It was Joseph Stalin who said ‘the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do’, this was perhaps what many Nigerians forgot when they decided to invest their emotions in the fake promissory notes offered by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the 1st of March, 2023, Prof. Yakubu declared the result of the presidential election which held on Saturday, the 25th of February. Rather than jubilation, a pall of silence descended on the country because many Nigerians believed that their electoral will, freely expressed, had been subverted by suborned officials. As the reality of what had happened dawned on them, many were speechless, others simply wore long faces, not believing that fellow citizens coordinated by professors could execute such an unconscionable electoral heist.
It is no longer contestable that both the Presidential and state elections held in Nigeria over the past four weeks were shambolic. There were many obvious infractions in the exercise. Rather than deepen Nigeria’s struggling democracy like elections are expected to do, the charade supervised by Prof. Mahmood only succeeded in ridiculing Nigeria’s already dented image further.
The most anticipated elections were supposed to boost the country’s profile going by the promises and assurances that were made by the electoral body, however rather than achieving that, the elections only succeeded in diminishing the status of the country and attracting opprobrium to the sick country even from very small countries which, only a few years ago, looked up to Nigeria gracefully for support.
It is sad, Nigeria which often prides itself as Africa’s giant could not even get its act together to conduct ordinary elections. Despite spending almost a billion dollars, Yakubu and his goons could only deliver Nigeria’s worst election in her history. He had gone everywhere including wasting taxpayers’ money on a trip to Chatham House to blow the INECs trumpet and outline the processes. Many of the individuals who work for the electoral commission do not even understand that what the commission did by raising the hopes of Nigerians and eventually dashing it was akin to using little jingle bells to announce the approach of the lepers in the days of old. For many Nigerians, that exercise was the first, and Prof. Yakubu has ensured that it will be their last.
It is no longer news that the results Yakubu announced were grossly at variance with the votes cast by the electorate and duly counted and recorded at the polling booths. And just as many were deflated after the General Ibrahim Babangida-led junta annulled the June 12, 1993 election, Nigerians have once again been let down by those whose duty it is to uphold the sanctity of the ballot. They have been handed a poisoned chalice. For too long, many people have continued to look forward to when Nigeria would ultimately get it right despite the serial disappointments from leaders who continue to treat the citizens most contemptuously. This electoral heist, the worst since the return of democracy in 1999, appears to be the axiomatic last straw that broke the camel’s back. From the look of things, it appears Nigerian politicians are not prepared for democracy, and trooping out every four years in the name of elections is tantamount to legitimising their shenanigans.
Before the elections, many observers who understood the system and how unreliable INEC’s system was had called for a boycott of the elections but their voices were drowned in the noise. Sadly, Nigerians appear not to have learned lessons.
Basking in the euphoria of a new Electoral Act and with lots of cash to spend, Yakubu was well documented as he promised a new dawn in election management, different from the abracadabra that was witnessed years ago in Kano and Osun, code-named inconclusive elections, which was a season that preceded the Electoral Act. Since then, Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun proved redemptive, although the very discerning would always notice some lurking signs of failure in the background. Rather than meet the expectations of Nigerians, he failed woefully at conducting the model elections he had promised.
The just-concluded election held across the country is in gross violation of the 2022 Electoral Act and promises made by the INEC chairman, who, apparently, took Nigerians for granted. Many Nigerians with good memories will recall that sometime in November 2022, a story made the rounds that INEC had jettisoned the idea of uploading polling unit results in real-time. An apparently flustered Yakubu was forced to react to what he described as a ‘rumour’. While addressing a group that came to seek assurance on the 2023 polls, the INEC chairman said: ‘let me seize this opportunity to respond to a story emanating from a section of the media that the commission has decided to jettison the uploading of polling unit level results in real time on Election Day. It should please be disregarded as fake news. The Commission will upload polling units’ level results and citizens will have access to those results in real time. This innovation was introduced by the Commission. The Commission cannot turn around and undermine itself. So, this technology has come to stay. We will upload polling units’ results from the polling units. Citizens will have the right to view these results. After all, who are we serving? The citizens! How can we deprive citizens of access to the results of the process conducted by them at the level of polling units? So, I welcome you to the Commission. I want to assure you and reassure you that the 2023 general election is going to be our best-ever election. We are committed that votes cast by Nigerians will determine the outcome of the elections. Nothing more, nothing less!’
It is sad to note that Yakubu wickedly reneged on this solemn vow that he made to Nigerians. Many of those that voted on Saturday did so because of the promise that the polling unit results will be uploaded in real-time and Nigerians will have unrestricted access. That didn’t happen. When some of the political parties complained at the Collation Centre, Yakubu pleaded for time to complete the collation, after which their complaints will be addressed before announcing the results. But that was another promise he never intended to keep. And he didn’t. How a man could lie so unconscionably, without any qualms of conscience, beggars belief.
One thing many people have failed to realise is that INEC, as presently constituted is trapped in the vortex of technology because one man, Yakubu, who had the gilded opportunity to superintend a major national assignment, had fiddled with the fire of messing with technology and peddling unbelievable inanities in the name of technology glitches. Nigerians are now on the receiving end of this criminality.
The question many Nigerians are ostensibly asking is; now that the small-minded INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, has done his worst, what next? People have mockingly asked those dissatisfied with the result to seek redress in court. Of course, those so inclined will. But when one hears that admonition, it can only be amusing because it surely reminds one of the East African proverbs which says: ‘Whenever a thief encourages you to go to court, just know that his elder brother is the judge.’ It is a tragedy and worrisome that in Nigeria’s so-called democracy, the two least trusted institutions are the Supreme Court and INEC.
What Prof. Yakubu has failed to understand is that he will go down in history as the man who conducted Nigeria’s worst election. It is a self-inflicted injury. After the no-server fiasco of 2019, he had an opportunity to redeem himself but he chose not to do. History will surely be harsh to him and posterity will judge him.
It is even more painful and perhaps remarkable that Prof. Yakubu is a professor of History. What a pity for his descendants in years to come when they come to peruse the events that took place across the country these past few weeks. They will find that their progenitor was on the dark side of history given his catalytic role in the disruption of what was envisaged as a smooth Nigerian renaissance.
It is shocking that Prof Yakubu in his determination to execute the script he was heavily paid for forged ahead to declare the results in the wee of the night. That underscores the fact that the work of darkness that he and his collaborators foisted on Nigeria would for a long time be remembered on the wrong side of the history of Nigeria.
In conclusion, Nigerians must begin now to fix their institutions to ensure that people like Prof. Yakubu and his cohorts are completely weeded off so they can at least breathe. He has clearly displayed he was never a professor of history, but rather a professor of rigging that only specialised in stealing people’s mandates for peanuts. History will judge him and his goons harshly!