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Atsar Terver

Public Commentator
Port Harcourt

more articles by Terver

The business of INEC as an electoral commission should be restricted to just electoral matters instead of dabbling into parties’ internal affairs. For instance How can an INEC which is in court challenging Umeh’s Chairmanship of APGA for example be expected to treat the APGA fairly in any election should Umeh win the case in court or is featured as a candidate in an election? It is my contention that a separate body should be saddled with these responsibilities to ensure un-biased and fair dealings with all parties during elections

The Enemies of Electoral Reform and El-Rufai’s Silly Outburst.
by Atsar Terver

When former President Obasanjo recently declared in his characteristically reckless manner that he was not aware of any ongoing electoral reforms in the country, not many may have read the evil intentions pregnant in those words. Coming at a time the Uwais Report on Electoral Reforms was being widely debated by the public, such a declaration from a former President meant either of two things, namely that he was truly ignorant of political happenings around him or that he was just expressing cynical apathy. The later seems more plausible for a former head of state that he is.

Now that the Senate has in the same reckless manner ridiculed the Bills submitted to it by the President pursuant to the creation of a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission, the cat is being let out of the bag as to who the true enemies of electoral reform are.

 In an apparent response to that creepy remark from Obasanjo, Yar’Adua had stated that the reform agenda was on course with the presentation of seven (7) Bills before the National Assembly.  What Yar’Adua might not have anticipated when he made this statement is that having dismissed the reforms with a wave of the hand, Obasanjo would then prompt his foot soldiers in the Senate to wage a war against the reforms. Perhaps he also believed (naively) that the Senators share the same genuine passion with him to reform the polity for good. He was mistaken.

It is no secret that a great number of beneficiaries of the flawed 2007 general elections are in the National Assembly  (Yes, Yar’Adua may very well be the chief beneficiary of INEC’s fraudulent elections in 2007 but he has acknowledged this fact and set out to do something about it that could prevent its reoccurrence. This is what sets him apart from the pack). These are people who could not have won councillorship elections in a free and fair contest. They owe their political survival to the loopholes in the current Electoral Act and the brazen manipulation of the electoral process by the INEC. To support stripping INEC of such capabilities as Yar’Adua is seeking to do through the electoral reform agenda is to jeopardize their very future political career.

And why would Ota kick against the reforms? The reasons are many. When this government came to power, it did not leave anybody in doubt that it was going to undo many things that were done improperly by the last regime. Series of reversals and policies to steer the nation away from the lawlessness that was enshrined by in the polity by the last regime are seen as an affront and embarrassment to the former leader. By choosing to have a life of his own Instead of being a puppet manipulated by cords from a Chicken Farm, Yar’Adua has earned for himself big-time opposition from Obasanjo’s loyalists.

The former President could do everything to rubbish Yar’Adua’s presidency so that he should not out-shine him. Obasanjo has been so much obsessed with the idea that he be considered the father of modern Nigeria (whatever that means) that having Yar’Adua take credit for sanitising the electoral system in Nigeria is anathema.

It should be clear to everyone that the Yar’Adua regime was actually designed to fail. Those who foisted him on the Nation expected nothing good from him. They thought he would fumble and make Nigerians regret denying Obasanjo a third term. That the man is proving them wrong is a big cause of worry to this cabal. This explains the recent unintelligent write up by El-Rufai purportedly to review Yar’Adua’s Performance so far.  Reading El-Rufai’s hypocritical piece titled ‘Umaru Yar`dua: Great Expectation Expectation, Disapointing Outcome’ last week, one could not miss the underlining motive of blackmail stirred by acute disillusionment that Yar’Adua refused to be what (they) intended him to be.

It is quite funny how a supposedly intelligent Quantity Surveyor like El-Rufai could choose to cheaply demystify himself through this childish presentation. It has shown the low quality of integrity in a man that was craftily packaged to Nigerians as an administrative reformer and transparency crusader.

The unnecessarily lengthy piece brought out no new facts nor information. He just ‘goggled’ several Websites and gathered irrelevant and unrelated pieces of information together without proper coordination of his thought process. Thus the piece is laced with chains of contradictions reminiscent of a desperate but conceited fugitive.  For instance, it is difficult to comprehend what he hoped to achieve with the long biography of Yar’Adua, when he was out to assess his two-year old presidency. Who is the ‘we’ he keeps referring to in that piece? I hope he does not by any stretch of imagination believe that he is talking on behalf of Nigerians instead of a tiny self-serving cabal?

What point did he seek to make by the reckless name-dropping? Dele Olojede flew in from South Africa to write Yar’adua’s inaugural speech, so what? If Yar’Adua was a brilliant science student at Balewa College, why was El-Rufai surprised that he was able to pass his A’Levels ‘reasonably’ well enough? El-Rufai sounded more like a confused and frustrated blabber in the piece when he referred to the same person as a legend, Populist Administrator and then a sinister streak at the same time. Which one should we believe?

Unknowing to El-Rufai, his attempts to ‘unmask’ Yar’Adua has actually painted the man in brighter colours than some of us have known before. Despite the long biography of the man, El-Rufai could not point to any acts of corruption or illegal acquisition of wealth by Yar’Adua, rather he unmasked Obasanjo and his (evil) men including himself. For example, El-Rufai has confirmed that Ribadu was more of a political hatchet man than a corruption fighter many regarded him to be. His confession about how Ribadu was used to silent Odili is self-explanatory.

It appears some Nigerians believe that once you fall out of power, all it takes to win the heart of the people is to transmute overnight into a social cum government critic or lunch an anti-government propaganda. They believe nobody will ask questions like: where is this fellow coming from? But El-Rufai will not even need to answer this question because we know where he is coming from. He cannot stand on the shore now and claim the water if foul because he is just out from the water. In other words, it is not likely that El-Rufai would have been whining and crying blue murder if he were found useful by the Yar’Adua regime.

I don’t comprehend how El-Rufai could have served a despotic and lawless regime like Obasanjo’s faithfully and dutifully if indeed he possesses these high moral credentials he now want us to believe he does. El-Rufai (a fugitive running away from justice) should come back home and clear his soiled name (if indeed he can) before he could expect Nigerians to take his (silly) outbursts seriously.

Why does El-rufai think he is in the best position to assess the two-year presidency of Yar’Adua? Is it not a shame that after eight years in power, El-Rufai and his ‘we’ turned their hopes on Yar’Adua for transformational leadership? Nigerians are truly looking for a hero but not his type!

Back to the electoral reform bill; reforming the electoral process means not just dismantling the shoddy electoral framework bequeathed to Nigeria by the Obasanjo regime but to also to make it difficult for his camp to play politics in Nigeria the way they know best, i.e by do-or-die.  A system that would not celebrate thuggery, rigging, declaration of false results and imposition of candidates would render many politicians like fish out of water. These people would therefore fight to maintain the status quo especially with 2011 in view.

It was amusing to hear some Senators claim that the Bill presented by the Presidency did not reflect the yearnings of the people whose interest they (Senators) are in the Senate to protect. If indeed the Senate has the interest of the masses at heart, why has it taken them so long to pass the FOI Bill? Why have they consistently delayed the Budget while fighting to inject self-rewarding pecks in the budget? How many bills have Mark and his friends sponsored and passed targeted directly at improving the welfare of the people?  Interestingly mundane (or rather unnecessary) Bills like the one outlawing same-sex marriages received so much expeditious passage that one began to wonder if the priorities of our lawmakers have been set right at all. The review of the constitution which should have been seen by the Senators as a patriotic duty and opportunity to address its several shortcomings that impact negatively on the people’s welfare has been given the most lacklustre treatment by the National Assembly. They ended up fighting over committee positions and the pecks that accrue there from.

The Senate should appreciate the President for his hands-free style of leadership. The Obasanjo era saw a large turnover of Senate Presidents because the former leader could not tolerate any free debate talk less of opposition to his proposals. For refusing to meddle with the running of the Senate and allowing them free air to debate issues, Yar’Adua has empowered the Senate to do what is right. If they fail, posterity will judge them harshly.

The Senate is insisting that there is no need for the Bill because establishing the PPRRC will duplicate the role already being performed by INEC. This is false. What the Bill is intended to achieve is to remove the role of party registration and regulation from INEC. It means that the INEC establishment Act will be amended to reflect their streamlined roles. So the issue of duplication of duties does not arise.

It is illogical to insist that the bill cannot be passed until the constitution is amended because the expected outcome of the Bill is the amendment of the relevant sections of the constitution.

The argument that INEC has not shown incapability to perform this function is a diversionary gimmick to confuse the public. It should be stressed that the motivation for the proposed PPRRC is not to reduce workload on INEC but to diffuse the concentration of power in the agency. It is like saying; you can’t hold the knife and the yam at the same time. An INEC that has so much control over the political parties through registration, regulation and payment of their subventions, would find it easy victimise any Political Party that falls out of favour with it during elections as was witnessed during the 2007 Elections.

The business of INEC as an electoral commission should be restricted to just electoral matters instead of dabbling into parties’ internal affairs. For instance How can an INEC which is in court challenging Umeh’s Chairmanship of APGA for example be expected to treat the APGA fairly in any election should Umeh win the case in court or is featured as a candidate in an election? It is my contention that a separate body should be saddled with these responsibilities to ensure un-biased and fair dealings with all parties during elections



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