EU REPORT ON NIGERIA’S 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS IS AN INDICTMENT OF INEC AND SHOWS THE COMMISSION HAS NO MORAL AUTHORITY TO SEEK DEREGISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) considers the latest report of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) on the recently conducted 2019 general elections as a major indictment on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its officials.
With this report, which shows that INEC, security agencies and “leading parties” (APC, PDP etc.) manipulated the 2019 general elections, we insist that INEC or another agency for that matter has no moral authority to seek the deregistration of any political party under the flimsy excuse of winning no seat at local government, state and federal government level. INEC has the responsibility to provide a level playing field for political parties to vie for peoples’ votes without vote-buying, intimidation, violence, manipulations, heavy monetization and the other factors that marred the 2019 general elections. As the SPN has said before, the 2019 general elections were an expensively packaged charade and INEC, security agencies and the pro-rich political parties especially the APC and PDP have to be blamed for this.
After studying the conduct of the 2019 elections, the EU came to the following conclusion: “Overall, the EU EOM concluded the 2019 elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout”. The EU laid the blame for this outcome on INEC, security agencies and “Leading parties” which it said “were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels.”
In the haughty and arrogant manner which has become typical of President Buhari’s officials, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Garba Shehu, immediately reacted in manner that dismisses all the key negative aspects of the EU report. According to a statement issued by Garba Shehu, the EU reported “improvements” in the conduct of the elections, adding that, in spite of the setbacks recorded in some states, the overall results showed that the Independent National Electoral Commission did well” (Punch 16/6/2019). The statement went on to promise to implement the recommendation of the EU concerning the elections.
Not wishing to be outdone, spokesman for the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr Festus Keyamo simply countered the integrity of the whole report. According to him, “The results of the election reflected the overall wishes of Nigerians. That was the report of many observers. If you are an observer, you should come to a definite conclusion … We have 120,000 polling units across the country. In all, I don’t think they discuss more than 500 polling units in the report. If you observe anomalies in those units, how does that substantially affect results coming from 120,000 polling units? It is not enough for the EU to discuss the anomalies, they must discuss the overall results of the country, whether it reflects the wishes of the people … After all, there were problems in the US elections. There were problems in Europe, and even in UK recently” (Punch 16/6/2019).
As far as the SPN is concerned, this kind of superficial and face-saving response to what are weighty allegations that indict INEC, security agencies and “leading parties” already shows that the Buhari government and the ruling elite are not serious about improving the conduct of elections either now or in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the starting point ought to be to identify officials of INEC, security agencies and “leading” political parties that the report claimed to have compromised the integrity of the 2019 elections through their actions and inactions and seek to investigate and prosecute them with a view to ensure deterrent. INEC itself need to be asked to justify how it utilized the huge billions of naira voted to it over the past four years to prepare for 2019 general elections if at the end of the day, the exercise is found to suffer “severe operational and transparency shortcomings”. At the moment, there are nothing less than 799 cases at the election petition tribunal.
As a key participant in the election, we are very sure from our experience that none of the manipulations that occurred in the 2019 general election could have taken place without the connivance of INEC officials and security agencies especially those at the top echelons. But so far, no top member of INEC, the Police or the army is under investigation or being prosecuted for their roles in manipulating the elections. The EU report also found that at least 150 people were killed during the elections. This in itself shows that what took place across the country on February 23rd and March 9 2019 were brutal struggles between different factions of the capitalist ruling elite for political power and not a democratic exercise.
In the report, “The EU observed 94 collation centres. In almost all, the results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes as required… Numerical discrepancies and anomalies on polling unit result forms were identified and were mostly corrected by collation officers on the spot, but without a clear system of record-keeping” (Punch 16/6/2019). This confirms our experience in the SPN during the 2019 general elections. In some places where the SPN candidates contested, fictitious votes were recorded against our party while inflated votes were awarded to key bourgeois political parties by INEC staff in connivance with security agents and “leading parties.”
Particularly in Ogun State where our party presented candidates for the Ogun House of Assembly elections, INEC engaged in ridiculous vote manipulation in a conspiracy with the capitalist ruling elite to ridicule our mission to build a viable pro-working class socialist alternative to the prevailing anti-people capitalist parties. Two examples would suffice here. In one instance, in form EC 8E which was released to our party after about 2 months following the March 9 election, INEC recorded only seven (7) votes for our candidate in Ifo constituency II, Comrade Hassan Taiwo Soweto. This means, in INEC’s wisdom, that only seven (7) people in a voting population of over 20, 000 and over 140 polling units responded positively to the very active campaign we ran for over 6 months. Considering the level of infrastructural collapse in Ifo LGA due to the failure of all the leading political parties of APM, APC, PDP, ADC and co over the years, this cannot but be a barefaced lie and outright manipulation of the true votes of our party. But what now fully exposes INEC is the fact that in his own polling unit, our party’s candidate had a modest vote of fifteen (15). Now, we are still waiting for INEC to explain to our party how our candidate’s total vote in over 140 polling unit is lower than his number of votes in a single polling unit. The second example concerns our party’s candidate for Ogun State House of Assembly election in Odogbolu Constituency, Comrade Ajayi Oluwatimilehin, where no single vote was recorded for him. This, in INEC’s wisdom, means that our candidate despite having a PVC did not vote for himself, his family and party members also did not vote for him. Whereas, just to mention one instance, the polling unit in Odogbolu Constituency where the State Chairman of the Party in Ogun State, Eko Nicholas voted, SPN had 3 votes.
Given this kind of ridiculous manipulation that marred the 2019 general elections, the SPN would be prepared to initiate a mass campaign combining legal challenge and political mobilisations in collaboration with trade unions and civil society should INEC or the National Assembly dare to seek deregistration of any political party. We insist that without manipulations, monetization, vote buying and outright rigging committed by the pro-rich parties (APC, PDP, APM etc.) and their accomplices in INEC and security agencies, a party like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stood a chance of performing better than it did.
The reality is that as beneficiaries of a shambolic election and given their support for capitalism, President Buhari and the ruling APC cannot be trusted to ensure any genuine electoral reforms. Except for some symbolic changes, the likely development is that so far the inequitable capitalist system exists, elections in Nigeria will continue to be expensively-packaged shambolic exercises which are neither free nor fair and continue to produce APC, PDP or another anti-poor capitalist party. This is why the SPN combines fielding of candidates in the election with intervention in the struggle of workers, farmers, students, youth, artisans and the oppressed majority with a view to building a movement for socialist revolution.
Acting National Chairperson