THE NIGERIAN COUP NO ONE SAW COMING

Friday, June 4, 2010

On June 1st, 2010, the Acting Chairman of Nigeria's electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that the body is not ready for the upcoming 2011 elections. For a country like Nigeria, such a pronouncement is damning, particularly as Nigeria's last elections in 2007 were characterized by heavy rigging and irregularities. Furthermore, given the recent dramatic political changes that occurred in the wake of former President Yar'Adua's absence and death, the 2011 polling season was gearing up to be arguably the most important political event of all time for Nigerians. Unfortunately, this confession from INEC is not surprising considering recent events affecting the Commission. But while INEC might avoid the blame for its lack of preparedness, this announcement could spell serious trouble not just for the Nigerian electorate, but for the Jonathan administration and a possible candidacy, if he were to seek the Presidency. The circumstances that forced this announcement could lead to a coup d'etat of the sort Nigerians have never seen and must not be allowed to happen if a truly representative Nigerian democracy is ever to take root.

http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/inec-logo.gif

INEC MIGHT NOT BE TO BLAME
Traditionally, INEC and it's former Chairman, Maurice Iwu, have been the main object of blame for most things wrong with Nigeria's electoral system. And, for years, many civil groups and even ordinary individuals called for his sacking and/or resignation. Iwu was finally removed from INEC on April 28th, 2010 in a move that signaled to many President Jonathan's commitment to ensuring a free and fair electoral process in 2010. However, since removing Iwu, no replacement Chairperson has been named, effectively leaving the Commission rudderless. Unlike his predecessor, Jonathan must be congratulated for publicly supporting all the recommendations made by the Electoral Reform Committee. Nevertheless, given the sickness, absence and eventual death of late President Yar'Adua, much of the amendments to the Electoral Act have taken place very close to the upcoming elections. In fact, a complete and modified Electoral Act remains elusive as both houses of the National Assembly continue to reconcile their respective changes to the document. As a consequence, there is still no clear date for when Presidential elections will occur. Nigeria's 2011 presidential, which will be its most important, could take place as early as December 2010 (in less than 6 months) or January 2011. These dates are much closer than the previously expected, pre-amended Electoral Act date of May 2011. In fact, INEC's Acting Chairman, Solomon Soyebi, specifically stated that

"there is no electoral law to guide the election."
Furthermore, Soyebi pointed out that there is not enough time to get ready for the polls, that the Commission only has 97,000 out of the required 120,000 polling units needed for smooth voting and, 
"INEC right now needs five million ballot papers for the 2011 election and it requires a minimum of five months to be prepared, adding that with independent candidates it could be more. In fact, we may even print booklet."
These realities illustrate that there is a growing confusion in the electoral law arena that can be tied to parties other than INEC. The Commission cannot print the names of all political aspirants if the deadline for submission of these names is non-existent as a result of a still to be completed Electoral Act, for instance. This, and the other problems, remove much of the blame from INEC, and deposits it at the feet of the nation's legislators and unfortunately (because it is never fair to speak ill of the dead), the late President and his advisers.

POLITICIANS MIGHT PREVENT ELECTIONS
This INEC-confession begs the question of whether the elections will happen? If, as Soyebi noted that there remains no electoral law as at 6 months before the earliest date elections could begin, there is the unfortunate possibility that elections might not take place. This is because completion of the amendments to the Electoral Act is dependent on a National Assembly that would be served well if elections were postponed. A later date for elections means more time for incumbent Senators and members of the House to remain in power, raise campaign money and frustrate the efforts of challengers. While this would be impossible in most democracies, because Nigerian politicians typically do not rely on voters for their position, depending instead on political godfathers, rigging and the use of their status to thwart opposition, it is very possible that the continued delay in the amendment of the Electoral Act could be dragged out. This is a possibility that Nigerians must not allow to come to pass as any undue delay in the time it takes for a new election would only increase the risk of politicians, with little or no commitment to the interests of the people, remaining in power.

WHAT ABOUT JONATHAN'S PROMISE OF FREE & FAIR ELECTIONS?
Upon his swearing in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan repeatedly committed his administration to guaranteeing free elections in 2011. Unfortunately, the fact that INEC confessed to being ill-prepared for the upcoming polls will frustrate Jonathan's ability to achieve this goal. Nigerian elections have historically been challenged vehemently by whatever parties walked away as losers. The Election Tribunals from the 2007 elections were forced to throw out many a poll result and the Ekiti elections of May 2009 only reinforced the 'fight to the death' mentality of politicians when it comes to winning gubernatorial seats. However, the Anambra gubernatorial elections of February 2010, though marred by problems, were concluded with the losers acquiescing to the pronounced winner in a peaceful act that is not commonplace in Nigerian politics. Since then there have been at least two other elections in the country that were equally peaceful in comparison to the previously tense contests.

Despite some evidence that elections can be concluded with relative peace, INEC's confession will be an additional reason for many to question the results of any eventual polls. It will be forced to defend itself in a way that it might not have if it had not admitted its unpreparedness and been ready for the polls. The elections will have to take place whenever the Electoral Act specifies, and if by then INEC is still not ready, as will likely be the case, this will likely decrease what little credibility the Commission has left. Additionally, if Jonathan were to run for President, an option that is a possibility but subject to his formal announcement, a win for him would be burdened by the additional element of a weak INEC. That will only serve to prevent Nigeria from making any gains on the democratic front and will increase disillusion amongst the electorate about democracy and its role in improving the lives of citizens.

EVERY PROBLEM IS AN OPPORTUNITY
Nevertheless, despite the obvious problems that INEC's announcement presents, the situation could have a silver lining. Civil society and others could use this announcement, plus the possibility of a politician-led 'coup', to rally the masses towards demanding more answers from INEC, the National Assembly and the President about what plans are on the table to limit disenfranchisement and a return to fraudulent elections. This would take the country one step further towards creating a system of political accountability, which is sorely lacking at the moment. Nigerian leaders usually do not feel the need to engage with the people, but a matter such as this - an undue and unacceptable delay in the people's right to choose their representatives - could also be the opportunity certain ingenious leaders need to engage directly with the people and show support for their need for well planned, orderly elections. Jonathan's objective of free and fair elections are not impossible to achieve, but it would require him focusing on placing the needed pressure on the necessary actors who continue to hold up the Electoral Act and other materials needed by INEC to efficiently and effectively carry out it's responsibilities.


Nigerians must be very cautious over the next few weeks because their ability to vote for new representatives is not yet guaranteed. Further delay by the National Assembly will create a perfect storm. In this case, a non-violent, non-military coup where supposedly democratic politicians hold the nation hostage by preventing citizens from voting by a means other than ballot box rigging, paying for votes, violence and pure muffling of the people's voice. Hopefully, Jonathan's goal of free and fair elections are still a possibility. But to achieve that objective, Nigerians themselves will have to prevent the subjugation of their democratic right to determine their own future.


From The Archives:
- Iwu Is No Longer INEC Chairman
- Is Iwu The INEC Chairman
- Is Yar'Adua Committed To Democracy? (Electoral Reform Committee's reviews)
- Nigeria's New Kingmakers

15 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

oluSimeon said...

We generally don't plan so most Nigerians dont think there'll be any problem yet.. some of the lawmakers might even be thinking next year is far away..and no need to prepare yet..
the INEC head is supposed to know what's needed and he has articulated that.. the other person who should really know is the president.. and I think the first step that'll show he is serious is the appointment of the INEC head...
unfortunately, the lawmakers are their own kings and only answer to god-fathers.
like you said the civil society will have to play a big role in preventing anything shady..

Shiko-Msa said...

Your country, like ours, has been through quite a lot of late!

KT said...

A very stimulating article that should be read by all and sundry. Even the mainstream media are silent on this very obvious problem that is waiting to happen, and one wonders why.

Is it that we are tired of ensuring that this civil rule works for us, or we have just lost interest in all possible solutions? It might be both, and there lies the problem.

I suggest that we create an online (and offline) petition to the president and the lawmakers asking them to begin work on the electoral laws immediately. Sensitization is key. Everyone in the civil populace seem to be sleeping at the moment. I'd like to know as well, what is the constitutional provision for a case where elections are not possible due to one reason or the other, and time lapses while politicians are in office?

Let's do something now. And thank you for the wonderful article.

sokari said...

Thanks for this excellent article - you raise some very important points for Nigerian Civil Society. Nigeria never ceases to amaze me - a clumsy giant that fumbles its way through life. That there is no clear date for elections after 10 years of civilians in government speaks to the pseudo nature of Nigerian democracy. Unfortunately Jonathan may have the will for a fraudulent free election but I dont think he has sufficient authority or power to ensure this happens. One thing that concerns me is that if the elections take place in before early 2011, which would be disadvantageous to Johnanthan, Niger Deltans especially may take this as a "coup" against "their leader" which would cause further instability in the country.

I agree that it is up to the civil society to make its voice loud and clear - fortunately CS is stronger today that at any other time in the country's post-colonial history but I dont see it as being strong enough to force the necessary changes.

@KT a petition would be a start but it will take far more than that to effect the changes SS suggests.

Anonymous said...

If dem try am ehn!


- Michael George-Ukhuegbe from Facebook

TheAfroBeat said...

Quite a damning confession, but nonetheless brave (and groundbreaking) of them to do so. Can't imagine an Iwu confessing to not being ready (or admitting to having failed in terms of INEC's mandate of a free and fair election, so I'm glad thi observation came from the horse's mouth. We have never had a strong INEC, and it's good to finally have one that admits it!

Now as to the implications of a delay, as horrid as it sounds, isn't it the right thing to do - put in place a reasonable delay that will allow to get the house in order, and also allow civil society to rally the masses into demanding (and receiving!) more answers from INEC, and making sure we have a relatively open Electoral Commission for a chance?

And I agree with Sokari in that I am not sure civil society is strong enough to force INEC into shape, but we need to start somewhere as you pointed out.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant coherence as usual.
I am amazed. :)

Ok here is my point...

We are screwed. There is no way around that one.
Its highly unlikely that this election would be free of all sorts of terrible intrigues...but then again, its Nigeria...we are the top intrigue creators but we always find a way at the end of the day.

1. We dont have time and we are not prepared.
2. The much debated 60 amendments make things even more complicated.
3. We dont have someone to blame incase "things fall apart" (INEC Chair).
4. President Jonathan Goodluck, if he runs, wants to win...and he will likely win if we arent prepared.
5. Hence he has no incentive to get us prepared...maybe thats why he is stalling with the naming of the INEC chair. (this is my own conjecture).
6. Nigerians really want a free and fair election...that is higly unlikely, as it were.
7. I think we should settle for an election free from any obvious discrepancies. Lower our expectations and we might be ok in the end.
8. We need to do something. We need to take action ASAP. If we have to go to INEC during the weekend and volunteer, then so be it.
9. If we need to storm Aso Rock again, I am sure the numerous "youth leaders" can arrange it. And like our lovely KT has suggested, perhaps a petition is in order.
10. For us in the Diaspora...not sure what I can do other then make a lot of noise...I dont even get to vote. how sad. Oh I could totally help manage the petitioning process...if it comes to that. See I am not useless afterall. :)

Have an amazing day.
Cheers...

- Temite

Saratu said...

Yea, it was kinda dumb for them to be all "We're not ready yet?" but here's where I'm confused. So, umm, what were their recommendations? If the status quo remains, you wouldn't be ready. What are your recommendations? What do you need to get ready?

The fact that they didn't answer those questions says to me that they're only just interested in covering their asses in case something goes wrong. It hints at laziness, an admission that some money might be exchanged for votes because they can't control their people.

If they're serious about this upcoming election, they'd tell Jonathan or whoever what money they would need to get ready, what resources, etc. Otherwise, they're just wasting the country's time.

Naijadude said...

One thing we ever fail to admit about the country called Nigeria, is that everyday is a "coup" waiting to happen. INEC's damning confession just adds to the fear of the reality of that happening.

If Jonathan is indeed being honest and interested in the electoral change and stability of the Nigerian democracy, the flimsy excuse given by INEC could always be circumvented. With that said, election dates should be moved to mid 2011, even though fair election shouldnt be promised/expected. On the other hand, Nigeria is a country that planning/scheduling doesn't apply to but for the sake of argument independents need to be heard as well, but INEC sees are impending strong arming by the current administration so they are trying to remain in the same before the public sees the reality.

Unfortunately its a country already taken over by anarchy and chaos in disguise, INEC's failure and what will come after is only a dress rehearsal for the break up of the British colonial mash up!

O'mary said...

@SS, thanks for posting this.. I hope it’ll get people fired up.

The problem has never been about Iwu or INEC, they are just tools in the hands of The Presidency.. Without genuine and sustainable electoral reform, INEC will remain a rudderless ship.. However, Iwu needed to go..

From April 30 through to May 1, a group of young Nigeria and UK-based Nigerians gathered in England to discuss how we might work towards mobilising new registrants and voters between the ages of 18 - 40.. We came across this electoral calendar, 3 days after the proposed voter registration start date:

Voter Registration & Verification | Apr 26 - July 30 2010
Presidential Primaries | May 2 - July 31 2010
All parties are required to name final presidential candidates by Oct 4 2010

National Assembly | Jan 8 2011
Gubernatorial & State Assembly | Jan 15 2011
Presidential | Jan 22 2011

6 weeks later, registration is yet to commence.. Without being pessimistic, I fear that this may be a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise and demoralise any voter mobilisation initiatives.. And there are indeed a few: Enough is Enough’s RSVP - Register, Scrutinise, Vote, Protect; Cool2Vote; even the Donald Duke Organisation is spreading the word.. But how do you mobilise apathetic citizens to register when registration isn’t even open?..

IFES Figures show that of the 58 million who registered in 2007 about 40 million translated to votes.. We all know that we can’t trust a voters register which allegedly includes Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.. However, at EnoughisEnough Nigeria, we are working to mobilise about 20 million new registrants within the 18 - 40 age group via Town Hall Meetings, peer pressure, Diaspora/Remittance pressure and celebrity pressure and we are developing strategies to monitor these figures and measure how many translate into actual votes..

We don’t want to work alone or in isolation, and it would be so much easier to partner with INEC and assist only where they need support.. We don’t claim to have all the solutions either, but we know that doing nothing is no longer an option.. We will serve our country better if we work together, harmonising our strengths and minimising our weaknesses and so we encourage others to work alongside us in whatever way they can..

On another note, if The Presidency were to divert the alleged N10billion allocated to the Golden Jubilee party towards INEC or outsourcing the electoral process to India or Canada, I’m sure Nigeria can be made ready for January..

@Temite, where are you based?.. We’re holding a Dial-A-Vote Town Hall Meeting in London at the end of June..

@Sokari, KT, Temite, re: petition, the EnoughisEnough Nigeria coalition publicly called on the President to address the issue of INEC’s unpreparedness on May 31.. A petition is a great idea as it’ll hopefully draw everyone’s attention to the issue and send a clear message to The Presidency that the electorate is watching.. Would Temite and KT consider working together to set up the petition over the weekend?.. We can organise same day international protests, once you collect a certain number of signatures..

IFES | http://www.electionguide.org/
INEC | http://www.inecnigeria.org/
EnoughisEnough | http://www.enoughisenoughnigeria.com/

Anonymous said...

"Election" for Nigeria na formalty. Those scammers and puppets (muppet?!) of Britain and America that call themselves our "leaders" are only in office to enrich themselves. Nigeria will be poorer after the current clowns leave office.

Right now, I could careless if the military snatch power. If that Goodluck "James Ibori" Jonathan try any nonsense trick, make kharki boys flush him out :)

But really, joking aside, truth be told. The winner of the (yet to be held) "election" has ALREADY been selected (NOMINATE?!) by the NEW WORLD ORDER (USA & Britain) that run & ruin Nigeria. Nigeria wake up an smell the palm-wine :)

Forget Islam and Christianity. Nigeria is governed by the Secret Societies, Ogboni Fraternity (http://www.rofonline.org), Freemasons ( http://tinyurl.com/2vrzc3r ) and Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) http://amorcnigeria.org run things in
Nigeria. Our leaders, eminent nigerians, the very rich/wealthy/connected, those with the highest-level contacts/contracts/networks, judges, lawyers, bankers, wealthy industrialist are members of the Ancient Mystical Order,
Rosae Crucis. There are branches of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) http://amorcnigeria.org/affiliates.html in
the major cities of Nigeria.

Kim Jong-il,
Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea. ~~> Near Ajegunle :)

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ O'mary: we need to talk solomonsydelle(at)gmail(dot)com. Tried to find your addy but you lead to a dead end. So, please contact me if you can. Thanks so much for all the info!

Beauty said...

Given that our so called challenges are opportunities, the small issue of a starting point is the major obstacle. Our imbeciles are yet to understand this. They appear drunk on the crumbs as they continue to talk the talk with zero action. The question of how high is high does appear anywhere as we continue to be led into the abyss. Well, enjoy our hell.

Blaming it all on the mess left by the sick previous administration (which Jonathan and Goodluck were senior members and continues) is a road to nowhere. Jonathan and Goodluck know this and continue to milk it is another stumbling block. How much "in-action" can a country endure before it falls apart is perhaps a question on why Chinua Achebe lives abroad.

tankojjetty said...

Like you said...every problem presents an opportunity...we should not just relax...but try and mobilise as much people as possible to vote for change...so when ever INEC's ready for the elections...we'll be ready too.

Billigt Webbhotell said...

Doesn't their constitution mandate that an election should be made at a given time so that delaying it or postponing doesn't come to "not being ready"?

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