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Now that INEC is Factionalised…

“A Faction of INEC Declares Aisha Binani Winner of Adamawa Guber ... No be only political parties dey get faction o!"

By Steve Nwosu

A very mischievous journalist friend sent me the above headline on Sunday afternoon. It was supposed to be a joke about whatever was happening in Adamawa State, where a bye-election was being held to conclude last month’s ‘inconclusive’ governorship election.

With the collation of results still going on, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Ari, usurped the duties of the Returning Officer for the election and declared APC’s Aisha Dahiru (fondly called Binani) winner of the poll, and returned her elected.

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Curiously, only 10 of the expected 20 result areas had been turned in at the time he carried out this electoral coup. But that was not the only dizzying thing about Hudu’s infamous misadventure. Apart from the fact that he was not statutorily empowered to make the call, he did so rather clandestinely, and without any figures to back his declaration.

And then, there was also the not-so-little issue of the slim probability of Binani, who is on the cusp of making history as the first elected female state governor in Nigeria, winning the governorship from the bye-election. For one, she was trailing the incumbent, PDP’s Umaru Fintiri, by about 30,000 votes and needed almost 90% of the outstanding ballots in the bye-election to pull off the victory.

It was, therefore, mindboggling how Hudu arrived at the magical number with just about 50% of the votes collated.

So, irrespective of whatever ulterior motive the big masquerades in INEC might have had, going into the Adamawa election, Hudu’s seeming impatience to get it over with may have betrayed that ulterior motive – and, in the process, causing the commission monumental embarrassment.

The wisest thing for the commission to do, in the circumstance, was exactly what it did: reverse the declaration, suspend further collation, and summon everyone to Abuja. But that was not before a handful of irate party agents at the Yola collation center showed Hudu a sneak preview of what an angry populace could do to election riggers. They stripped him naked and also drew a few drops of blood off him.

Inappropriate as that resort to jungle justice might be, it is often not always possible to determine, or control, the reaction of a citizenry that feels it’s being taken for a ride. And it was commendable that INEC also condemned the assault on its errant officer.

Yes, even if there was a predetermined outcome, at INEC headquarters, with regards to the Adamawa governorship, decency requires that there should be some “wuruwuru” (to, at least, make a pretence of having followed the [due] process) to that predetermined answer.

It was a trick we poor Maths students learnt very early in our secondary school days: we would write down the questions, leave some blank space, spy the correct answer from either the back of the textbook or by “giraffeing” the answer sheets of our more brilliant classmates, and write down the answer further down the page. We would then begin to concoct all manner of ‘workings’ within the blank space (including postulations that could make Galileo turn in his grave) to justify our answer.

Kudu was too impatient to go through even this well-known crooked process. He just took the question and wrote us an answer, without showing us the ‘working’. Yet, the question paper is ‘Theory’, not ‘Objective’. Haba!

Now, he has given the Atiku camp and the PDP, more reasons to validate their initial suspicion that there was a preconceived plot to mess up Atiku in his Adamawa home state, by ensuring that his party lost the election in the state. Now we are beginning to add two and two together. Now those of us who doubted that INEC awarded a contract to the APC candidate’s company to financially empower her for the election are having second thoughts.

We’re also beginning to think that the unofficial declaration of Binani as the winner last month, before the election was eventually declared inconclusive, was part of the desperation to foist her as governor by hook or crook – including as we were once told, even ‘stealing’ it.

What the goings-on in Adamawa has revealed is that, like PDP, APC, Labour Party, APGA, SDP, ADP, and all, it appears the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is now factionalised. Yes, as the Yoruba saying goes, when the leaf sticks to the soap for a long time, it soon becomes soap.

INEC, which has been hands-in-glove with the politicians and their political parties, now appears to be catching every bug that infests the politicians too. Before our very eyes, the INEC which was supposed to be apprehending rigger-politicians has morphed into the biggest rigging machine on our political landscape.

Similarly, INEC is now outdoing the politicians in the art of double-speak. We used to think that ‘promise and fail’ was a preserve of APC (and their PDP co-travelers), but INEC has since proven that what the politicians are doing is actually kindergarten stuff – PVC, BVAS, and Real-time electronic transmission of results on my mind! And I must not fail to add that, like the politicians, INEC too has learnt to take its shenanigans to Chatham House in London. Yes, instead of educating the politicians, the politicians are the ones miseducating INEC.

That has to be the only explanation for this factionalisation bug that has now bitten our incorruptible INEC. That is the only way we can comprehend how INEC manages to send different teams to cover primaries organised by different factions of the same party to select candidates for the same election. Or, better still, how do politicians manage to procure INEC officials, and seal, for parallel congresses and primaries, if INEC itself is not factionalised? Sometimes, these primaries even hold on the same day!

Although this factionalisation has always been there, it became more pronounced during the last general elections. The Prof. Ifeoma Oti faction in Abia State refused to go with the flow and insisted on declaring the authentic result from the governorship poll in Abia. Her colleague in Enugu also put up an initial resistance (what we call Initial Gragra in street lingo) before he finally succumbed.

Allegedly! Before the two professors, there was a whimper of protest/factionalisation from yet another professor in Rivers State, before Gov. Nyesom Wike overran everybody. Before this round of elections, however, there was a certain Mike Igini, who practically ran a one-man faction in INEC. Igini may have been eased out of the system now, but his is a name the now Senator Godswill Akpabio and one or two professors will not forget in a hurry.

But with what happened in Adamawa at the weekend, it is clear that the factionalisation in INEC has come full circle. While the Mahmoud Yakubu faction is saying ‘no’, that the declaration is null and void, the other faction has declared the result, and would probably be telling the INEC chairman to ‘go to court’ if he’s not satisfied. And to rub it home further, the Binani woman has even made an initial acceptance speech, thanking the Adamawa people for voting her as their governor. Meanwhile, as far as last month, there was already an amateur video on social media addressing her as ‘Your Excellency’.

But the Hudu joke is on all of us. It signposts the rot in our elections and electoral system. It underscores the barefaced illegality that the electoral umpire and its officials have continued to unleash on the Nigerian electorate without consequence. Having seen his colleagues and superiors going ahead to declare election results, despite glaring lapses and vehement protestations, and getting away with it, the Adamawa REC was confident that he could do likewise and ask everyone to ‘go to court’, without being called to answer for the shoddy job.

Unfortunately, he was so crass about it that not even the headquarters goons could provide him a hiding place.

Instructively, this INEC factionalisation is blowing open on the same weekend that the Labour Party held parallel governorship primaries in Imo State, producing two different governorship candidates, and the PDP in Kogi State is mired in its own controversy, with one faction declaring the primary that produced Sen. Dino Melaye as the party’s gubernatorial flag bearer as an illegality.
I can’t laugh o! I have a toothache.