The Nigerian political class is never out of stock in posting strange conducts that endanger the core values of democratic ideals and principles –leaving us with queer pastiches of home –bred absurdities dressed in national apparel but in truth are more of preservative assurances (interest). This scenario is well captured in the ongoing brickbats between the ruling party and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the new electoral bill. The naked and fierce dynamics of political fireworks oozing from both camps reveal something distinctively Nigerian in style and mould – less of the real underlying issues but blown with disproportionate fugacity to occlude the kernel in subjective speculation. At this point it becomes extremely difficult for the public to extract the truth from the choking fumes of accusations and counter accusations thrown into the public space by both parties. The resultant tectonic vibration has thrown the genie out of the bottle –displacing and abusing public mind from correct reading of the situation in assessing the worth , capacity and preparedness of the contestants to attend to the immediate worry of the country.
In all these, the level of our democratic growth would be measured by how seamlessly processes and procedures consequential to the erection of functioning democratic system are attended to by the actors and institutions charged with the responsibility without heating the system to a boiling point as is the case right now.
Is anyone surprised that all of a sudden, the nation is jarred to a disturbing accusations and counter accusations –from the mundane to the absurd –of disguised but premeditated attempt to compromise the upcoming election? Neither the PDP nor the APC has been unsparing in the spate of interviews and press releases to push out a particular narrative of each other’s alleged rigging plans. The allegation by the APC is particularly both intriguing and worrisome, if only for its inexplicable novelty. Even then, there is little to contest on the capacity of extreme desperation. APC spokesman Yekiini Nabena spoke of a master plan allegedly hatched in Dubai where the PDP candidate, Atiku, and some of his lieutenants had congregated to strategise for the upcoming election.
“They planned to bring some Russians to help them hack into the system. That is their joker. Once the President signs the bill, they will just bring in the Russians to help them hack into the system.
“They have their plan to hack into the system, input their figures after results have been transmitted electronically, which will now be announced-That is part of their Dubai plot.” Other miscellaneous accusations include, instigating Labour Union, ASSU and Oil Marketers strikes to discredit the APC regime.
The PDP also upheld a counter weight of accusation. Its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan thundered a riposte: “Having realised that there is no way they can win in a credible, free and fair presidential election, the Buhari Presidency and the APC, in cahoots with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have been engaged in series of provocative machinations aimed to corrupt the electoral process, trigger violent dissentions and ultimately derail our democratic process. “You will recall that on Thursday, the PDP vehemently rejected the plots by INEC and the Presidency to rig the election by creating illegal polling centers in Chad and Niger Republic, under the guise of ‘special arrangement’ for displaced Nigerians in those countries to participate in the presidential election.” The party has also doubled down its allegation against the PDP, proclaiming that security agencies and anti-corruption institutions have been recruited as battering rams to aid the APC through its agenda.
Before the thread of the narratives of who did what and who didn’t gets corrupted any further, it is apt to refresh the mind of the public with a short history of the unappetizing oscillatory rigmarole the electoral bill had to endure before we finally got here. Within the space of about three months the Electoral Act Amendment Bill oscillated in an engaging four rounds between Aso Rock Villa and the National Assembly. This provided ample time for the suspicion and mistrust that had characterized the relationship between the executive and the legislature to simmer to a level that makes probable the employment of all sort of strategies and evasive tactics to neutralize each other’s position. It then became easier for any of the party to accuse the other of being responsible for whatever doom that eventually befell the bill. To compound matters, members of both APC and PDP that have defected from their party suddenly found common ground to use the electoral bill to strengthen their positions. The first point of disaggreement over the bill was the curious insertion of the sequence of election, altered to make the presidential election the last in the series of the 2019 elections. The untold story however is to minimise the bandwagon effect of Presidential election, not withstanding that some APC law makers had benefited from the Buhari victory in 2015. The president needed no soothsayer to know that a tricky game was in the air and he withheld his assent to the bill. This accounted for the first tortuous journey of the electoral bill which lasted one month before the bill was returned to the National Assembly.
It is note worthy that after the bill was returned to the President, he waited for one full month again before communicating his intention to withhold assent to the bill to the National Assembly. This time, unlike the previous accusation that the legislature wants to usurp the powers of INEC to fix the sequence of election, technical error of inconsistency in the provisions of the bill was the reason cited to withhold presidential assent.
The closing round of the electoral bill’s tortuous journey coincided with the period that considerable number of law makers in APC and PDP suffered bruising encounter in the primaries. As such, any chance to hit back at the executive can only be too tempting, more so that not a few of them are of the view that their parties have not done enough to protect their interest. The APC is particularly worst affected in the renewed mistrust between the executive and legislature as some of its members are no longer keen in supporting party position on issues. There are enough reason on ground to disguise selfish interest as national interest in the crossfire between the APC and the PDP -each seeks to exploit and leverage on any aspect of the bill that strengthens its position while pushing off or rejecting any that compromises its potion-albeit under the loud cry of national interest- fair play and transparency.
While the verbal war rages on, public conscience is assaulted with tales of the unexpected to win sympathy –less is heard of why the APC engaged in curious romance with ECOWAS protocol on election amendment to defend it’s position, in contrast to its total rejection of the same ECOWAS pronouncement on other matters. Ditto, the PDP’s sudden fascination with electronic transmission of election results when it had the opportunity to make this provision in our electoral act in its 16 years reign.
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