950 views | Charles Okoh | July 20, 2021
That the Nigerian National Assembly has charted its own course is well-known. That this otherwise bastion of democracy has opted to attach itself as an appendage to the executive arm of government is also well documented fact, but what is all the more troubling is how low they are prepared to condescend just to be seen to be subservient and yes-men to the executive.
Last week, the Senate turned down the nomination of the garrulous nominee of President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie, as INEC commissioner to represent Delta State. The lily-livered Senate had been having sleepless nights on how to deliver what was an obvious decision without hurting the president.
Stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and the main opposition party, the PDP, had staged a series of protests at the National Assembly against Onochie’s nomination by the President, arguing that she is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
So, they found an alibi in the fact that Mrs. May Agbamuchie-Mbu, who is married to a Cross River husband, was indeed representing Delta and not Cross River as stated by Ms. Onochie during her screening before the Senate committee. The senators have been screaming on top of their voices to let Nigerians believe that Onochie was rejected because her nomination was against the Federal Character Commission laws, just so that the president does not get offended that they dared to turn down his request as a result of the rantings of some bellyaching bunch of wailers.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South), in his presentation, said the committee received several petitions against the nominations of Ms. Onochie and Professor Sani Muhammad Adamu. He said that the petitions against Onochie were informed by the fact of her involvement in politics and alleged membership of a political party. He said they were bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) on Federal Character Principle.
“In the case of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, having studied her curriculum vitae and other relevant documents, followed by exhaustive interaction around the petitions against her nomination which she responded to accordingly, including attesting that she is not a registered member of any political party, the committee rejected her nomination,” Gaya said.
Talk of men without balls! What the Senate is saying is that, but for the Federal character principle, they would have cleared her without telling us if they confirmed her claim to have discontinued her membership of the ruling party since 2019 to be true or not. They simply took her word for it and want us to believe that what she said was true and so she is qualified to become an INEC commissioner even when her sympathy and loyalty to APC is public knowledge. What a shame!
Is it not strange to hear that the 9th National Assembly that had turned a blind eye to all the lopsided appointments of President Buhari in the last six years can suddenly take recourse to the federal character principle to disqualify Ms. Onochie? But, pray, where were they when under Buhari all the leadership of the military, security agencies, parastatals and other agencies were appointed from the north? Where were they when under President Buhari’s watch, all the military and police universities and institutions were shared in the north? What has been their reaction as Buhari consistently replaces southern political office holders with northerners but has never replaced a northerner with a southerner? Is the Senate aware that under Buhari nepotism is now a virtue and taken to a height like never before? Are the senators aware that Hausa is the lingua franca in NNPC, CBN, NPA, DSS, EFCC, Customs, and Immigration etc? Yes, it may not have started with the 9th Senate, but since they have woken from their slumber they will do well to revive the Federal Character Commission from its coma.
Ahmed Lawan and his Senate can go and tell that to the marines. Mrs. Agbamuche-Mbu’s tenure is ending in 2021; they might as well tell President Buhari to re-nominate her as INEC commissioner. Onochie’s fate was the triumph of the people’s will against a pliable assembly that lacks the guts to stand for the rights of Nigerians in the face of intimidation, suppression, ineffable hardship and poverty. It is simply a case where the will of the people trump hypocrisy, sycophancy and mediocrity.
So much for Onochie and her distraction, what is of more concern to many Nigerians now is 2023 and how to make it meet with the aspirations and yearnings of the people. Sadly, it appears there may not be a reprieve from our current state of melancholy if feelers coming from the Senate last week are anything to go by.
Sincerely, would it really bother the average Nigerian if Onochie is made commissioner if our electoral process is reliable and credible?
Last week, a ranking officer of the Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, dismissed the call for the inclusion of electronic voting and transmission of election results electronically in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, for the 2023 general elections, claiming that it will not work in the northern part of the country.
And on Thursday, his APC colleagues from every part of the country including Lagos chorused the same sentiment. If Lagos is still lacking in connectivity and Internet penetration by 2021 then, Nigeria will never be ready for electronic voting and transmission of results in this lifetime.
Ndume had said: “As a member of the Senate, I am talking realistically; the issue of electronic voting is futuristic, but not realistic for us, in the north particularly. Can you do electronic voting or transmission of results without electricity? The answer is no.” In his ears, he was sounding convincing.
Deputy Chief Whip Aliyu Abdullahi had during consideration of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill report by the Senate proposed that Section 52(3) reads: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” to read that “the Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means provided that the network has been adjudged secured by the NCC and approved by the National Assembly.”
This modification is slightly different from the proposal two weeks ago where the Senate had said the new provision should read, “Voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedures determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting provided that the commission shall not transmit results of the election by electronic means.”
The simple explanation to this is that the Senate wants those trips from polling units to collating centres where results are falsified, ballot boxes are snatched, innocent NYSC ad hoc staff are killed and INEC returning officers with guns to their heads declare results in favour of those holding them captive, to subsist.
Even the wise counsel of former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to the legislators that “You can’t permit INEC on one hand to use electronic voting and not use electronic transmission of results because usually, they go as a package,” only ensured they brought up another disingenuous method of subverting the people’s will.
Ndume had rationalised the Senate unfounded fears against electoral voting and transmission thus: “We don’t have electricity in most of the areas in the north, especially the rural areas; the importance, or the main objective of election, is to allow every Nigerian that is of 18 years old, to exercise his constitutional right to go and vote.”
Is this about political parties or about the future of Nigeria as a nation? Ndume and his colleagues know they are fighting for their political careers. If they’re electable why are they afraid?
Meanwhile, in those areas Ndume claimed to have no electricity, are there no telephone services? Is the Federal government, through the NIMC and the telecommunications operators, not carrying out the ongoing synchronization of NIN/SIM numbers?
Also, in those areas Ndume and his pitiable fellow senators depicted, do their children register electronically for JAMB and also write their examinations through the computer/Internet and as well use their NIN numbers for the registration? Do they enjoy PoS services as well as money transfer? Are they also part of the ongoing online INEC continuous voter registration?
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the same scenario played out. When eventually 2023 comes, except God delivers this nation from the hands of these executive puppets, you already know that the will of the people would be subverted by this disappointing APC government that would have spent eight years thinking and plotting to perpetuate their grips on the nation. If only man learns, APC will have learnt from the PDP: that when man proposes, there is always the supreme being that still reigns in the affairs of man, who at the appointed time will dispose accordingly.
As it is now, the Senate has voted that the National Assembly and the NCC, both of them fortresses of the APC, are to determine how we vote in 2023. You can see that certainly there will be no light at the end of the toilet, sorry tunnel, for post-2023 Nigeria. God help us.