2011-04-04 Nigerian Elections: Candidates, as Previously Revealed in WikiLeaks Cables, Still Register to Vote Multiple Times

ImageNigerian elections that had been postponed until Monday, April 4th, have been postponed yet again by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is headed by Professor Attahiru Jega. From the INEC headquarters, the rescheduling was announced by Jega, who said since announcing the rescheduling several requests made to the Commission have urged it to consult more widely and ensure the two-day postponement addresses all logistical issues.

The Commission consulted with the Chairmen of all the political parties in Nigeria and decided the best thing to do would be to reschedule the already rescheduled elections. Thus, the elections, assuming no more logistical problems (corruption) get in the way, will be held on the following dates: Saturday, April 9, Senate and House of Representatives Elections; Saturday, April 16, Presidential Elections, Tuesday, April 26, State of House of Assembly and Governorship Elections.”

This announcement undoubtedly means a tense pre-election social and political climate that has already seen hundreds killed in what Amnesty International calls “politically-motivated, communal and sectarian violence” will continue to persist.

When held, this will be Nigeria’s third general election since military rule ended in 1999. The country has held two previous elections in 2003 and 2007. Both elections resulted in allegations of rigging, voter intimidation and ballot vote snatching.

US State Embassy cables from Nigeria released by WikiLeaks to NEXT, a leading source for Nigerian news and commentary, show a country with a political class that is fundamentally corrupt. Political candidates vote multiple times, individuals can assume the presidency unconstitutionally, and the country’s ruling party is primarily a sect of crony elites wishing to hold on to access to money and power.

A cable from December 29, 2008, indicates then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan voted four times in the 2007 election:

On December 17, Pol-Econ [political-economic] Chief and PolOff [political officer] called on the newly installed governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, at his offices in Benin City to discuss his recent success before the Appeals Court and the challenges facing his administration. Oshiomhole told PolOffs that he was able to successfully challenge the decision of the Independent National Election Commission, which had declared the Peoples Democratic Party candidate Oserheimen Osunbor the winner of the 2007 gubernatorial elections, in the courts because of the help of unpaid volunteers. He noted he had roughly 2,000 volunteers, who had worked at 120 polling places, and seven graduate students, who had systematically gone through ballots, result sheets and voter registration records line-by-line to produce documentary evidence of fraud.

Oshiomhole told PolOffs that it proved impossible to use forensic evidence because of the poor quality of thumbprints and that claims of intimidation also proved difficult to prove in a court of law, but documentary evidence, such as proof that the "Vice President" had voted four times, for example, proved decisive in the courts.

Contextualizing the revelation, NEXT adds that the allegation that now-President Jonathan helped himself win by voting four times is an allegation known to INEC. A source at the country’s electoral commission told NEXT that Jonathan was just “a high profile example of the rife multiple registrations that took place in Bayelsa, Mr. Jonathan’s home state, where he had served as governor, and other states in the broader Delta region.” The source told NEXT other public figures had also voted several times.

Late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua, as revealed in one of the Nigerian cables, bypassed Jonathan, his vice-president, when his health became too much of a problem for him. He handed presidential duties over to Yayale Ahmed, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the time.

In a cable September 17, 2008, Ahmed notes “Yar'Adua had asked him to take over a lot of the day-to-day Executive responsibilities due to his health, and the new SGF said he would like to come to the U.S. in October so that he could meet directly with senior USG officials in his new capacity as SGF.” NEXT concludes, “The 59-year-old secretary to the government, apparently ran Nigeria, performing the functions of the president, while late president Yar’Adua lay sick, unable to discharge his duties.” The news organization also emphasizes the fact that Jonathan was “blocked” from being granted duties as Yar’Adua was dying.

Even after it became clear that the late president had become incapacitated and would no longer be able to perform the functions of his office, the cabal around him still blocked Mr. Jonathan from ascending to the position of acting president, until the National Assembly and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum stepped in.

As NEXT notes, this demonstrates Jonathan was “illegally bypassed.” That he was bypassed might not be all that surprising if you ask former US Ambassador Robin Sanders, who sent a cable on October 24, 2008 listing out Nigeria’s most influential personalities. Jonathan did not appear on the list.

NEXT is not sure why Jonathan did not appear:

…Conspicuously missing on the list — which had Turai, the late president’s wife, members of Mr. Yar’Adua inner circle, some governors, legislators, businesspersons, regional leaders and traditional rulers — was our country’s vice president at the time. It is curious that he was omitted from the list despite being a person of tremendous influence in the Niger Delta region and presiding over the amnesty programme (which tried to get the Niger Delta insurgency to abandon militancy). He also performed his very important constitutional role of overseeing the National Economic Council at the time.

Finally, a cable sent out on October 19, 2007, describes the ruling Nigerian Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as a political party that cannot be viewed as a party “within the common western understanding.”

“Like velveeta cheese, the labeling claims it is a party, but upon further inspection, it lacks key ingredients most political parties share,” writes then-Charge d’Affairs Lisa Piascik. She expounds upon this belief:

This is in large part a result of its history and inception in 1997 as a coalition against the self-succession plans of military ruler General Sani Abacha rather than as a political party. Even the party's mission statement and directive principles lack an ideological basis upon which to form party policy. The PDP remains an agglomeration of interest groups formed around persons of prominence and power which are loosely tied together by a desire to remain in office and maintain access to the "national cake" or resources of the state. The main networks in the party currently center around former President Obasanjo and current President Yar'Adua, although other lesser players continue to have influence, and a new network of former governors is gaining influence. When viewing and interpreting developments such as the scandals surrounding House Speaker Patricia Etteh and Senate President David Mark or the intrigues surrounding investigation of former PDP governors, it is important to remember that the largest opposition to the PDP continues to come from within the party, not without.

And, she provides a brief summary of the history of the PDP:

Early in 1997, as military ruler Sani Abacha planned his self-succession and transformation into a civilian president, a group of 18 prominent northern politicians (later known as the G-18), some of whom had served previously as ministers under Abacha, came together to oppose Abacha's continued leadership. Southern politicians then joined in the opposition and the group came to number 34 members (G-34). With the 1998 death of Abacha and dissolution of the five parties his regime had established, the G-34 movement was uniquely positioned to form a new political party because of its already existing loose coalition and structure. As the movement declared its political ambitions, it was joined by several strongly pro-Abacha officials, a group of retired army generals, and several other smaller political associations. The new "party" was divided from the start along these lines. The PDP Mission statement and Directive Principles reflect the lack of any ideological consensus and call simply for the creation of a dynamic economy and democratic society.

The PDP’s history is possibly why, at the end of President Obasanjo’s presidency in May 2007 he “had completely taken over the organizational machinery of the PDP” and was “making all major decisions on membership, candidates and matters of party structure, including amendments to the PDP Constitution in December 2006 which virtually guaranteed him Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees.”

“The lack of internal democracy in the party has continued and was particularly evident in the lead-up to the 2007 elections and the selection of party candidates for state and national office,” concludes Piascik. “The PDP as a party remains fractious and bound only by the desires of those within it to maintain their seat of power and access to the nation's resources. The factions (or networks) within the party, overseen by highly placed "godfathers," are fluid and continue to evolve and change.”

As of 2010, Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer indicated that Nigeria suffered from a high level of corruption. Fifty percent or more respondents reported having to pay bribes when in contact with customs, education, judiciary, land-related services, medical services, police, registry and permit services, tax authorities and utilities. When asked how they thought the level of corruption had changed in the past three years, seventy-three percent said it increased. And, when asked to determine on a scale of 1-5 (5 being “extremely corrupt”) how corrupt institutions in Nigeria are, the results were a 4.5 for political parties, 4.2 for parliament/legislature, 3.5 for the judiciary, and 3.3 for public officials and civil servants in government.

Shell Oil Corporation continues to hold a grip over Nigeria. This revelation was one of the first revelations to come out of Cablegate. Recall, in December it was found out through a cable that the Government of Nigeria often “forgets” (or possibly doesn’t know) that Shell has people in “all the relevant ministries” and “access to everything” done in those ministries. That, in addition to the newness of democracy in Nigeria, only complicates matters further as the people of the Niger Delta, where Shell’s operations are primarily based, are not happy as their human rights are violated. A number of Nigerians are willing to act out and have acted violently against Shell.

Nigerians are immensely frustrated with the postponement. Professor Jega of INEC has lost much credibility after he was given one billion dollars to run the election and was unable to hold the election on time and avoid a fiasco. More importantly, it appears some high profile candidates have registered to vote multiple times in the election.

Jega, according to NEXT, refused to share names but said that "high profile double registrants" could face prosecution if they seek to manipulate votes in their favor by voting more than once. In response to Jega's admission, a spokesperson for the Nuhu Ribadu presidential campaign shared his belief that "all of the offenders were in the PDP."

It is highly likely that corruption takes place and that the political class, in their jostling for access to money and power, deprives the Nigerian people of open, free and fair elections.

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