By Yusuf Alli, Sunday 19 April 2015, This Day (Nigeria)
If some politicians could rewind the hands of the clock, they would have done so over the just-concluded general elections. Every moment before, during and after the elections presented its own unique features until it became evident that Nigerians have voted for change. What were the behind-the-scene issues? These were intrigues bordering on President Goodluck Jonathan, the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others.
DEALING WITH BUHARI
Apart from the hate documentaries aired against the President-elect, there were desperate underground moves by a South-South governor to force the Nigeria Police to arrest him for forgery and perjury over the certificate saga and disqualify him from contesting.
Armed with a war-chest running into billions of naira, the governor and his small committee of some stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sought for judicial fiat to subject Buhari to trial. But the project failed because the subterranean team put the cart before the horse, they did not follow due process.
To get a fiat for prosecution of Buhari, there must be a formal complaint lodged before the Nigeria Police Force. The allegation(s) ought to be investigated and a prima facie case established beyond reasonable doubt. After the long and winding process, the Police then write a formal letter to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation calling for Buhari’s trial. The AGF, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) was alleged to have refused issuance of such a fiat to save the nation from conflagration.
Again while the South-South governor was coordinating the plot, some aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and strategists of the President from the North were also angry that a case of alleged forgery/ perjury was to be raised against Buhari. Those unhappy with the suits read “ethnic meanings into the whole drama” because all those behind the applications were mostly Igbo. The suits were FHC/ ABJ/ CS/ 01/ 2015 by Chukwuemeka Okafor; FHC/ ABJ/ CS/ 14/ 2015 by Max Ozoaka; FHC/ ABJ/ CS/ 68/ 2015 by Ayakeme Whiskey; and the last at the FCT Magistrate’s Court by Shield Jones Ufot.
Another governor with a leaning to the opposition also bankrolled some of the suits against Buhari to the tune of $1.5million (by underwriting the legal fees) with the hope that the plot will sail through and the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be forced to conduct another presidential primaries.
The problem for those questioning whether Buhari had a secondary school certificate was the interpretation of Section 131 of the 1999 constitution which says the minimum requirement is ability to read and write.
There were also past pronouncements by the court on the eligibility of Governor Adams Oshiomhole which appeared to make the suits mere academic exercises. Time factor, resilience of the police, grave security implications and legal/constitutional issues which were raised by legal experts in government convinced President Goodluck Jonathan that such an adventure could backfire. In fairness to the President, he conceded that Buhari should not be arrested no matter the flimsy excuse.
CONSPIRACY OF THE MILITARY ELITE
Findings indicate that the 2015 poll was settled the day the Nigerian Army claimed that it did not have the secondary school certificate of Buhari. The military elite, especially retired army generals who are now big players in politics and the nation’s economy, felt insulted and opted to back Buhari and APC in their respective states and at federal level.
The subsequent nationwide electoral Tsunami, which led to the loss of governorship seats in many states in the North by the PDP, was a consequence of the anger of these military leaders.
The same military elite who bankrolled and worked for the formation of PDP in 1998 were disenchanted that a platform they had created for the unity of the nation had been hijacked by some hawks and turned into an instrument of hate and disunity. The unhappy military leaders, including the taciturn ones, emptied their bank accounts to finance the election of Buhari against Jonathan.
They said they were not expecting anything in return other than to prove a point that the Jonathan campaign was “dirty and a threat to the survival of the country.”
From an empty purse, a poor Buhari was able to give the then ruling PDP a run for their money in campaign advertising. A big face of this soldierly resentment was ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who openly tore his PDP membership card through a proxy. Many other former military brass joined APC to effect a change in the country.
If there is any Nigerian that President Goodluck Jonathan was looking forward to for backing during the presidential election, it is a former prominent Northern general who is also a Christian. But this respected individual who had warned Jonathan against seeking re-election, stood aloof instead of mobilizing Northern Christian minorities against Buhari. He was neutral, calculating and watching from the sidelines.
This explains why even in Plateau State, the APC has produced the governor-elect. The greatest shock Jonathan received was a security report indicating that the general made his residence in a posh area of Abuja available to Buhari to live in and coordinate his campaign.
A source said: “As a presidential aspirant, Buhari had no house in Abuja and the general decided to bail him out by giving out his imposing white house for him to squat. Buhari lived in the house till he was elected on March 28. He is just planning to move out any moment from now.
THE CARD READER ROADBLOCK
All attempts to portray INEC as a failure over the distribution of PVCs and deployment of smart card readers failed due to the overwhelming public confidence in the electoral agency. Although he PDP never hid its disdain for card readers it was never able to advance acceptable excuses to dump them. The public were forced to conclude that the device would make it impossible to rig the general election or return jumbo figures as was the case in some zones in 2011.
Following INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega’s insistence on card readers, the ruling party and 15 others opted for three options: blackmail him through mass protests and force the presidency to rethink his continued stay in office; go to court to stop the use of card readers, or frustrate him to resign.
All these plots were hatched not minding the fact that the presidency had received legal advice that card readers do not violate Section 52(1) (2) the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
There were protests which began at INEC headquarters and some other parts of the country. In the South-East, the outlawed Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led the anti-Jega demonstrations, while the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) ran a failed make-shift show in Lagos.
The biggest of the plots was the recourse to the courts to cage Jega who would have had no choice than to obey the order of a court. They had expected the court to determine the following prayers:
* An interim order restraining INEC from proceeding with arrangement and plan to use the CRM for the impending elections.
* An order of interim injunction restraining the defendant, its agents, servants, privies or assigns, by whatever name, from implementing or commencing or further implementing or further commencing or directing or further directing the use and preparation of the Card Reader Machine or any name of like nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
* Deployment of card readers for the election is a violation of the provision of Section 52(1) (2) which prohibits the use of any electronic method of voting in the country.
But Justice Ademola Adeniyi, emerged the unsung hero when he refused to stop the use of the card readers. When the anti-card readers’ forces wanted to take advantage of some challenges with the machine during the poll, the backing of the United States foreclosed their plot. The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Eintwistle, said: “I was very impressed about the decision by INEC to use technology in this election. I will tell you something, the PVCs are very hi-tech. They are more hi-tech than my voter card from the State of Virginia in the US. My voter card does not have my biometrics; it does not have my fingerprints. So, I was very impressed by the decision to go hi-tech because hi-tech, I think, gives the process more integrity.”
REAL REASONS PLOT AGAINST JEGA FAILED
There was no doubt that the plot to remove Jega was real. Except for the air he breathes, the INEC chairman was close-circuited or wired in such a manner that even sensitive text messages he exchanged with the powers-that-be on the preparation for the election were made public by the press.
According to sources, in such instances, Jega would say: “Why should we descend so low to this level?” Yet he refused to change his mobile line. His saving grace, however, was his tremendous goodwill with Nigerians. The presidency at a stage found it difficult to run against the overwhelming positive public opinion about Jega.
Even when the then supervising Minister of Information, Edem Duke tested the public pulse with comments that suggested that Jega’s position was less than 100% secure, the public stood like the rock of Gibraltar behind the INEC boss.
Duke had said: “On the issue of the INEC chairman, I align myself with what the President said that he has no plan to sack the INEC chairman. That is not to say that if it is time for the INEC chairman to naturally exit his office, then the natural course of things will not take place. It is like saying a civil servant has done 35 years or achieved the age of 60; we now begin to say that he must not retire or he must retire. I think all of that is in the terrain of the Presidency and he has spoken. I have nothing to add to that.”
A team headed by a former chairman of INEC was hired by some pro-Jonathan campaign strategists to understudy the system and expose how to circumvent it, including the likelihood of weaving any scandal around Jega.
Right from the time he assumed office Jega has studiously avoided banana peels and was always telling his team of five aides to shun any bait from civil servants in INEC in terms of award of contracts and perks of office. To insulate him and key aides from being influenced, he made sure that they draw their salaries from an electoral basket fund provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Even with such a concession, he ensured that the UNDP evaluates him and the aides on monthly basis.
Secondly, Jega’s reforms in INEC made every staff a stakeholder in the electoral business. A highly-placed source said: “Unlike in the past, there was no cult system where only few knew what was going on in the commission. He used to lay all the cards on the table for everyone. This transparency made it difficult for any of the National Commissioners to rock the boat. One or two of them may have collected slush funds to destabilize Jega and INEC, but they could not go far at all. All they could do was to leak official memos.”
When the card reader supplier was arrested by security agents, it was said to be an opportunity to unravel the other side of Jega but there was no blemish.
BEHIND THE SCENE POLITICS AT NATIONAL COLLATION CENTRE AND WHY JEGA DARED ORUBEBE
Though Nigerians were glued to their television boxes watching the development at the National Collation Centre, they had no advantage of knowing the behind-the-scene politics of releasing the results. Ambassadors and representatives from some Western countries supported Jega and his team in such a manner that they were always in and out of the collation centre to make sure the will of Nigerians prevailed.
The constant feedback from these shuttles by diplomats who disguised as foreign observers, actually accounted for a joint statement by the US and the UK that the poll must be conclusive. Although the action of some of the ambassadors was rated as “undiplomatic” and interference in the nation’s internal affairs by the Federal Government, the international attention on the collation of results and the support given to Jega by these foreign powers strengthened his resolve to see the process through to the logical conclusion.
The INEC chairman made the International Conference Centre (ICC) his permanent abode and if there was any message from any government official or Nigerian, it had to be delivered in the open. The scene created by ex-Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Peter Orubebe, was a script drafted by some forces but the pressure from the international community aborted it.
While Orubebe was barking at Jega, he intermittently raised his fist as if he was expecting an invasion or a back-up from some sources but there was no reinforcement from anywhere. Faced with no better choice, President Jonathan conceded defeat, a development which threw Orubebe off balance at the collation centre. He later left the ICC abruptly before Jega announced the final result.
LAST-MINUTE SECURITY CHALLENGE AT THE COLLATION CENTRE
Before the final results of the presidential election were released by INEC chairman, most of the security operatives at the centre suddenly withdrew their services, except for a few policemen and members of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Jega’s saving grace was the live telecast of the announcement which enabled Nigerians to have first-hand knowledge of how things were going. At almost zero point security, he braved the odds to complete the 2015 poll assignment.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE CAMPAIGN IN NIGERIA’S HISTORY
The 2015 polls will go down in history as the most expensive campaign because the spending of US dollars took centre stage. Between $3 and $4 billion might have gone down the drain in violation of Section 90(1) and Section 91(1-10) of the Electoral Act on campaign funds. The sections state in part: “Election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in subsection (2-7) of this section.
“The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a Presidential election shall be N1billion. The maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a Governorship election shall be N200, 000.000. The maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred of Senatorial seat by a candidate at an election to the National Assembly shall be N40, 000.000, while the seat for House of Representative shall be N20, 000.000.In the case of State Assembly election, the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred shall be N10, 000.000.”
Different groups emerged to milk the party system of funds. There was the case of a renowned party chieftain who converted his hotel suite in Abuja to a vault where money was stashed from wall to wall. Public officers seized the moment to tamper with funds under the guise of contributing their quota. It was also a season of betrayal as some party stalwarts, especially PDP, collected huge funds and later diverted such to personal use or defected to other parties.
During the countdown to the April 11 governorship poll, a PDP chieftain in the South-East had raised the alarm to forces in Abuja that the party was cash-strapped. A quickie N20million was raised but barely 24 hours after, the man abandoned the party after collecting what a source described as a “parting gift.”
The source said: “The struggle for personal benefits overshadowed the target of winning the election. Virtually everyone wanted to make money from the campaign as if there will be no tomorrow or as if we were going to lose at the poll. The President saw the gaps and decided to personally drive his own campaign but it was too late.”
It is not surprising that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was helpless during the general election, has now limited foreign exchange withdrawal to $50,000 a year and $300 per day.
FIVE REASONS JONATHAN CONCEDED DEFEAT
Jonathan has been widely lauded for calling Buhari to concede defeat even before the final results were in. The reason most readily proferred for the action was the need to save the nation from the tension and violence that could have followed any attempt to contest the election’s outcome.
But were there other reasons? Findings indicate that there were five reasons why the President accepted defeat and they are: spiritual, loss of international goodwill, personal experience/ decision, obvious betrayal by some people and wise counsel from some aides he has respect for
A top source said from Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka of the Adoration Ground in Enugu to some other Christian clerics consulted in the inner recess of the Presidential Villa, there were signs that it was time for Jonathan to leave power although he might bounce back in the future. The source added: “I think he chose to tread the right path by heeding the spiritual voice. Some had argued for selfish reasons that he had been ordained to rule for second term but he opted for the lonely path.”
The betrayal by some PDP leaders, governors and members of the cabinet during the election was said to be emotionally challenging too for the President. Before the poll, it was learnt that his cabinet had split along North-South lines. Some governors, ministers and PDP leaders from the North were pretending to be for the President but they did not do anything practical to demonstrate this. Apart from the general and symbolic campaign at each state capital, most of the ministers from the North did not on their own mount the soap box to campaign for their boss. A minister said: “There was always this security fear of mob attack.”
More importantly, the body language of some Western nations, like the US, UK, France, and Germany, showed that they were not keen on Jonathan as they did in 2011. These nations, according to sources, only kept to a “tolerable” diplomatic relationship with Jonathan’s administration. And the bashing of Jonathan’s government by some Western media organisations pointed to the perception of their governments. So, the President fought the just-concluded election on two fronts -local and international.
At personal level, investigation revealed that Jonathan had always marveled at the electoral model of some African countries without post-election crises. Since 2010, he had been relating with some African leaders on the magic wand behind their electoral successes. He had promised to emulate some of them. It was gathered that the peace accord brokered by the ex-UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan weighed down the President too and for once in six years, he chose to paddle his own canoe. It was also learnt that the fear of the backlash of rejecting the results of the presidential poll and the consequential turmoil made Jonathan to take his destiny in his own hands. Having been warned by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo not to play Laurent Gbagbo, he did not even consult members of his kitchen cabinet before doing the needful.
The National Security Adviser, Mr. Sambo Dasuki gave an insight in the week on the personal factor. He said: “President Jonathan had already given his words to all the security and service chiefs before the election that he would abide by the decision of Nigerians. At the meeting, he also told them to perform their duties professionally during the polls.
“While we anticipated that he would congratulate his opponent if the result was announced in favour of the opposition candidate, he gratuitously without the prompting of anyone conceded defeat to the surprise of all.
“By that singular gesture, he had saved the security agencies and the nation of unnecessary tension and stress in maintaining law and order and curtailing excesses of likely protesters.”
Notwithstanding these factors, some ministers and aides of the President have been credited with the task of persuading the President to concede defeat on March 31st. These “heroic” aides included the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN); the Aviation Minister, Mr. Osita Chidoka, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Matters, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa.
Whatever is the correct position, the President’s memoir will reveal what transpired before he conceded defeat. His saving grace however was that PDP hawks were not around at the crucial moment. And it is amazing that no one was able to give an account of the whereabouts of the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan on the March 31st. It is also not clear whether or not she played any role in her hubby’s landmark decision. Until Jonathan joins the league of memoir writers, the untold stories of Jonathan’s presidency and the 2015 poll will continue to make the headlines.