MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The fear ignited recently in the country about the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with respect to multiple discoveries of thousands of PVCs dumped in a gutter in Rivers State and other obscure locations across the country, is yet to simmer down.
Many concerned Nigerians are still not convinced with the explanation a few days ago of INEC management led by Professor Yakubu Mahmood that its officials were not involved in the dumping exercise. This explanation came even while the Commission has not truly investigated the circumstances that led to the removal of the PVCs from INEC custody or ascertained beyond doubt that the PVCs were not printed by the Commission, in which case they could be regarded as fake.
With millions of Nigerians eargerly waiting for clearer explanation from INEC, one needs to remind Prof. Mahmood of the enormity of the responsibility of his office as INEC Chairman. The current fear in some quarters that the electoral umpire, may compromise its integrity in the 2023 elections particularly the presidential election should not be allowed to gain momentum.
It is not funny that in a country where the sitting Government at the Federal level has spent billions to put a credible electoral process in place and an electoral law that would seriously checkmate rigging, the agency charged with the responsibility of conducting credible election is publicly seen to be doing the opposite.
From reports in the media on Sunday 7th August, 2022 a concerned Nigerian taking a walk exercise along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Roadside Walkway videoed thousands of PVCs bearing Yoruba and Igbo Christian names. The uncollected INEC-held Christian PVCs were found to have been stashed from far away INEC offices in Abuja from where they were secretly transferred to Lagos jurisdictional areas believably by hired politico- religious fanatics in collusion with INEC officials.
Similarly, few weeks ago another video trended on social media, exposing the excavation from gutter of over 20,000 PVCs (with Christian names) dumped in Ohio/Akpor area of Rivers State. There was also a discovery by a hunter about two weeks ago of 320 PVCs with Christian names inside an uncompleted building in Bayelsa forest.
In Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, about two months ago, INEC office was compromised and thousands of PVCs with Christian names were made away with. Similar reports also abound in Northern part of the country.
With this ugly trend increasing by the day even as the 2023 general elections are fast approaching with millions of registered Nigerians yet to be given their PVCs by INEC, the Commission needs to be reminded again that it is not just enough to quickly exonerate the involvement of its staff when the different cases have not been thoroughly investigated with conclusion drawn on the merit of each case.
Just at the weekend, a group known as International College of Democracy and Human Rights Scholars in a letter to INEC has called for explanation over the unseemly aberrations capable of setting Nigeria on fire. In the same letter, the group has also asked INEC to tell Nigerians the name of company which is supplying the Bimordal Voters Accreditation System machines and ownership of the company since it was once admitted in 2019 by Prof. Yakubu Mahmood that a Senator from Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Musa owes the company; Activate Technologies Limited which is responsible for supply of the machines for printing PVCs and other sensitive materials. Musa is an APC senator.
While Nigerians are waiting for Mahmood’s evidence-based explanation with respect to the various stashing away and dumping of PVCs in parts of the country, he should know that the mood of Nigerians particularly the youths towards the 2023 Election especially the presidential, is quite different from the moods of the past.
The INEC Chieftain does not need a soothsayer to tell him that the 2023 election would make or mar Nigeria as a country given the several years of suffering in the hands of those who feel that their portion is to capture power at all cost irrespective of their unacceptibility by the masses.
Prof. Mahmood and his INEC should put the safety of Nigeria and Nigerians first in every step they take towards the coming election. A situation where it is becoming clear that some ethnic groups or a particular religious group is being shortchanged through stashing away of PVCs ostensibly due to perceived fears that such a religious group would vote for a particular presidential candidate portends greater danger than the INEC officials may have envisaged.
One needs to caution that nothing should be taken for granted as the likelihood of undermining the powers of any group will be much of a risk to take. INEC should play by the rules without the least intentions of favouring any candidate(s) against the others.
Nigeria comes first before any religion or ethnic group. Those who have put themselves up as presidential candidates and their respective political parties should know that if Nigeria goes up in flame tomorrow as a result of their manipulation of INEC officials through cash inducement, we may as well say good bye to Nigeria as a country.
Those who were around in the days of SAP riot during the military regime or June 12 presidential election result annulment could easily understand the danger in subverting the people’s will at any time.
Therefore INEC should avoid any action or inaction capable of stoking an unquenchable fire in the polity.