Letter to INEC Chairman: The demon of inconclusive elections and fate of Nigeria’s democracy

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

VANGUARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE SUITE 4B, LUGBE PLAZA, FEDERAL HOUSING ESTATE, LUGBE, ABUJA 29th August 2016

The Chairman,

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),

F.C.T Abuja.

ATTENTION: Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

THE DEMON OF INCONCLUSIVE ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA AND THE FATE OF NIGERIA’S DEMOCRACY

Mr. Chairman, we are a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that has a passion for institution, appraisal and sustenance of democratic governance in Africa  and we have our principal operations for West African Sub-region in Nigeria.

We have observed with anxiety the rising and alarming incidence of inconclusive elections in Nigeria since November 2015. Since the current Administration, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) (”the Commission”) has conducted about 137 Elections, 70 of which are end of tenure elections, whilst eleven (11) are bye-elections. However, more than 13 of these elections are inconclusive and most Nigerians are cocksure that the forthcoming elections in Ondo and Edo States would be declared inconclusive by the Commission.

Hitherto to November 2015, ”Inconclusive Elections” is strange to our election history in Nigeria. However this demon gained prominence since the Kogi State Gubernatorial Election of November 21st 2015. Since then, almost every other election conducted by the Commission has been bedevilled with inconclusiveness.

This has in no small way eroded the confidence of the electorate in the electioneering system in the country. This leaves one to wonder what happened to electioneering process in Nigeria all of a sudden, especially that the 2015 general elections was declared nationally and internationally as a free, fair and credible election. The said elections entrenched the nation’s democracy and reinforced the International Community’s faith in Nigeria and in her democracy. This rising profile of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is suddenly been devoured by the demon of inconclusive election.

To worsen the confidence of the electorate in the ability of the Commission to deliver the Nation from the pangs of inconclusive elections, you reportedly stated in the Print Media on the 20th day of August 2016 that it is very undoubtful that the Commission would be able to guarantee conclusive elections in 2019. Your antagonists and critics have pounced on this statement and called for your removal from the headship of the Commission. On our part, we find these developments worrisome and wish to state that it is a threat to democracy and a threat to the existence of the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Mr. Chairman, before the 2015 General Elections, the Western World had prophesied the disintegration of Nigeria by 2015. The said Election was smooth and it outcome fostered peace and unity in Nigeria contrary to the pessimistic and wicked predictions of the West. Nigeria showed the World her believe in democracy and thus became an example and indeed a legacy for all emerging economies, especially that the Presidential Election resulted to a change of government (change of political party), without violence and without election litigation. Going by your statement and the developing democracies referred to above, this achievement might be shot lived and may soon result to a ridicule if the newly emerging trend of inconclusive elections is not reversed. In fact it might mean that in 2015, Nigeria merely postponed the evil day to 2019. It might mean that in 2019, the nation will enact the evil prophecy of its disintegration caused by an inconclusive elections and attendant reactions of violence, anarchy and civil unrest. GOD FORBID!!!  

Mr. Chairman, the above underscores the danger posed by the release of the demon of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. It must be arrested and completely annihilated from our election jurisprudence before 2019 and desirably before the forthcoming elections in Edo and Ondo States.

Since the Kogi State Gubernatorial Election of 21st November 2015 opened the flood gates to the demon of inconclusive election in Nigeria, it is important that we lend our voice on the illegality of the declaration by the Commission that the said Election was inconclusive (this is notwithstanding the fact that the matter is currently a subject of litigation, the essence of this communication is to advise and guide the Commission for future exercises).  However, it is important to state at the outset that the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the Commission to make subsidiary legislations through Guidelines, but such Guidelines are never intended to supersede the Constitution. The Commission conducted election in Kogi State on the 21st November 2015 and APC scored 240,867 votes, whilst PDP came second with 199,514 votes, making a difference of 41,353 votes. APC had won in 16 Local Government Areas in the State and whilst PDP won in the remaining five. Election was declared inconclusive nonetheless because the total number of registered voters in 91 Polling Units in 18 Local Government Areas was 49,953 voters.

The Commission relied on Page 22-23 paragraph 4, M of its Guideline 2015, which states that where the margin of votes between two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling unit where the elections were cancelled or not held, decline to make a return until another poll has taken place and the result incorporated into a new form EC8D and record into FORM EC8D for declaration and Return. It was after your Returning Officer (RO) declared the Election inconclusive that the announcement of Prince Abubakar Audu’s unfortunate demise was announced. Both the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended talks about death after election but before swearing in and death after nomination but before election. No provision for death after conclusion of election but before declaration of winner. In determining who has been validly returned in an Election INEC must consider Section 179 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Section 26,47,68,69 and 70 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. Unfortunately, despite the circumstance, the Commission invoked its Guideline despite the above provisions especially 179 Constitution which APC and Prince Abubakar Audu had fulfilled.

Mr. Chairman, it is common knowledge that when voting takes place in an election, it does so on the basis of the accredited potential voters, Not all registered voters have Permanent Voters Cards, not all Voters with Permanent Voters Card will show up on the day of election for accreditation or voting, not all of them will accredit, not all of them will even vote after accreditation. Elections are won based on number of accredited voters who ended up voting, thus the number of registered voters is too far from the number of persons who actually vote. The basis of determining whether election should be declared inconclusive would have at best been the total number of accredited voters in the affected areas, since accreditation had already taken place. With due respect Mr Chairman, declaring the election inconclusive because of 49,953 registered voters (majority of whom had no intention of voting) is a numerical pretext, this is because out of the 1,379,971 registered voters in Kogi State, only 511,648 voters accredited. Which means only a minute fraction of the 49,953 registered voters (far less than the number of difference between APC and PDP) would have voted and in any case, all of them cannot even vote for a particular Candidate. Thus, if the Commission had considered the margin between the two leading candidates in relation to number of accredited voters and not registered voters in the affected areas, it would have had no difficulty in declaring APC/Audu winner of the Election and the procedure prescribed in Section 181 Constitution.

It is therefore our humble suggestion that the draconian Guideline of INEC is thirsty for a review for the sake of the peace and unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The total number of accredited voters or number of voters with PVC is the appropriate basis for invoking the said provision.

Furthermore, Supplementary Election in the circumstance in Kogi State is alien to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. This is because, Supplementary Election can only be ordered by a Tribunal or Court after a partial nullification of election result. The Nigerian Law envisages only four(4) kinds of elections (i) General Election,(ii)  Bye Election(iii) Fresh or Rerun Election(iv) Run-off Election(Second Ballot or third Ballot). In FAYEMI V ONI (2009) 7 NWLR (PT. 1140) 223 @ 292-293 supplementary election was defined as a complementary election ordered by Court upon voiding of a portion or part of the whole or total result of an election. In ordering the Election, the portion of the Election not voided is saved and validated and an election is ordered in that part. For the Commission to declare the Kogi Guber Polls of 21st November 2015 inconclusive and for it to declare a supplementary election unilaterally despite Section 179 CFRN 1999, AND 26,47,68,69 AND 70 Electoral Act is an unconscnable electoral illicitness. Section 26 of the Electoral Act does not even envisage a postponement of the election indefinitely as done by INEC in recent times.

The majority of public opinion alleged that the Commission aligned with some self-serving and myopic political interests in Kogi State to make that unholy and unconscionable declaration of inconclusiveness on 21st November 2016, whilst we do not adopt that opinion, it clearly shows that the development in question as depleted the confidence of the electorate in the neutrality of the election umpire in Nigeria. This does not augur well for democracy at all and may lead to violence if sustained in the General Elections in 2019(where there will be Presidential Election, Election into both Chambers of the National Assembly, 80% OF State Guber polls e.t.c). If something serious is not done to stem this tide, the nation might be engulfed in a large scale civil unrest.

Critics believe that lack of neutrality of the Commission was even applauded and deepened by the Attorney General of the Federation who misguided the Commission and is currently alleged to be dragging the Judiciary into the conspiracy to legalise the wrongful and morally bankrupt acts of the Commission on November 21st, 2015. No one should drag the Judiciary into any disingenuous scheme for political self-interest.

Mr. Chairman, the peace and unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is superior to any personal, sectional or group interest. The Commission must not only be an unbiased umpire, but must be seen and perceived by the vast majority to be an unbiased umpire. We therefore admonish you to show more patriotism in the discharge of your duties at the Commission, be more proactive in electioneering process, be constantly reminded that you are an arbiter and not an advocate for the ultimate good of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As you prepare for the Edo and Ondo Elections, Please we implore you to reverse the trend of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. Inconclusive Election is an imminent threat to Nigerian Democracy.

However, if you believe that inconclusive elections is inevitable in Nigeria, please resign honourably in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On our part, we call for the overhauling of the said INEC Guideline.

We thank you for your time.

Yours faithfully,

for:

VANGUARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE

 

 

……………………………………                                          ………………………………………….

SALISU IBRAHIM                                                    GREGGORY NWOSU

(PROGRAMME  CO-ORDINATOR,                         (COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVE)

WEST AFRICA SUB-REGION)

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  • Precious Onaimo

    Hello Vanguard for Sustainable Democracy. The basis for declaring Kogi election inconclusive agrees both with the constitution and practicality. Constitutionality: If election results were not successfully conducted in some areas and the total registered voters is more than the difference between the 2 leading contenders – INCONCLUSIVE ELECTION! Practicality: If election was not successfully completed in a polling booth, even the total number of accredited voters is automatically rendered invalid. It’s a chain reaction. The process must run to conclusion or the whole activity in the booth is invalid. Hence no decision can be based on accredited voters when election was not successful. Therefore, the only legally valid data from such a polling both is its initial registered voters. Very Logical!