October 2, 2022

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Jide Ojo
In the next 72 hours, it will be a goodbye to the Year 2021. A lot has happened in the outgoing year. Governance in Nigeria remains a serious challenge. The global community spent another year battling the coronavirus pandemic with its attendant ripple effects on the economy, security, politics and governance. The good news is that vaccines were rapidly concocted across many laboratories to tackle this pandemic and news has it that about nine of such antidotes have been approved for human inoculation.
As Nigeria gears up for the forthcoming 2023 general election, a lot of prep work has been going on. The political scene has been buzzing with lots of activities. At the level of the Independent National Electoral Commission, a lot of programmes and projects were carried out. Some of these were stand-alone while many others were preparatory to the 2023 general election. For instance, the electoral management body set the date and accomplished 14 different activities leading to the successful conduct of the November 6, 2021 Anambra governorship election. Though the election was inconclusive on the first ballot due to the prevailing insecurity in the state, a supplementary election was quickly held on November 9 at Ihiala Local Government Area.
At the end of the poll, a former Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, was declared governor-elect. Soludo, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, secured 112,229 votes to defeat his two major rivals — Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party who got 53,807 votes, and Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress who secured 43,285 votes. The voters’ turnout was abysmally low at about 10 per cent but given the charged political environment ahead of the poll, it was no mean feat that the election was held as scheduled without any bloodbath.
Recall that in an unprecedented fashion, over 40 offices of the INEC were either torched or vandalised, majority of them in South-East Nigeria, consisting of Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia and Anambra states. Most of the arson took place in 2021, fueling speculations that some undesirable elements did not want the Anambra gubernatorial election to hold. It’s important to note that INEC also conducted many bye-elections in the outgoing year.

Many State Independent Electoral Commissions also held local government elections. For the second consecutive time, Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission used electronic voting machines to conduct local government polls. KADSIECOM, in September 2021, held elections in the 23 local government areas of Kaduna State. It is instructive that Kaduna State is the first to adopt electronic voting in Nigeria. This has helped to boost voters’ confidence and electoral integrity.
INEC on its part has heightened its infusion of technology into the electoral process. In 2021, given the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, INEC not only consolidated on its initiative to have candidates’ nomination process, accreditation of observers, journalists and party agents done online through a dedicated portal, the commission equally commenced online pre-registration of voters under the Continuous Voters Registration exercise. INEC resumed the CVR on June 28 in order to give opportunity to Nigerians who have attained 18 years and above to register to enable them vote in future elections. It is also an opportunity for those who want to transfer their voter’s registration details or replace their lost or damaged Permanent Voters Card. This CVR should be on till about September 2022. However, Nigerians should make hay while the sun shines and not make a last-minute rush to be registered.
In June 2021, after 25 years and several failed attempts, INEC was able to create additional Polling Units in order to smoothen and enhance voters access and participation.  INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said in Abuja on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 that the commission converted a total of 56,872 voting points and voting point settlements into Polling Units. With this, Nigeria now has a total of 176,846 PUs.  Recall that before the recent exercise, the last time PUs were created was in 1996 during the Gen. Sani Abacha military junta.

It is heartwarming that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), did not allow a vacuum in the leadership of INEC. A couple of weeks back the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, read a communication from President Buhari on nominations to fill existing vacancies in INEC.  The nominees, who are national commissioners, are Mohammed Haruna (Niger State, North-Central), May Agbamuche-Mbu (Delta State) and Okeagu Nnamdi (Abia State, South-East). Others are Maj. Gen. A.B. Alkali (Adamawa State, North-East), Rada Gumus (Bayelsa State, South-South), and Sam Olumekun (Ondo State, South-West). Also appointed was Olaniyi Ijalaye (Ondo State, South-West) as Resident Electoral Commissioner.
It is noteworthy that Agbamuche-Mbu and Haruna were actually reappointed for a second and final term just as was done for INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, last year. INEC having full complement of National and Resident Electoral Commissioners would enable the planning for 2023 elections smooth and seamless.

In order to show that electioneering is a capital intensive project, INEC has requested N305bn for the conduct of the 2023 general election. Interestingly, for the conduct of the 2019 general election, the commission got N189bn from the Federal Government. Innovations, inflation and devaluation of the naira are partly responsible for the skyrocketing cost of elections in Nigeria. Part of the innovations INEC has introduced into Nigeria’s electoral process is the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System, better known as BVAS. This device touted as a game-changer was first piloted during the Isoko State Constituency bye-election before being deployed for the Anambra gubernatorial election last month. It replaces the smart card reader used for voter accreditation during the 2015 and 2019 general elections. The efficiency of this device as witnessed during the Anambra election is still sub-optimal.
What should have been the icing on the political cake of Nigeria in the outgoing year became a deja vu reminiscent of the 2018 better-forgotten experience. Here I’m referring to the veto of the president on the 2021 Electoral Amendment Bill. There were high hopes that this very important piece of legislation aimed at improving the legal framework for the conduct of Nigeria’s election would be signed by the president. However, in a twist of fate, the president withheld assent as he did in 2018 on four different occasions. The excuse this time around is the direct primary clause in the bill. Why should the president veto a bill because of just one clause out of 158 clauses? Shouldn’t he have signed and thereafter sponsored an amendment of the relevant sections as he did with the Petroleum Industry Act? Why did the National Assembly amend section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended which gives political parties the choice of adopting direct or indirect primary for their candidates’ nominations?
The president’s letter on why he withheld assent on the electoral bill seems to demonise direct primary, yet the All Progressives Congress largely used the system to select candidates for the 2019 general election. The fear now is that the political intrigues and power tussle between the National Assembly and Nigeria Governors’ Forum over the candidates’ nomination process are capable of truncating the three-year effort at improving the legal regime for the conduct of future elections in Nigeria.
It is hoped that the National Assembly on resumption from their Christmas break on January 18, 2022 will do one of the following four things on the electoral bill: Abandon the reform exercise, override the president’s veto, remove provisions for party primaries in the Electoral Law or amend the bill to give options for political parties to choose between direct or indirect primary.
In the outgoing year, the ruling APC gained politically. Many people in the opposition defected to the party. They include senators, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly members as well as the biggest masquerades, governors. Governors Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State are some of those who ditched the umbrella of PDP for the broom of APC. Many more defections are expected next year. This year, APC successfully conducted membership revalidation and registration.

In May this year, the Secretary of the Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, said the party now has over 40 million registered members. While the party may have made a success of the membership registration exercise, the Ward, Local Government and State elective congresses held by the party had led to a lot of internal crisis in the party with many states now having factional leadership arising from parallel congresses held. The party could also not hold its earlier planned convention for December 2021. This has been shifted tentatively to February 2022.  On the other hand, PDP was able to hold a successful national convention with the former president of the Senate in the aborted Third Republic, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, emerging as the new PDP national chairman.
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