CUPP, The INEC And The 2023 Elections
Posted on September 24, 2022
PRINCE KASSIM AFEGBUA
Last week, an unusual but familiar stream of political thoughts sprouted from the so-called opposition Coalition of United Political Parties,(CUPP) which prides itself as the voice of the opposition. CUPP was actually set up in 2018 in preparation to forge a common front to contend with the ruling APC’s ferocious electoral grandstanding. It was one of the series of initiatives put together by the PDP to mass against the APC and probably defeat it in the 2019 presidential election. CUPP was primarily intended to be a common platform for all the mushroom political parties who could provide the needed voice in drumming it loud to all that APC and president Buhari were no longer suitable to continue in office. Many of the parties under the CUPP arrangement were at best as the individuals that lead them. A lot of them just masqueraded as political parties without correspondence addresses. They were hardly seen at critical political events except when it became expedient for them to add up the figures to raise one concern or the other. From 2018 till now, I am surprised that only one visible individual is generously seen as the progenitor of the so-called CUPP struggle. Aside from Barrister Ugochinyere, who is a federal constituency candidate of the PDP in Imo state, all other faces likely to be seen are those of persons whose political parties have been legally de-registered by the Courts. The same familiar faces that have maintained leadership of their mushroom parties before they were de-registered still make themselves available for use anytime a press conference is being considered to raise false alarms.
It was not a surprise therefore, last week, when I saw the same familiar faces in their familiar turf trying to discredit the electoral commission on the issue of voters registration; making a false claim that INEC was importing faces and persons to populate the voters register. The presentation at first wore the garb of actuality, but because I ran a political party before, and often liaised with The Commission on electoral activities, I knew what CUPP was up to was simply a red-herring. Since 2002, when INEC started registering additional political parties to join the initial three major ones of PDP, ANPP and AD, its voters registration activities have always followed a pattern; capture the registrants, display the initial lists, make corrections based on observations, clean up multiple registrations and or non-existing names before a clean copy is produced. That has been the pattern till date; so the alarm raised by CUPP to discredit the Mahmood-led INEC is a needless distraction for all intents and purposes. In other climes, another body ought to be responsible for registration of voters; to unburden INEC of needless responsibilities. Over here, INEC registers voters, carries out voter education, delineates polling units, recruits adhoc staff, trains the staff, and conduct elections. That is overwhelming for just one commission with inadequate staff strength even as we expect them to perform miracles within a Nigerian political environment that is saddled with all manner of biles and viles. INEC, it must be understood, derives its “normative order” from the same Nigerian environment and socio-political milieu. That it has been able to impact and improve on its electoral activities could be attributable to its leadership under Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
When the leadership of CUPP and its array of rentiers and coupon clippers paraded themselves last week as speaking to the supposed discrepancies in the voters registration exercise and calling for the head of.the INEC chairman, I sensed blue murder. First, it is imprudent to carry out voters registration exercise without allowing room for corrections of certain information that might have been wrongly inputed; wrong spellings of names, wrong addresses, inadequate voters distribution based on polling units, gender conflict, and proper delineation of the voting population. All of these activities follow a pattern that has become credible by the pattern of elections INEC has been conducting in recent times. No doubt, we may not be able to get a clean copy until the final register is out, but to conclude in the manner that CUPP did, was to raise dust over nothing. Under the law, INEC’s scope of activities are time-bound. That means, its activities are located within a geographic legal space until the final leg is concluded. INEC has barely finished the voters registration exercise; with a huge turn out across board. Even as I write this, there are legal disputes as to the propriety of INEC stopping the exercise in the first place. INEC has not even settled down to do a critique of its exercise and come up with a clean, improved version of the comprehensive voters register, and CUPP, ever in a hurry to make an impression, quickly ran to town to raise dust. That is uncharitable. If the so-called CUPP Spokesman, Ugochinyere, wants to be taken seriously, he should separate his aspiration to be an elected House of Reps member from his activism of CUPP. He cannot be a referee in his own game. If his aspiration in Imo state PDP has become a source of a war of attrition, he must be able to demarcate that from the larger picture of what obtains in Nigeria. To use CUPP as a shield to gain national appeal on a state-specific issue would be irresponsible.
INEC by law has its scheduled window to clean up the register. It has not flouted any law thus far. CUPP must be ready to assist INEC to pursue its statutory goal of achieving creditable elections using the Biomodal Verification Accreditation System (BIVAS), which has proven to be an improvement on previous attempts to secure creditable elections in the country. Once we run down INEC in the name of opposition to discredit it, the credibility of the umpire would be besmirched and the outcome of elections could end up being problem ridden; a fate accompli. A lot of Nigerians are becoming more and more encouraged by INEC’s recent performance. Post-election Litigations are becoming slimmer by the day. The credibility of electoral outcomes are gradually gaining thumbs-up and accepted without grudges, and the transparency of the system is also making INEC earn some credible marks on a regular basis. That is a spirit that should be sustained to help build a system that can greatly impact on the capacity of The Commission to deliver credible election. This is not to say that people should keep mum where they suspect foul play, but we must all be responsible enough not to irritate one another with spurious accusations to undermine The Commission every now and then using amorphous groups who are themselves guilty of the same “crimes” they are accusing INEC of, is a carriage of excess kindness. Most of the faces under CUPP umbrella are individuals who have held perennially to their party’s leadership rostrum without giving room for fresh leadership. Until many of them were deregistered by INEC and the courts, they remained the faces we are familiar with for the past fifteen unbroken years. Such conduct does not convey any moral authority on them to interrogate the activities of The Commission. To gain such moral creed, you must be above board in your own conduct. The CUPP and its operators cannot claim sanity in its operations. I say this with all due sense of responsibility as someone who has been involved in CNPP and CUPP activities when they truly mattered. Today, those bodies have become convenient platforms to raise dust where none exists.
This is not to say that INEC should rest on its oars. It is actually a call to duty. It is a call to a greater responsibility of ensuring that the 2023 election meets the expectations of a wider majority of Nigerians to birth a new leadership that is actually a product of greater involvement of the people and the peoples mandate. INEC has ample time to sustain the good work it has started; by ensuring that it is able to meet its timelines without equivocation. The present leadership of INEC has not compromised his objectivity and neutrality in any form thus far. He may be accused of being inflexible, but to accuse him of being partisan would be a deliberate attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. INEC may not have attained its acme in terms of productivity and meeting the people’s expectation, it has surely gained traction in its effort to deliver creditable elections in record time. Its BIVAS technology is giving the electorate more confidence in electoral outcomes; to a large extent, all votes are gradually beginning to count. We can only encourage The Commission to do more on its huge success instead of raising false alarm to discredit the body shrouding selfish politics. The success of any electoral activity is precedent on the credibility that the umpire brings into it. It is not just about outcomes, but the processes leading to the outcome and the confidence reposed in The Commission by all the participants. Please let’s all be responsible. The 2023 election is as important as all other elections and the sustenance of our Democratic journey will come under serious scrutiny once again. This is why all hands must be on deck to secure a successful outing and drive the vehicle of democracy further in our collective effort to grow our nation.
CUPP should show greater responsibility beyond its penchant for “appearing and disappearing” act like hirelings. If this democracy works, it benefits the society in its mission and vision of enthroning Democratic rule. If it crumbles, it will hurt all previous efforts and attempts to deepen Democratic rule. CUPP’s engagement should be constructive and collective. It should always look at the bigger picture. The success of INEC is dependent on the seriousness we all bring to it, in terms of patriotism, solidarity, loyalty, honesty and sacrifice. INEC and its stakeholders are partners in progress. The success of one over the other depends on the symbiotic relationship that exists between them. If 2023 election must be credible and transparent, both the players and the umpire must be seen to do the right and proper thing. This habit of always taking INEC to task by baseless and uninformed accusations and false alarm, have become too familiar a style to indulge. We cannot continue to blackmail INEC for our selfish politically motivated reasons. We must encourage INEC to deliver on an election that could meet the expected standard and credibility. Credible elections are often a product of collective participation. They are products of informed, transparent and sincere deployment of all the efforts needed to achieve positive outcomes. The public would attest that INEC under Professor Mahmood has been one of positive vibrations and achievements than the one before it. The level of confidence and impartiality displayed thus far is a stimulation and motivation for greater things to come. We must try as much as possible to provoke initiatives that would add value to the process instead of raising allegations that are lame and feeble. There is enough room for the Commission to clean up the voters register in record time before the year runs out. That has always been the practice and this present effort would not be an exception. CUPP should redirect a greater energy in its pouch to mobilising and conscientising the electorate for deeper participation in the electoral process rather than shouting blue murder to discredit the process. That’s the spirit for national success.