Tony Momoh
Prince Tony Momoh, the journalist par excellence, a bibliotherapist and cultural engineer is the 165th child of Momoh the first. He is the third of the four children his mother had for Momoh the first and his mother was the junior of the three groups into which the Momoh Household of 45 wives and 245 children were organised.

The Powerlessness of INEC

(Vanguard of Sunday, March 1, 2009)

We made the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) what it is and will continue to be – a powerless constitutional albatross, there to bear the burden created by us.  It is like what we made of another insensitive contraption, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

We will deal with this plutocratic aberration next week. The two heavy national burdens have something in common.  One works to entrench an elite club, the other to nourish their lascivious tastes.  But who is to blame? Everyone is to blame. All of us.  We.

Our number is 140 million people, the largest concentration of black people on earth, more than 99.9% of whom want to remain pampered children, unwilling to confront a monster in their midst and crying to God who has never nor will ever be involved in the mundane affairs of men outside the due process of everyone reaping the fruits of the seeds they sowed. One incident advised my visit to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission and that is the letter the president sent to the body to revisit the salaries of public officers they have constitutional responsibility for.

That call has constitutional implications and we should look at it next week, to show that we knew what we were doing when we set up institutions that have powers to do what would otherwise have been seriously seen as robbery.

But we will attend to INEC this week, to how powerless it has been and will continue to be if we refuse to look the problem full in the face and address it.  Two incidents advised my revisiting of INEC and the need to place a finger on what must be done about it.

The first is that most of the tribunal findings have traced the abuses of the ballot to its table and it must accept to bear that burden. Too fresh to forget are the Ekiti State and Ondo State elections which the Court of Appeal annulled, calling for a rerun in Ekiti and sending Agagu packing in Ondo. Did the world not see the dance of shame of INEC in 2003 and said so?

And as if what it did in 2003 was a learning outing, did the commission not regress in 2007, even conducting an election without serialized ballot papers?  Can’t you guess what awaits us in future if we, all of us, think we can ask God to tell us how to conduct elections?  Not even in any one of the tribunal hearings was INEC commended for doing the work so clearly detailed in the Electoral Act of 2006.

INEC has consistently been condemned for abuses which in other jurisdictions would have sent many of them to jail and barred those they work for from holding public office.   The second reason we are revisiting INEC is that the commission which is supposed to be independent and whose funding is a direct charge on the consolidated revenue fund is woven into the fabric that undermines due process.

And the one who takes the flack is Prof Maurice Iwu who impressed me as one who could deliver us from our political dungeon but turned out to be the grave digger. He degenerated in the public eye as the hatchet man to destroy what took more than 70 years to build.

His utterances on Channels Television on February 13 drained any sympathy many, including me, would have had for him.  He said INEC does not rig elections.  Nigerians do. I agree if it is true that INEC as a commission is not empowered to rig elections but to conduct them as an unbiased umpire.

But Iwu went further to say that the hard tackles of players in a football match should not be blamed on the referee! Read that again, and again and again! Why is a referee a referee if he watches hard tackles, does not blow his whistle and in fact records the goals scored while those with broken bones are wreathing in pain!  All hands point at him as the organizer and moderator of the frauds that have been recorded at elections since his appointment!

He has a yellow card for minor infractions and a red card for more bone-cracking tackles. How many cards of whatever colour did Iwu as chairman of INEC, flash at those who ought to be languishing in jail for electoral offences?  They do not only get rewarded for being returned with rigging more open and blatant than what we have complained of in the first place, there is also a high-level conspiracy that those who returned after reruns had been granted a brand new term!  So it pays to have your elections questioned.

And until someone draws attention to the pipe dream that all these schemings are, the governors who were returned after reruns will continue to hope that they would not be subjected to the electorate in year 2011.  If that were so, Obasanjo must have made the greatest political mistake in his life.  He would have remained right there for as long as he wanted.  How?  An election is conducted which is rigged.

Someone is encouraged to go to court to question it.  The delays are funded by employing many legal icons who must earn their keep and not be bothered by the fact that justice delayed is justice denied.  After two years, the Court of Appeal would give a ruling, and an appeal would be lodged with the Supreme Court.

After, say, another nine months, the Supreme Court would annul the election and there would be a rerun.  The President and Vice President would be out and the President of the Senate would take over and stay until INEC conducts another election within 90 days of the cancellation of the first one.  It will then be rigged for Obasanjo who would encourage another party to go to court and fund the outing.  With the rerun, he would have started another term.

So, he would be in office for as many years as he would have wanted to be there. Is it not clear therefore that unless we quickly tell those who were returned after reruns that they have the remainder of their terms to run, not the beginning of a fresh term, they would continue to wallow in self delusion? Of course Adams Oshiomhole and Olusegun Mimiko are starting their terms because the Constitution says that your term as president or governor starts running the day you are first sworn in.  That is what kept Peter Obi of Anambra State where he is today.

Anyone who has had time to look at the laws regulating elections in this country will never deny what Prof Iwu is saying that Nigerians rig elections, not INEC.  INEC is not a human being.  It is a commission peopled by men and women, Nigerians.

And if Nigerians rig elections, it is only reasonable to say that the involvement of the chairman of INEC and his officials is more the taking of an advantage at post to inflict wrong people on the populace than the execution of a legal brief.  That legal brief cannot be found outside the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

Don’t be angry with Iwu when he tells us that our electoral laws are as thorough as those you can find anywhere else.  There is nothing America can teach us, and Ghana itself must learn from us.  These are statement flowing from Prof Iwu, and watching him say so on television, you want to break your TV set and hope to drag him out of that box and give him the beating of his life.

But you would be acting like the fool I was at age 10 when I was responsible for operating the gramophone of elder brother MB Momoh.  There was this label showing a dog breathing into a huge microphone, with His Master’s Voice boldly written there.  We had these records that sounded Spanish.

We inserted the record, blew the tip of the pin or needle and placed it slowly on the spinning plate. As it played, I watched the happy smiles of the people who congregated outside the house. I stayed where they could see me perform my chore.  How fulfilled I was when I closed my eyes and felt my sense of mission of worth flood my little frame!  Unknown to many, I wondered what would have happened to those singers inside the player because I thought they were right there.

I hoped they would feel grateful that I did not have to break the box and pull them out and imprison them in our house!  That feeling of a child was visited on Iwu when he tried to simplify the problem of conducting elections in Nigeria.

Yes, Nigerians rig, not INEC.  But what is INEC?  INEC is a child of the Constitution which documents how we can pick people from among us who would, in strict respect for the opportunity to serve us, go to the places we elected them to, do their best for us, and ensure our welfare and security.

All the electoral acts we have had since the 50s have been one improvement or the other on how we can ensure an electoral process devoid of abuse and manipulation.  But the more we refine the laws and cover loopholes, the more we design more ways to abuse the ballot.

The station we are at in our march on the democracy highway is that the laws that provide the brief for those who conduct elections are put aside, and a cabal pounces on the process and declares those who must represent us.  This is a crude equivalent of a coup d’etat and anyone who says that the worst elected government is better than the best military dispensation is speaking from both sides of the mouth.

A military intervention is condemnable and cannot be accommodated in the world of today.  Anyone who chooses that path is on his own.  But where people look at the law that regulates how we want to live together, puts that law aside and decides to use force and fraud to access control of any organ of government, those doing so are worse than the military and must be opposed with more patriotic zeal if we believe we have a country to live for. The test ahead of us today is Ekiti State.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that there must be a rerun of elections in areas where votes were cancelled.  The problem with us has been that we do not care.  We party when the country is burning and are interested in what is happening only when we are directly affected.  Then we yell and shout and ask God to come down from heaven and pour fire and brimstone on those who have wronged us!  You will wait for ever because He won’t come.

We must henceforth take interest in our country and help it grow by ensuring that no one takes power outside due process. Let every one move to Ekiti State and be part of conducting elections in those areas the Court of Appeal has ordered re-runs.  We should all see what is happening and see how much the Nigerians in INEC are ready to blow the whistle where there are punishable tackles.

If they refuse to do so and are part and parcel of the abuses we have seen in the past, then we should make a statement that will serve as notice to those who will conduct future elections that what happened in Ghana and the United States and other places where people obeyed the rules of the chore of choosing leaders has been anchored not only for those countries but also for every country in the world that has freely chosen to walk the democracy highway.

The way out of what we have been experiencing is more fundamental than just promulgating laws that look very beautiful in the books but which human vermin who do not know the horrors of the hereafter will implement. We must address the core area of what we want in governance, an opportunity to render service or a route to material wealth.  If the latter, then we have a lot to do to dislodge those who believe that the end justifies the means.

But if we must cut our political coat to our economic size, then we must look closely at what political actors draw from our resources and which affect so adversely the provision of basic amenities that would make life worth living.  That is why we must address the powerfulness of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission which has three instruments to look at but prefers to zero in on only one.  These instruments are the telescope, the microscope and the stethoscope.

We address the issues next week.

(Pages 275281 of Vol. 3 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh – OUT SOON).

We made the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) what it is and will continue to be – a powerless constitutional albatross, there to bear the burden created by us.  It is like what we made of another insensitive contraption, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

We will deal with this plutocratic aberration next week. The two heavy national burdens have something in common.  One works to entrench an elite club, the other to nourish their lascivious tastes.  But who is to blame? Everyone is to blame. All of us.  We.

Our number is 140 million people, the largest concentration of black people on earth, more than 99.9% of whom want to remain pampered children, unwilling to confront a monster in their midst and crying to God who has never nor will ever be involved in the mundane affairs of men outside the due process of everyone reaping the fruits of the seeds they sowed. One incident advised my visit to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission and that is the letter the president sent to the body to revisit the salaries of public officers they have constitutional responsibility for.

That call has constitutional implications and we should look at it next week, to show that we knew what we were doing when we set up institutions that have powers to do what would otherwise have been seriously seen as robbery.

But we will attend to INEC this week, to how powerless it has been and will continue to be if we refuse to look the problem full in the face and address it.  Two incidents advised my revisiting of INEC and the need to place a finger on what must be done about it.

The first is that most of the tribunal findings have traced the abuses of the ballot to its table and it must accept to bear that burden. Too fresh to forget are the Ekiti State and Ondo State elections which the Court of Appeal annulled, calling for a rerun in Ekiti and sending Agagu packing in Ondo. Did the world not see the dance of shame of INEC in 2003 and said so?

And as if what it did in 2003 was a learning outing, did the commission not regress in 2007, even conducting an election without serialized ballot papers?  Can’t you guess what awaits us in future if we, all of us, think we can ask God to tell us how to conduct elections?  Not even in any one of the tribunal hearings was INEC commended for doing the work so clearly detailed in the Electoral Act of 2006.

INEC has consistently been condemned for abuses which in other jurisdictions would have sent many of them to jail and barred those they work for from holding public office.   The second reason we are revisiting INEC is that the commission which is supposed to be independent and whose funding is a direct charge on the consolidated revenue fund is woven into the fabric that undermines due process.

And the one who takes the flack is Prof Maurice Iwu who impressed me as one who could deliver us from our political dungeon but turned out to be the grave digger. He degenerated in the public eye as the hatchet man to destroy what took more than 70 years to build.

His utterances on Channels Television on February 13 drained any sympathy many, including me, would have had for him.  He said INEC does not rig elections.  Nigerians do. I agree if it is true that INEC as a commission is not empowered to rig elections but to conduct them as an unbiased umpire.

But Iwu went further to say that the hard tackles of players in a football match should not be blamed on the referee! Read that again, and again and again! Why is a referee a referee if he watches hard tackles, does not blow his whistle and in fact records the goals scored while those with broken bones are wreathing in pain!  All hands point at him as the organizer and moderator of the frauds that have been recorded at elections since his appointment!

He has a yellow card for minor infractions and a red card for more bone-cracking tackles. How many cards of whatever colour did Iwu as chairman of INEC, flash at those who ought to be languishing in jail for electoral offences?  They do not only get rewarded for being returned with rigging more open and blatant than what we have complained of in the first place, there is also a high-level conspiracy that those who returned after reruns had been granted a brand new term!  So it pays to have your elections questioned.

And until someone draws attention to the pipe dream that all these schemings are, the governors who were returned after reruns will continue to hope that they would not be subjected to the electorate in year 2011.  If that were so, Obasanjo must have made the greatest political mistake in his life.  He would have remained right there for as long as he wanted.  How?  An election is conducted which is rigged.

Someone is encouraged to go to court to question it.  The delays are funded by employing many legal icons who must earn their keep and not be bothered by the fact that justice delayed is justice denied.  After two years, the Court of Appeal would give a ruling, and an appeal would be lodged with the Supreme Court.

After, say, another nine months, the Supreme Court would annul the election and there would be a rerun.  The President and Vice President would be out and the President of the Senate would take over and stay until INEC conducts another election within 90 days of the cancellation of the first one.  It will then be rigged for Obasanjo who would encourage another party to go to court and fund the outing.  With the rerun, he would have started another term.

So, he would be in office for as many years as he would have wanted to be there. Is it not clear therefore that unless we quickly tell those who were returned after reruns that they have the remainder of their terms to run, not the beginning of a fresh term, they would continue to wallow in self delusion? Of course Adams Oshiomhole and Olusegun Mimiko are starting their terms because the Constitution says that your term as president or governor starts running the day you are first sworn in.  That is what kept Peter Obi of Anambra State where he is today.

Anyone who has had time to look at the laws regulating elections in this country will never deny what Prof Iwu is saying that Nigerians rig elections, not INEC.  INEC is not a human being.  It is a commission peopled by men and women, Nigerians.

And if Nigerians rig elections, it is only reasonable to say that the involvement of the chairman of INEC and his officials is more the taking of an advantage at post to inflict wrong people on the populace than the execution of a legal brief.  That legal brief cannot be found outside the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

Don’t be angry with Iwu when he tells us that our electoral laws are as thorough as those you can find anywhere else.  There is nothing America can teach us, and Ghana itself must learn from us.  These are statement flowing from Prof Iwu, and watching him say so on television, you want to break your TV set and hope to drag him out of that box and give him the beating of his life.

But you would be acting like the fool I was at age 10 when I was responsible for operating the gramophone of elder brother MB Momoh.  There was this label showing a dog breathing into a huge microphone, with His Master’s Voice boldly written there.  We had these records that sounded Spanish.

We inserted the record, blew the tip of the pin or needle and placed it slowly on the spinning plate. As it played, I watched the happy smiles of the people who congregated outside the house. I stayed where they could see me perform my chore.  How fulfilled I was when I closed my eyes and felt my sense of mission of worth flood my little frame!  Unknown to many, I wondered what would have happened to those singers inside the player because I thought they were right there.

I hoped they would feel grateful that I did not have to break the box and pull them out and imprison them in our house!  That feeling of a child was visited on Iwu when he tried to simplify the problem of conducting elections in Nigeria.

Yes, Nigerians rig, not INEC.  But what is INEC?  INEC is a child of the Constitution which documents how we can pick people from among us who would, in strict respect for the opportunity to serve us, go to the places we elected them to, do their best for us, and ensure our welfare and security.

All the electoral acts we have had since the 50s have been one improvement or the other on how we can ensure an electoral process devoid of abuse and manipulation.  But the more we refine the laws and cover loopholes, the more we design more ways to abuse the ballot.

The station we are at in our march on the democracy highway is that the laws that provide the brief for those who conduct elections are put aside, and a cabal pounces on the process and declares those who must represent us.  This is a crude equivalent of a coup d’etat and anyone who says that the worst elected government is better than the best military dispensation is speaking from both sides of the mouth.

A military intervention is condemnable and cannot be accommodated in the world of today.  Anyone who chooses that path is on his own.  But where people look at the law that regulates how we want to live together, puts that law aside and decides to use force and fraud to access control of any organ of government, those doing so are worse than the military and must be opposed with more patriotic zeal if we believe we have a country to live for. The test ahead of us today is Ekiti State.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that there must be a rerun of elections in areas where votes were cancelled.  The problem with us has been that we do not care.  We party when the country is burning and are interested in what is happening only when we are directly affected.  Then we yell and shout and ask God to come down from heaven and pour fire and brimstone on those who have wronged us!  You will wait for ever because He won’t come.

We must henceforth take interest in our country and help it grow by ensuring that no one takes power outside due process. Let every one move to Ekiti State and be part of conducting elections in those areas the Court of Appeal has ordered re-runs.  We should all see what is happening and see how much the Nigerians in INEC are ready to blow the whistle where there are punishable tackles.

If they refuse to do so and are part and parcel of the abuses we have seen in the past, then we should make a statement that will serve as notice to those who will conduct future elections that what happened in Ghana and the United States and other places where people obeyed the rules of the chore of choosing leaders has been anchored not only for those countries but also for every country in the world that has freely chosen to walk the democracy highway.

The way out of what we have been experiencing is more fundamental than just promulgating laws that look very beautiful in the books but which human vermin who do not know the horrors of the hereafter will implement. We must address the core area of what we want in governance, an opportunity to render service or a route to material wealth.  If the latter, then we have a lot to do to dislodge those who believe that the end justifies the means.

But if we must cut our political coat to our economic size, then we must look closely at what political actors draw from our resources and which affect so adversely the provision of basic amenities that would make life worth living.  That is why we must address the powerfulness of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission which has three instruments to look at but prefers to zero in on only one.  These instruments are the telescope, the microscope and the stethoscope.

We address the issues next week.

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