Yar’adua’s Electoral Reform Panel Spoof: Go Home!

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

It has be seven hundred days of hobbling in the dark for the Yaradua administration. More than two years after his selection, the only achievement he can point to is doing no harm – or at least pretending not to. Like a leader of a comatose government, he has taken the road of ineptitude to do nothing. Do nothing about a global economic crisis that has the Nigerian stock market at its grip, do nothing about the stinking anti-corruption crusade that he inherited, doing noting about the security mess that is increasingly bedeviling our major cities. Well, you can’t fault the man for doing nothing.

At least it is better than doing evil like his predecessor! Well, not so fast. There are three promises that stand out from Yaradua’s inauguration speech: that he will be a “rule of law” president. The second was that he will declare a power emergency and that he will reform the electoral process. The first point is moot; the second agenda, let us just say is parked somewhere between the scorched Benin to Ore federal road rendered impassable, waiting to get into moving traffic. The last point is the subject of this article.

Who does Yaradua take the rest of us for? Fools? The president supposedly cobbled together a committee of “eminent” jurists under the most lily-livered Chief Justice in Nigeria’s history, all in order to put together recommendations on how to improve elections, electioneering and party politics in Nigeria. On this point, the man could not be faulted. Heck, it will be hard to find good Nigerians that can be co-opted with a president who was by himself rigged into power. For those of us that were skeptical, the selection of the Chief Justice that legalized rigging in Nigeria was not bad enough: we hoped we can get some good out of evil (some say cowardice).

The Uwais panel sat for nearly a year. It crisscrossed the country (as if it was “hard math”) to find answers to the perennial questions of how a sanely conducted election has eluded Nigeria since independence save for one that was eventually annulled. After its deliberations, the committee came up with a number of recommendations which I must confess was impressive and reform oriented: especially coming from an Uwais headed panel. The recommendations of the committee can be summarized as follows:

– Constitutional amendment to allow independent candidacy
– Disposal of electoral litigations before elected officials are sworn in
– Increased independence for INEC financially
– Removal of partisan considerations in INEC appointment by putting the power of appointment in the judiciary and legislature instead of the executive
– Allowing civil society groups nominate INEC Board membership and security of term for INEC members to insulate them from external influence
– To shift the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC when widespread of electoral malpractices are alleged
– Punishment of electoral offenders before a special tribunal

In addition to these, other institutional recommendations that government cannot specifically implement were also included; I consider those Illusory. No doubt, any of these recommendations if implemented will be revolutionary. Of course, while the committee did not make any earth shaking recommendation that you will get from a radical like me say provision of party representation at INEC level or death sentence for electoral malpractice we can all agree that these recommendations are decent and are a good starting point.

Well, not until the President had his own ideas. After adopting the report of the Uwais Report, the government set up as usual a White Paper Committee that was asked to make recommendations to the government on the recommendations of the committee. The White Paper Draft Report was prepared by a committee headed by the Defense Minister, Dr. Shettima Mustapha. Well, the White Paper pretty much was a formality as it accepted all the recommendations of the committee less few modifications. The curious twist to the tale was preserved for later.

Like a man that had something in mind, but simply was playing Maradona, the President swiftly set up a so called “The White Paper Review Committee” comprising the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa as the chairman, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, and a Permanent Secretary in the Presidency, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed. You heard it a right, an electoral reform committee headed by the chief law breaker in the nation, who also happens to be the private lawyer of chief riggers and electoral thugs like Ex-Governor Ibori and Alams. The directive to the reviewer of the review panel report was to make recommendations to the FEC on the recommendations of the white paper panel on the recommendation of the Uwais Panel. If you are confused, so am I. This is a game or what?

Well, it begs the point. It is no news that the Aondoakaa committee is now coming back with a recommendation to water down virtually all the revolutionary solutions of the Uwais panel. It placed enormous burden on independent candidacy; disagreed with removing presidential power of appointment; replaced the tribunal with an agency to investigate (another toothless EFCC under the AG of course); left the burden of proof on petitioners; and okayed the current pointless system of allowing riggers in office before resolving questions surrounding their election. Question is: if Yaradua knew he was not serious, why waste our precious time? If he felt Aondoakaa or whatever his name is called had all the answers, why didn’t he direct his filthy AG to institute his fake reforms instead of wasting government funds on a predetermined mission?

Nigerians are sick and tired of our governments playing yoyo with our emotions. Fool me twice, shame on me! We have been through this game before under IBB! If Nigerians let the foolishness of this administration pass as wisdom, we would only have ourselves to blame. Our nation is at the precipice of unimaginable crisis if we do not fix the way we elect leaders every four years immediately. It makes no sense to spend millions on elections that mean nothing, and to undergo periodic cycles of fratricides all in the name of elections. Enough is enough. If Yaradua is unwell in his body (as he appears to be in his mind), and he deems himself unfit to perform the duties which he swore to execute albeit halfheartedly, he should pack his baggage and go home. He should take Agent Iwu with him on the way out too. What say you?

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segun March 14, 2009 - 10:16 pm

Good observations and comments. You are obviously angry with the way things are in our nation.Who won’t? With a lethargic president who has surounded himself with half baked ministers and ill-missioned advisers the nation is fast on a mission to omission. Honestly, the big question is how do we get out of this hell? Is there any hope for us now or in the future? Where are the indications that things will improve? From our system of education, communication, civil service, attitude to national assigment, health service, roads, commerce, industry, just name it. The whole system is disintegrating and those who should contain the dislocation are the ones guilty of accelerating it. The Nigerian case is a doomed one! The most pathetic aspect is that our kids, the toddlers, the students, the so called future leaders, are aware of the cesspool and they are very eager to graduate and join the league.So where does it leave us?

Obimma Francis March 14, 2009 - 3:41 pm

My brother, nawaooo! This is truly a game—IBB-patterened—– for Yaradua and his cronies. Have you forgotten that Yaradua is IBB’s immidiate junior brother? Did you think IBB withdrew his bid for the presidency for nothing? IBB is indirectly still calling the shots in Nigeria so the end to our woes is not at sight. I just weep for poor Nigerians.


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