With less than three years to the 2023 presidential election, some political power blocs within the ruling All Progressive Congress are currently in a fierce battle to choose their loyalists as chairman and commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, findings by SaharaReporters has revealed.
Investigations showed that three influential power blocs in the APC were currently strategising for the 2023 general election, each trying to outsmart others to have their own INEC nominees’ team endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari and thereafter to effectively seize control of the commission using their nominees.
The emerging takeover of INEC first became obvious a few weeks ago when one of the contending groups quickly secured the nod of the President for the nomination of Lauretta Onochie, a well known card-carrying member of the APC, as a national commissioner for the electoral body.
Sources close to those directly involved in the ongoing power struggle were of the view that the outlook and formation of the next INEC will be purely composed of members and sympathisers of the ruling party, who have pledged their loyalty and commitment to work for their partisan cause in all elections leading to 2023 before their nomination to the commission.
Those seeking to control the commission want to ensure that all commissioners whose tenure were coming to an end either at the national or state levels, who had exhibited independent mindedness, as expected of a true umpire or, who are known for integrity and are not given to rigging or manipulation of election, would not have their tenures renewed nor elevated but would be eased off from the commission, a source told SaharaReporters.
On the other hand, more partisan individuals would be appointed to take-over INEC despite the public outrage that may follow, such as that witnessed with the nomination of Onochie, it was gathered.
Sources familiar with the plan suggest that partisan nominations such as that of Onochie was just a tip of the iceberg considering what one of these groups had already set in motion.
“They insist that many more within the party who were taken unawares but now know that with President Buhari, any individual or group can get what it desires because it is a case of first come-first-serve. Hence they compared the ongoing scenario with what they experienced with the case of the Niger Delta Development Commission Board nominees, where a group compiled a list of nominees for the President and then had their list confirmed by the Senate, but the list they had confirmed was again substituted by another list of nominees for the same board, in the end none of the groups succeeded as each group continued to struggle to prevail.
“A similar struggle is now ongoing for the control of INEC and will become more intense in the days ahead as many more within the APC with various ambitions realise the stakes and how far their adversaries within the party have gone in taking control of the election management body for their partisan purposes in 2023,” one source added.
“lf those who yearn for effective and significant changes in good governance in Nigeria do not act urgently with a determination to ensure no-partisan-control of INEC and demand for a truly Independent Electoral Commission composed of individuals of proven integrity, their quest for a better Nigeria will not succeed.
“Indeed, many have shown umbrage that Mrs Lauretta Onochie, a well-known APC political attack-Doberman, was nominated for appointment to conduct elections that will feature APC and other parties from this year till the next five years. But how many have scrutinised the other people who were also appointed along with her, what are their pedigree and political affiliations in the past, what is their public and private record as it pertains to election Integrity.
“Currently, a faction of the APC coordinated between the presidency, with a minister who has gubernatorial ambitions as well as some arrowheads in the legislature, have entered into a pact with individuals in INEC, to return them and a group of APC loyalists to take over INEC and thereby sweep out many who are currently in INEC, despite the fact that some of them have experiences in effective reforms that have improved significant aspects of elections since 2011.
“The purpose of this emerging appointments and expected purges to follow within INEC is to re-configure INEC to deliver a pre-determined election outcome by 2023,” the source added.