Last Wednesday at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Duke gave a blow by blow account to a gathering of pro-democracy advocates, including the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), of the modus operandi of State Chief Executives and Resident Electoral Commissioners to thwart the mandate of the electorate, not just in states controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but all the others.
In his opinion, it is not just a question of replacing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, but getting a critical mass to come out to vote and ensuring that votes count.
The Guardian today delivers excerpts of his extempore speech:
“LET me start this way. Professor Maurice Iwu is truly an enigma; he enjoyed the limelight. He enjoyed all the attacks, thrown and meted at him, he remained undaunted. I think, he belongs to the school of thought that believes that bad publicity is better than no publicity. So, even though he was being attacked and scolded and all sorts of things were said about him, he didn’t shy away from even going to the United States and talking to Nigerians in the Diaspora about his work, he didn’t shy away from it. I was told he organized a rally to ensure that he will come back to do the work he was appointed to.
Why do I call him an enigma? The truth is, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission has little or no bearing on the success of elections, that’s the truth. To me, it’s actually immaterial because he is head of the administration he takes the brunt. The best he can do is perhaps, draw up a blueprint but the implementation of that blueprint is outside his control. So, if elections are rigged in say -Taraba State- we don’t do that stuff in Cross Rivers State (laughter),
Every one looks at Iwu and he proudly says we did this or that. Hogwash! Let me now take you through the process of an election. We have a hundred and twenty thousand booths in Nigeria. At the hierarchy, you have the Chairman of INEC, then you have the zonal Commissioners, then you have the Resident Electoral Commissioners and they are the heads in every state the zone as the name implies; we have six zones in Nigeria, so you have six of them. Then you have the Resident Electoral Commissioners and there are 36 of them of course, and Abuja. Then for each local government, you have an electoral officer. Beyond that you have a hundred and twenty thousand polling booths, headed by presiding officers. The people think that at the end of the elections, the PDP would just decide who wins and who doesn’t and announces the results. I think the process is a bit more sophisticated than that.
This is what happens; the Resident Electoral Commissioner is usually from another state. The electoral officers, they move around. They are usually from that state, but for the conduct of elections itself, you would probably move from Cross River to Akwa Ibom or to Abia, but these musical chairs don’t mean nothing.
When the Resident Electoral Commissioner comes before the elections are conducted- of course when he comes to the state, usually, he has no accommodation; monies have not been released for the running or conduct of the elections and all that because we always start late. He pays a courtesy call on the governor. It’s usually a televised event you know, and of course he says all the right things. ‘Your Excellency, I am here to ensure that we have free and fair elections and I will require your support.’
Now, at that courtesy call, most governors, at least I did, will invite the Commissioner of Police because he is part of the action and he sits there.
After the courtesy call, the Resident Electoral Commissioner now moves in for a one-on-one with the governor the says, “Your Excellency, since I came, I’ve been staying in this hotel, there is no accommodation for me and even my vehicle is broken down and the last Commissioner didn’t leave the vehicle, so if you could help me settle down quickly;’ and the governor says, ‘Chief of Staff, where is the Chief of Staff here?’ And the Chief of Staff appears. Governor says: ‘Please ensure that the REC is accommodated–put him in the Presidential lodge, allot two cars to him, I give you seven days to get this done. Then the relationship has started; I am going to share some of these things with you so that we don’t leave here with any illusions. A lot of us, folks who have gone through an election or have been elected for one thing or another, see groups like Save Nigeria Group (SNG), the CLP as woolly-eye dreamers, you have to come down to the backsides, since I am now a hybrid between both. I want to bring you both down to backsides. Let me take you down to what happens so that you can change it because if you don’t change it, we here won’t suffer but I think of our children will.
We the elite, I am one of them, we send our kids to the best schools around the World, when they come back they are misfits, they cannot fit in and so ultimately we are designing a system that would destroy us in the end.
Let me take our minds back to Somalia. Somalia is mono-religious, mono-ethnic; they only have clans (but) they have one tribe. What has happened there? It’s a failed state because the elite in Somalia were so disconnected from the people that once they had some money, they buy houses in England, Washington and all those places; they were not investing, putting their best foot forward and I think that was what Pastor Bakare was talking about. If you want to be in a contest, you put your best foot forward; at the end of the day, there was such a disconnect that even till today, they cannot bridge it. Let me tell you, the last recognized President of Somalia is buried in Lagos-Siad Barre.
We are multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-problematic. The reason why most people worry about us is if we explode, who will contain us? Let me also say this, I know what I am saying now is an aside, I will go back to the elections. When we conducted the census in 2006 or so, the raw figures said we were over two hundred million; when they went and processed the figures it came down to 140million.
When you look at those figures and compare to those we had in 1991 at a growth rate of 2.1 or something like that, it is really just an extrapolation, because we were too embarrassed to admit our true numbers. If we get it wrong, we will fail like Somalia; in Somalia, half of them are in Kenya, Ethiopia, and a few are in Europe here and there; who will contain us in all of West Africa and Central Africa and for that it is imperative not just for ourselves but for the rest of the continent that we get it right.
Now, back to the elections, once that relationship has been established between the governor and the REC, if you are a governor who is ‘A Governor’, maybe two nights after you just pop by at the governors lodge and see the REC and say ah, ‘ah REC how are you doing? Are you OK?’ He says, ‘ah! Your Chief of Staff has been wonderful. He has been very nice to me; he supplied me the vehicles and everything is Ok’.
A few weeks to the elections, the REC sees the governor; you probably have on the average about three thousand five hundred, four thousand depending on the polling booths in every state. So, REC goes to the governor and says, ‘Your Excellency, could you please give us the names of about four, five thousand people so that we can hurriedly train them, we need them as Presiding Officers.’ You need experience. A good coach is one who has played and has lost matches in the past?
The REC now goes down and says, ‘we need to conduct a training programme for the presiding officers and em, headquarters hasn’t sent us any money yet, you know.’ And the governor is like: ‘How much would that cost?’
REC replies: ‘N25million for the first batch, we may have about three batches.’ Governor: ‘Ok, the Chief of Staff will see you.’ Now, the Chief of Staff, you call him: ‘Make sure, that we arrange N25 million this week and in two weeks time another N25 million and Seventy-Five million in all.’
Chief of Staff: ‘Your Excellency, how do we do it?’
Governor: ‘Put it under Security Vote.’”
~by Visit the Guardianto read the rest here.