By Domingo Ani
Former Akwa-Ibom State Resident Election Commission (REC) member of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Mike Igini, in what sounds like a dirge, has sent words to the late human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, detailing told him about the latest developments in Nigeria regarding the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 25 and March 11 respectively.
In the letter released on the occasion of the 19th Annual Gani Fawehinmi Conference, with the theme “Free, Fair and Credible Elections as an Indispensable Tool for National Development”, Igini promised Fawehinmi that he, along with some of his other supporters as long as he lived, not to deviate from the path of fighting for an equitable, just and just society, even when he informed him that some of his followers had abandoned the ideals he stood for.
Igini informed Fawehinmi, popularly known as the Superior Defender of the Masses (SAM) about the upcoming general elections and the new Electoral Law of 2022, which according to him, would be a game changer.
He informed the late activist that many politicians are unhappy and agitated by the new Electoral Law, which if fully implemented would remove many of them from politics. “We have blocked all known loopholes, both statutory and procedural, used to rig elections so that the electoral misfortune of the past is no longer possible. The new Electoral Law has a total of 153 provisions of which legislators accepted 48 of 91 proposals that INEC sent, which included some of those provisions that you complained about when you were alive, ”he wrote.
He informed Fawehinmi that it is rather sad that politicians have scoffed at their legal battles all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure that electoral space was widened to ensure citizen participation through political party registration, as many of the new parties have become. in clubs of the old parties. “They await the consequences of the primaries of the main political parties and present as candidates those who lost. The two major political parties also sponsor them as party agents for conspiracy to share unused ballots at the end of the election. But INEC has used the ICT process to block all those mischief,” he reported.
In a more poetic tone, Igini wrote: “I am also pleased to inform you that the new Electoral Law of 2022 has repealed those disgusting electoral fraud provisions that you repeatedly opposed but reproduced in all successive laws. Provisions of the 2002 Electoral Law, such as sections 40 and 41, re-enacted in subsequent Electoral Laws of 2006, 2010 and 2011 in different sections that politicians, in collusion with INEC ad hoc staff, used to manipulate the elections, have been attended. by the last Electoral Law of 2022.
“We have also managed, after 20 years of struggle and struggle, to repeal article 52 that prohibited the use of technology in our elections. We are now using a device called the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and transmitting the results of the voting units in real time to IREV for the Nigerian people. This system is the new game changer that has brought an enormous and uneven energy of integrity and hope to our electoral process. This is the reason for the panic in the camp of election manipulators in Nigeria.”
Igini also informed the late activist how willing and prepared young people are to take back their country from the political elite who have run aground and made life hell for them.
He said: “Boss, more than at any time in our country’s history, Nigerians have an unprecedented level of knowledge and awareness about their power to use ballot papers to change the country’s history forever. We have a total number of 94.5 million registered voters. Nigerians are excited, particularly the youth, who are not smiling at all, about the state of the nation. They make up the demographic with the largest number of voters. They no longer play soccer during voter registration and Permanent Voter Card (PVC) collection. They are preparing to tell the world that they will use their PVC in the February and March elections to take control of the country. We are hopeful that they will fulfill their promise. Boss, even those elites who have been so comfortable in the past that they don’t register to vote but watch CNN on election days, they don’t feel comfortable anymore. They are everywhere collecting their PVCs and mobilizing people to vote in the next elections”.
He also told the late legal luminary that the all-powerful BVAS had been threatened by some unscrupulous politicians who hired some lawyers who hung around various courts to get an order from any willing judge who might be compromised to give an order to stop its use. in the next elections. “As you know before you leave us, there is no guarantee that any of our colleagues at the Bank who have professional, ethical and moral challenges will not voluntarily grant such an order at the last moment to stop the use of BVAS and the uploading of results. . We remember how Judge Bassey lkpeme did a similar thing on the eve of the June 12, 1993 presidential election,” she added.
Igini also informed the late Fawahinmi that after 20 years of fighting, Nigerians now have a new electoral law that completely removes the president’s discretionary powers during accreditation. “Similarly, we now have a new section 51 that bases the total vote count on the number of accredited voters and not the number of registered voters, which was used in the past for mass digital printing of ballots. It took us 20 years to repeal this obvious section 53 that aided voter fraud during this long period. The full implication of this new section 51 is that at the end of voting on Election Day, a new record will emerge from each of the 176,846 voting units, only those who actually showed up in person to the voting units. and they were accredited. In other words, the total number of registered voters is no longer relevant, but the total number of accredited voters.”
Igini also informed Fawehinmi that the section of the law saying that any candidate declared the winner by a canvassing officer can only be challenged in court, which the late activist opposed, has been changed. “Now we have a new section 65 in the Electoral Law of 2022 that gives power to INEC within seven years to review any declaration of an election winner outside of due process. No more appearing and disappearing check officials,” he said.
He also proudly told the late legal icon of his feat in exerting influence as resident election commissioner. “Boss, I forgot to tell you that I was at INEC for a period of 10 years as a commissioner, and my term just ended in August of last year. We were able to secure the conviction of a university professor, Peter Ogban, who acted as a collator and scrutinizer in the 2019 election, but abused his position and fraudulently falsified the result of a senatorial election. “We secured his arraignment in court. Interestingly, his only defense was that there was no police investigation report and as such he cannot be prosecuted. But his trainee and the INEC lawyer he was always proud of, who is now a Senior Advocate for Nigeria (SAN), Clement Onwuewunor, countered his argument with a plethora of Supreme Court authorities. On this same issue, he fought before the Supreme Court according to Fawehinmi vs IGP and Fawehinmi Vs Akilu, all decided in his favor, that the absence of a police report cannot be an impediment to initiate criminal proceedings against any accused person. of the commission of a crime by a private prosecutor or by a body legally empowered to do so. The High Court relied on these Supreme Court authorities, convicted the professor and sentenced him to three years in prison. A similar one is still underway involving another professor, Ignatius Uduk, for the same crime of generating and declaring a false election result. Chief, you will be interested to know that all those provisions that I mentioned before, that you led us to fight to change, have now been repealed in the Electoral Law of 2022. They also formed the agenda that I defended and promoted within INEC during my tenure with great support from members of civil society, many of whom have gathered here today, January 15, to celebrate.
“Boss, I put as much effort at the risk of my life as you did to get the current electoral system to where we are right now. I have never renounced those pristine principles and values for which we have been fighting, but I have remained faithful to them during my administration. Nigerians can bear witness to me,” he wrote.
Igini told Fawehinmi that Nigerians hoped for successful elections and assured him that at the next conference Nigerians would celebrate a possible new dawn of the triumph of the will of the people in the country’s electoral democracy.
Finally, Igini implored the angel of God to help him deliver the letter to the late Fawehinmi, who he believes is in heaven with the creator, as he was not yet ready to join the world afterlife.