location was unknown. “We don’t know where he is because, after this particular incident, the Commission wrote to him and also called him on the phone. He never returned any of the calls, he never answered any of the calls,” he said. “We asked him to report to the Commission on Sunday we didn’t see him, we asked him to report on Monday we didn’t see him. So up till this moment, he has not reported and we don’t know his whereabouts.”
Then in another twist, the suspended REC sends a letter to the Inspector-General of Police from his hideout detailing his ‘own side of the story.’ The letter, which was received by the Force Headquarters on April 20, was copied to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Security Adviser (NSA). Yunusa-Ari, in his letter, accused two National Commissioners – Dr Baba Bila and Prof Abdullahi Zuru – sent from the INEC head office to assist in the conduct of the supplementary election, of trying to rig the election for Governor Fintiri.
His words: “The actions of the two National Commissioners left much to be desired. “The Commissioners held a meeting with my management staff in my absence and while I did not know the outcome of the meeting, there was a sudden move to tamper with the list of collation officers (COs) earlier released for the re-run election. “I then asked the National Commissioners to explain why they would exclude me from the process of collating results, but there was no explanation.” Yunusa-Ari, in the letter, took pains to further explain why he opted to take the action he took, insisting that he did so: “To avert the impending danger of the delay in announcing the results of the supplementary elections…” Although legally, Yunusa-Ari flouted the guidelines by announcing the results, however, he could not have been made a REC if he was illiterate. And considering what happened during the elections of February 25 and March 18 where malfunctioning BVAS, intimidation, violence and financial inducements were the order of the day, there is need for a thorough investigation to be carried out in order to get to the root of the matter so as to ensure we do not throw the baby away with the bathwater. What is paramount is for us to have elections that are actually free and fair; this will go a long way in ending all the post-election bickering and court cases.