If there is one thing you can credit the former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan with, it is the implementation of improved elective tools that made our general elections a more creditable process, not just in the opinion of local participants, but also in the assessment of international observers.
By the time President Buhari inherited the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC, it is fair to say without prejudice that transparency and confidence in the role and performance of the neutral arbiter had risen to very high levels. Sadly, in November 2016, barely 18 months under PMB the same cannot be stated with any degree of enthusiasm.
The spade of inconclusive elections and shambolic conduct of elections in Bayelsa, Kogi & Edo States, but to mention a few, have called into question the actual performance of INEC compared with the responsibility prescribed by the law of the land.
INEC, as established under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has the responsibility amongst a host of others to:
"Organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of Governor and Deputy Governor of a State".
These functions are fully particularised in Section 15, Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), for your futher reference and enlightenment.
In order to discharge those duties, INEC is guided by some critical values in planning, implementing and assessing the performance of its duties, which include: INTEGRITY, CREDIBILITY, IMPARTIALITY, EQUITY, etc (Source: INEC website).
In the conduct of the on-going Ondo State governorship election, I humbly submit that INEC has compromised many of their self-imposed values.
On 27th October 2016 INEC published the final list of candidates of each political party that will participate in the elections. In a dramatic and unique move they substituted the name of the PDP candidate from Eyitayo Jegede to Jimoh Ibrahim with "court order" attached to the name of the latter.
I say "dramatic" in the sense that INEC had in their possession 3 Court Orders opposed to the substitution as against only one in support; yet they went ahead with the contrived substitution even in defiance of sought professional legal advice from their in-house Legal Department that advised there were NO grounds for the substitution.
I say "unique" in the sense that the said Jimoh Ibrahim is a self-confessed member of Accord Party, yet in most controversial circumstances seeking to be a candidate of the PDP.
By that singular act, Eyitayo Jegede was, as at 28th October 2016, estopped from parading himself as the legally-recognisable PDP candidate for the November 2016 elections.
By that singular act, INEC truncated the systematic campaign schedule of Eyitayo Jegede with only 30 days left to the election and 28 days permitted for campaigns, arguably the most critical campaign period for any serious candidate.
On the strength of that singularly act, Eyitayo Jegede was excluded from participating in the all important LIVE televised debate of Governorship candidates, conducted by PLAC in conjunction with Channels TV and broadcast both nationally & on their web portals, held on 21st November 2016, just 3 days to the end of the permitted campaign window.
By that singular act, INEC indirectly created apathy amongst the teeming supporters and the rank & file of the PDP to cause disaffection and by so doing, those party faithful loathed to the idea of supporting the INEC-imposed Jimoh Ibrahim have been forced, against their will, to join other political parties, rather than vote for Ibrahim, a known member of Accord Party.
By that singular act, Eyitayo Jegede has diverted his physical capacities to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in the last 27 days in order to ensure that his name is restored to the register of recognised candidates, a time that would have otherwise have been engaged in grassroot mobilisation.
A well-oiled project that started formally on 22nd August 2016, when Eyitayo Jegede SAN was elected as the governorship candidate of the PDP at the party primaries held in Akure, was maliciously and brutally truncated by enemies of the democratic process, by either directly or indirectly using INEC to execute their evil deeds.
In spite of the Supreme Court findings in respect of the parties involved in manipulating the judicial process to cause delay and the frivolous and vexatious characteristics of their motions & applications, it is astounding to note that INEC's reaction to all of this is that:
"the 26th November 2016 date remains sacrosanct".
Having created this whole chaos, one would have expected a bit more remorse from an institution that has aided and abetted this extent of damge to the fabric and psyche of the Ondo State democratic order. So what has become of their values: INTEGRITY, CREDIBILITY, IMPARTIALITY, EQUITY etc.?
On the strength of the Supreme Court pronouncements yesterday, the intricacies and political intrigues present in this case and the unfolded facts that emerged during the Court of Appeal sitting(s), it is plain for even a non-lawyer to predict the outcome of today's awaited Court of Appeal judgement.
To deny Eyitayo Jegede, a major candidate in a governorship election the equal opportunity afforded his co-contenders, that which political commentators often call 'a level playing field', is a novel yet ingenious form of rigging, what I refer to as "Technical Rigging". No doubt others will seek to employ same in future if this attempt suceeds and which the independent umpire ought not to have been associated with. Whether we agree or not, either directly or indirectly INEC has already given some undue advantage to Jegede's opponents, which cannot be corrected, but with proper reasoning can and may be mitigated, if they so wish to do, especially to inspire public confidence.
Regrettably INEC is already tarnished with these awful smears through its own contributory negligence, so we can only wait to see what they will do next.
Barr. Gbenga Akinmoyo (Hon. GaRo) writes from Idanre