2023 Elections: NBA President Clarifies Comments On INEC’s Performance
Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, OON, SAN and President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has restated a position he has maintained before now that “… the NBA has no candidate in this election and would never have a candidate in any election; it is not a political party, has no affiliation with any political party either directly or indirectly and so is not sympathetic towards any political party.”
Maikyau who stated this in response to the backlash he got after an interview with Channels Television, in which he scored INEC high in the just concluded elections of 25 February 2023, was aired; said his recent statement dated 14 March 2023 was issued to make some clarifications in that regard in order to put matters in context and set the records straight.
In the statement made available to The Metro Lawyer (TML) news desk, Maikyau said while recognising that there were challenges in the elections, was of the opinion that there were still some positive outcomes from the process, and this should not be lost on Nigerians in the heat of the outrage surrounding INEC’s failures.
“That we are here today not only thinking about the possibility of the conduct of the elections, but that Presidential and National Assembly elections have actually held, is in itself one of the greatest successes recorded by us as a nation. The level of cynicism and suspicion about the holding of the elections was so palpable that many Nigerians either contemplated moving their families out of Nigeria or already did so. The situation became so bad that insinuations of military takeover were so rife which necessitated the spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, to make a public statement and reassure Nigerians that the Nigerian Armed Forces has no intention, desire, and/or plans to do such an uncivilized, unpatriotic, unlawful and unconstitutional act.
“This, however, does not in any way reduce the burden on INEC, or the expectation of Nigerians, of a free, fair, and credible election. But it is only fair and realistic that, while we deal with the issues confronting us in these elections, we must not fail to appreciate and be grateful for the function of the grace of God Almighty in the life of our Nation.
“To be very clear, there were challenges with the presidential elections which no one could have ignored and which I have not failed to acknowledge in my previous reports and public statements.
“I do note that evolving a culture of civility in our political debates and discussions is, in many respects, still work in progress. Given the level of animosity within large parts of the Nigerian society and the divide along our traditional fault lines leading up to the elections, including the shocking levels of hate speech on social media, it was in itself a miracle that the usual disappointing levels of infractions in certain parts of Nigeria on Election Day were limited.
“On 25 February 2023, the Election Day, there were challenges. For the most part, the challenges of logistics including security, delayed deployment of INEC personnel and electoral materials, have sadly continued to haunt our elections. This is obviously a reflection on our struggling transportation architecture amongst other factors like the twin effects of the more recent fuel scarcity and cash shortages caused by the naira redesign, which added to the logistical challenges on election day.
“It is true that INEC encountered challenges as it reported specifically in relation to the use of BVAS which I had, in one of my pre-election interviews, described as a game changer in this election, in terms of voter accreditation and the upload of results from polling units. Recognizing that our electoral process is always fraught with suspicion and conspiracy theories, no doubt this was disappointing and predictably raised concerns about the integrity of the collation process, notwithstanding the fact that party agents remain entitled to statements of results from the point of the polling units.
“With the declaration of the results, it is now left for the court and tribunals, as the case may be, to pronounce on the impact of the lapses allegedly recorded on the use (or nonuse) of BVAS and other alleged infractions on the day of the elections.
“In addition to this, while I agree that the electoral process is as important as the outcome, it is simply not possible to diminish the significance of the outcome of this election. It would appear that, in the heat of the debates around the reported failure to upload or delayed upload of election results (and these are genuine and legitimate concerns which should not be unexpressed), the sense of some of the positive achievements of these elections may have been lost on some of us. I say this without prejudice to the rights of parties to ventilate their grievances in Court as the legally permissible way to contest any alleged wrongdoing or electoral infractions.
“To be more specific, this was an election where much of what was hitherto thought an impossibility became possible: a sitting President’s party lost elections in his State; Lagos State flipped out of the control of the ruling party and the presidential candidate, now President-Elect; many governors lost their states and their senatorial ambitions; a vice presidential candidate lost in his State where he is a sitting Governor. Then we have the incredible story of a political party that was considered to be without grassroots structures, shaking up the political landscape and re-defining politics in Nigeria. While this was not the ultimate objectives of the contests, as all candidates desired to breast the tape of victory at the polls, these achievements cannot be ignored, discounted, or discountenanced.
“Also, worthy of note is that some of the states which counted and recorded votes in millions in previous elections, were now barely able to pass the quarter of a million mark. And even if for the purposes of argument, but without conceding that the election results were mere contraptions (which can only be determined through judicial process), the thought of the outcomes as noted above, should come with a significant reckoning of the change in our society.
“When all these are put together, it may then be understood why I said that despite all the challenges, I recognize that we have made significant progress in our electoral process. I am certain that when the dust is settled, our politics will never be the same again. It remains my view that this particular election, without prejudice to the outcomes of any post-election challenge(s), will go down in history as the most revolutionary of all the elections ever held in this country.“, he stated.
He then urged colleagues and members of the society, who may have been unhappy or felt a sense of hurt by his remark on the performance of INEC in the conduct of the last elections, to take and understand his position in the context of the explanations he gave in his public statement.
The full text of his statement is reproduced below…
PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT ON 25 FEBRUARY ELECTION