Usually, there are many parties to every contest. In a football contest you have the teams, the referee and his linesman, the spectators - supporters and opposers and then the managers of the stadium and finally those who control the crowd and provide safety for all. This is largely the same for all other sports. In Educational pursuits which can some times turn into a contest when we want to determine winners and losers for prizes, honors or for access to limited space, you have the Students, the teachers, the examiners and those who set standards. But in these situations there are always the most critical parties, those who really can make or unmake. Similarly, in political contests, there are many parties- the political parties, the electorates (voters), the electoral umpire, the security agencies and the government in power. The question is which party determines the election?
It depends. In normal circumstances, every party has significant impact. The political parties and their conduct may make or mar an election. In deed in our experience as a Nation, the political parties have largely determined the outcomes of many of the political contests. When they buy votes, snatch ballot boxes, steal or destroy ballot papers, instigate violence at pooling booths and collating centers including burning down electoral centers, they often determine the election. When the security agencies decide to jump into the fray, intimidating and rough handling opposition parties members or preventing voters from voting their choice, then they help to determine the outcome of the elections. When the electoral umpire decides to be partial, then they will naturally determine the outcomes of the elections.

At every election when the government in power is determined to see free, fair and violence-free elections, they take actions to get every party in the contest to behave well and act according to the rules of engagement. That does not always guarantee that all parties will behave well, including the government itself. That was why despite all the advertised desire of President Babangida’s Government to bequeath a good election, it went ahead to sabotage the same election which has been variously described as the best election in Nigeria. But if one particular party behaves well, it can check or dampen the impact of the misbehavior of other party or parties. But if that same party decides to misbehave, it is not certain that the other parties can sufficiently contain its impact. That party is the electoral umpire which in Nigeria is called the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Indeed in many elections the electoral umpire holds the ace. Their ability to determine the election is influenced by the discretion they can exercise. In sophisticated and automated systems where voting and/ or results  collation are done electronically their ability to do harm is minimized. But in less developed and analogue systems where collation of results from the pooling booths to the National collation centre is done manually, the capacity of the umpire to do harm is grossly accentuated. And this is exactly where Nigeria is currently located. That this umpire has the capacity and perhaps the looming propensity to work along this dangerous path is indicated by a couple of baffling false steps. The primary dissonance is a tendency to work at cross purposes with its major parties in the contest- the political parties. INEC is showing strong headedness, not willing to listen to the political parties except perhaps to only one- the one in power. If INEC desires to superintendent over a peaceful, free and fair election, it can not feel unconcerned with the concerns of the 91 parties that make up the CUPP. 

The first concern is Amina Zakari. Whether she has a blood or water relationship with Mr President should not be the only issue. What is important in a democracy is that if a significant segment of the electorate opposes any decision, then they must be listened to. This was what happened when she was made the acting Chairman,when Prof Attahiru Jega finished his term. Perhaps the President was minded to send her name for confirmation as substantive chairman but when he listened to the voice of a significant segment of the stakeholders, he decided against it, and rather appointed Prof Mahmoud Yakubu. I think, INEC if it is truly independent must listen to the stakeholders and avoid any thing that can tarnish the outcome of the elections. They should learn from the President or are they?. Already the leading opposition parties have drawn international attention to their objections and the stubbornness of INEC. The parties are not asking that she be removed as a national commissioner but just that she be reassigned. To me that is not too much sacrifice. It is essentially complying with good corporate governance practices because there is perceived conflict of interest. In many advanced Nations, she would naturally recuse herself even if no body raised any objection.That is where honour means much. 

The second concern is that INEC is re-writing the guidelines for conducting the elections without taking the parties into confidence. They have just been presented with a fiat accompli. And now the parties are protesting. Was this not avoidable? In 2015, accreditation was completed and the number of accredited voters announced before voting started. That way, voters and party agents watched out for over- voting and that helped in some way to deliver a good election.But now INEC says accreditation will go on simultaneously with voting. There are certainly pros and cons for either procedure. But why would INEC not sell these to the parties before firming up the guidelines. To me this is breeding unnecessary controversies and contradictions which are souring the relationship between the parties to the contest even before the contest begins.Thus from the look of things, INEC will determine the 2019 elections and must be prepared to bear the consequences. But with the most recent rumblings in the polity the Government in power may beat INEC to it!!!

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR,FPSN


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This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR