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Time for INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, to Resign

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Time for INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, to Resign
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By Femi Aribisala

Having been caught in lies upon lies, Mahmood Yakubu should do the honourable thing for a change. It is not realistic to insist that President Buhari should fire him. That is unlikely to happen since he is working to protect the president’s interests. But there is one road still open to Yakubu.

He should resign without further delay. He has done enough damage already.

The logic is simple. The 2019 presidential election in Nigeria cannot be, by all accounts, the worst election in the history of Nigeria without the corresponding chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) being, at the same time, the worst INEC chairman in the history of Nigeria. INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, presided over an atrocious and fraudulent election that is now being fiercely contested in the courts.

He can no longer remain as INEC chairman.

INEC is supposed to be an impartial umpire in elections in Nigeria. However, it is now obvious that Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC operated essentially as an arm of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The evidence is overwhelming that Yakubu’s INEC massively rigged the election in favour of the government. If integrity and impartiality is to be restored to INEC, Yakubu must leave immediately. If the confidence of Nigerians is to be restored in INEC, then the country deserves a complete overhaul of the organisation.

INEC Shenanigans

INEC, under Mahmood Yakubu, has lost all credibility. It is now practically impossible to believe anything that comes from the organization. The election results it declared defied commonsense. The figures did not add up. The election was not even rigged intelligently. It was rigged on the presumption of impunity.

In many cases, no voters were accredited, nevertheless fictitious returns were made. In others, total votes cast far exceeded the registered voters. In Borno, for example, only 372,347 votes were cast. However, 919,786 votes were declared; an inflation of 547,439 votes. The printing of election materials was contracted to the company of a member of the APC, who was also one of the party’s senatorial candidates.

Before the election, the use of card readers was declared to be mandatory. It was affirmed that the vote would be declared null and void where the card reader was not used. Nevertheless, in most areas of the North, the card reader was not used. The votes were simply inflated and deflated at INEC’s discretion.

In areas of the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP)’s strength, elections were strategically cancelled and supplementary elections scheduled. This ultimately enabled INEC to declare losers as winner and to convert winners into losers; as it happened, for example, in Kano.

But what has proved to be the most indicting of INEC has been the question of the central server. Having somehow obtained the result posted on the INEC central server, Atiku has demonstrated that it is completely different from the result INEC declared publicly. On the INEC server, Atiku prevailed over Buhari by a plurality of 1.6 million votes, while INEC publicly declared that Buhari won the election by nearly four million votes.

Atiku Must Be Stopped

When the APC discovered, to its dismay, that Atiku had access to the INEC central server and had somehow obtained the real and authentic results of the 2019 presidential election, it went into panic mode. The party’s first knee-jerk response was to petition the police to arrest Atiku for hacking into the INEC server. But if Atiku did in fact hack into the server, what does that mean for the results he found there? The afterthought was to insist that Atiku posted fake results into the server.

However, APC kingpins realized there would be trouble ahead if Atiku went public with his findings. The man had to be stopped; otherwise the victory they were celebrating would be in jeopardy. Therefore, they opted for the anomaly whereby, although Buhari himself lost the presidential election of three previous occasions and took the matter to court every time, they became determined that Atiku must be dissuaded from taking the matter to court.

Emissaries, friends, some members of the National Peace Committee, some Northern elites and powers close to Atiku were sent to dissuade him from challenging the election at the Tribunal, fearful that Buhari’s pyrrhic victory would be scuttled if he did so. When that did not work, Lai Mohammed accused Atiku of treasonable felony and conspiracy against the federal government. So doing, it was felt that Atiku would be forced to plea bargain and part of the deal would be that his petition be cancelled.

It has now come to light that hundreds of fake Facebook pages were created to sell propaganda against Atiku. These were discovered and Facebook has already closed them. They were designed to sell the lie that Atiku is corrupt and that he is a wanted felon in the United States. But all that collapsed when Atiku visited the United States in 2018, demonstrating once and for all that the insinuations that he could not go there without being arrested were all lies.

The same APC pretending to be holier-than-thou has ended up electing Femi Gbajabiamila as the new speaker of the House of Representatives, in spite of the fact that it is on record that he was convicted for professional misconduct by the Supreme Court of Georgia, U.S.A. for defrauding a client. It has also elected Ovie Omo Agege as deputy Senate president, despite the fact that he was also convicted of a felony while practicing law in the United States.

Servers Don’t Exist

Against all their pleas and arm-twisting, the shoe finally dropped when Atiku filed his petition. He posted for all to see that the result on the INEC server shows he won the election; and he authenticated this by quoting the serial numbers unique to the INEC server.

On this issue, the word from INEC has turned out to be lies upon lies. INEC’s first gambit was to declare to an incredulous public that it has no central electronic servers. Only God knows how it expected to get away with this lie. INEC officials had spent the better part of the campaign season boasting that their central server would make rigging elections obsolete in Nigeria. That, they had set up servers in each of the 36 states of Nigeria and in Abuja.

So, how could INEC now say it does not have a server? Where are the data of the 80 million registered voters stored if not in an electronic server? How does the card reader authenticate a voter’s PVC card without an electronic server? INEC conveniently forgot that it admitted publicly that it used its servers to collate results in the previous Ekiti and Osun elections. So, how did these servers suddenly disappear?

Servers Were Not Used

It soon became apparent that the lie that there are no servers could not be sustained, so INEC tried another gambit. It then said an INEC central server actually exists, but it was not used for the election. It was only used for rehearsals and dummy runs.

So, how are we to explain the situation where INEC collected over N1 billion to upgrade the existing server against the 2019 elections, only to now shamelessly tell Nigerians that it only used it for experiments? What then was the point of the upgrade? Did rehearsals not already take place during the Ekiti and Osun elections.

Why did Mahmood Yakubu boast before the election that: “we are pioneering and deploying in 2019 general elections, a new platform for the electronic collation and transmission of results.”

Clearly, another better lie became necessary again. So INEC tried this one for size. It said it could not have engaged in electronic collation of results because the Electoral Act intended to validate the process was not signed into law by the president. But this is simply not going to wash because INEC does not need the president’s permission in order to engage in the electronic collation of results.

Section 160 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states categorically that: “in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure shall not be subject to the approval or control of the president”.

Servers Were Used

But now the matter has been taken out of INEC’s hands. INEC has turned on itself. No less than 20 officials deployed during the election as electoral officers have now come forward to say that they transmitted results electronically to a central server, using their smart card readers during the 2019 presidential election. In effect, the cat is now out of the bag. INEC and Mahmood Yakubu need to go back to their factory and manufacture other lies about the server.

The question now is how did INEC think it could get away with all these lies, with so many people involved? Why was it necessary for INEC to tell all these lies? It can only be because it was fraudulent with the election. It can only be because it is trying to hide the truth that the result it declared to Nigerians claiming Buhari won the election is a lie. The true result must be the one in its server, which it is trying to say does not exist.

Servers Out of Bounds

So, INEC had to change its line of defence yet again. Atiku wants the court to give him permission to inspect the INEC server. Even if the results posted there have been deleted, they can still be retrieved by forensic experts. What is INEC’s response to this? It does not want Atiku to see its non-existent server that has now resurrected from the dead. It does not want its server released to Atiku, in spite of saying it was not used to collate the result. If it was not used, why not confidently submit it for inspection, knowing nothing would be found there?

The long and short of this is that Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC can no longer be believed. By the earlier denial of not owning any servers, INEC is already guilty of evidence tampering, whether or not the servers contain the results as claimed by Atiku. Not wanting to release the server for inspection shows INEC has something to hide. It shows there is information in the server which it does not want to reveal to Atiku’s legal team and Nigerians.

What all this conveys is that Atiku actually won the election, but INEC manipulated the results against him.

Having been caught in lies upon lies, Mahmood Yakubu should do the honourable thing for a change. It is not realistic to insist that President Buhari should fire him. That is unlikely to happen since he is working to protect the president’s interests. But there is one road still open to Yakubu. He should resign without further delay. He has done enough damage already.

With regard to the presidency, this is no longer a question of nullifying the election. The only option left is to declare Atiku Abubakar as the elected president of Nigeria outrightly.

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FEATURES

The World is Burning; We Need  Renewables Revolution

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By António Guterres

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

Nero was famously accused of fiddling while Rome burned. Today, some leaders are doing worse. They are throwing fuel on the fire. Literally. As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels – pouring billions of dollars more into coal, oil and gas that are driving our deepening climate emergency.

Meanwhile, all the climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unlivable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet. Our world faces climate chaos. New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional. Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. We can see the damage that we are doing to the planet and our societies. It is in the news every day, and no one is immune.

Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy is the answer – to limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves, once again, at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. But the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field. Investors are still backing fossil fuels, and governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas – some $11 million every minute.

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There is a word for favouring short-term relief over long-term well-being. Addiction. We are still addicted to fossil fuels. For the health of our societies and planet, we need to quit. Now. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

…we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

To that end, I have called on the G20 governments to dismantle the coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. I have urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy. And I have proposed a five-point plan to boost renewable energy round the world.

First, we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

In 2020, the world installed five gigawatts of battery storage. We need 600 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030. Clearly, we need a global coalition to get there. Shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting the deployment of such technologies and materials, just as we need them most.

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Third, we must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects. We need to fast-track approvals and put in more efforts to modernise electricity grids. In the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, and 10 years in the United States. In the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects need 22 permits from eight different ministries.

Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.

And fifth, we need to triple investments in renewables. This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

We need more urgency from all global leaders. We are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5°C limit that science tells us is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts. To keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century. But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade. That spells catastrophe.

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The answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential. So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency. But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition.

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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OPINION

The Cost of Living Crisis has a Global Toll

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By Garba Shehu

Last week,  thousands marched in the streets of London to protest the soaring cost of living in Britain and demand the government do more. The story was the same in Italy, in Israel, in Australia, in Germany – where workers are on strike, demanding the government ‘Stop the Inflation Monster’.

Nigeria is no exception.

As the horrors of Covid-19 started to recede, our globally connected world has been hit with a new pandemic: the cost-of-living crisis. The price of staples such as cooking oil and maize flour is rising sharply at a time of heightened global demand and increased shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; the effects of drought and flooding; and the sky-high costs of fuel and energy.

Inflation is surging in countries around the world, from the United States, where the US Central Bank is determined to bring prices down but warns that goal ‘depends on factors we don’t control’; to India, where inflation is having a disastrous effect on the tiny budgets of families already on the breadline as they seek to recover from the economic effects of Covid as well as the recent record-breaking heatwave.

India, producer of a third of the world’s wheat supplies, has had to block exports in the face of domestic food shortages.

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Australia has seen rising fuel, energy and food prices after recent floods ruined crops and the price of fertilizer rose 120% since 2020. A bleak winter is on the horizon for them as power prices soar and increase inflationary pressure.

In the Philippines, workers can no longer afford the fuel to get to work and steep food prices mean many are going hungry.

In the United States, businesses and consumers tell the same stories – pandemic-related supply shortages, rising gas prices and soaring demand have collided with the impact of the war on Ukraine and weather-related issues to create a real crisis for the ordinary man.

The pain suffered by people here today is not local to Nigeria, it is a pain suffered by all people across the world whether their governments are left or right, democracies like ours or dictatorships, whether they are the world’s richest economy or one of the poorest. Citizens of the world are struggling today to pay for the bare essentials as we rebound from the humanitarian and economic devastation of the pandemic.

This global systems failure is hard for the average man, or woman, in the street to grasp. As they struggle to feed their children, put fuel in their car, keep their businesses solvent and their hopes and dreams on track, it is easy to look to local government leaders as the cause of their pain and anger and seek to blame them for the current situation.

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However, just as no country was immune to the coronavirus, in the 21st century, no country is immune to this new global cost-of-living pandemic.

Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism, as the world came together to defeat Covid, so we will come together to forge a way out of the current crisis, through cooperation with our close neighbours, with the Commonwealth and the newly strengthened allegiances with our traditional western allies and international partners.

But resolution also depends on strong actions at home: Nigeria’s ambitious infrastructure developments will help set the country on strong foundations for sustainable and equitable growth. We have faced international criticism in recent years for our focus on boosting domestic manufacturing and production. Yet today, all countries are thinking again about the importance of their energy and food independence and security.

Nigerian initiatives to protect our farmers against unfair competition from subsidized imports have boosted our rice production to the point where imports are near zero. And more is still to be achieved. We still struggle against the protectionist policies of blocs such as the European Union which undermine Africa’s self-sufficiency – but the EU, as they close the door on Putin’s Russian gas, will need to step up and end their hypocrisy on green energy policy. Africa’s abundant energy resources offer a clear solution: with UK and EU investment, our planned 4,000 km pipeline will bring Nigerian gas to Europe.

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Here at home, we have recently voted through a bill that will allow state governments to generate and transmit their own electricity. We are also decentralizing the national grid through renewable driven mini-grids.

Despite calls from the IMF and World Bank to remove the fuel subsidy, Nigeria has resisted a move that would double the price for citizens overnight with untenable human consequences. Instead, a focus in boosting our refinery capacity will ramp up in the next 24 months as new companies come on board.

These upticks in domestic food and fuel production will both help diminish the threat of inflation, and our transport infrastructure developments in road and rail will alleviate many of the difficulties of food distribution.

The coming months will be hard – for the world not just Nigeria – as the cost-of-living crisis exacts a global toll.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

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OPINION

The Birthplace of Disunity

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By Richard Ikiebe

The genesis of organised politics in Nigeria is steeped in and the direct result of press agitation. At every stage in the evolution of the Nigerian state, the role of the media has been prominent. Very early in organised politics in Nigeria, newspapers took the front row positions of influence. Erudite media historian, Alfred Omu, tells us that the publisher of the Weekly Record, Thomas Jackson and Herbert Macaulay, publisher of Lagos News were the initiators and promoters of the first and most prominent political party – the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP).

The Clifford Constitution of 1922 enabled organised electoral politics; as a result, the NNDP was formed, and two new newspapers, the Nigerian Spectator and the Nigerian Advocate emerged, purposely as what Omu called, “electioneering newspapers”.

Today, after 100 years since the nation’s very first stroppy experiment with elective democracy in 1922, it would not be entirely correct to say nothing much has changed.

We have gone from tolerable experimentation to something far worse: we now have a firmly established pseudo-democratic political culture (the “neither bird nor fish” type), most of it curated through the media by the selfish political elite.

No doubt, the press led in the fight against the British Colonial Government for independence. But as Omu tells us, quite early in the political history of Nigeria, newspapers became “outlets for electoral policies and propaganda”. The Lagos Daily News, for example, became Macaulay’s “stormy mouthpiece”, and for the better part of 25 years, the NNDP and its leader, Macaulay, almost singularly dominated the Nigerian press and political scenes.

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Politicians succeeded in stealthily dragging the media with them into ethno-partisan politics to fight real or imagined political opponents became apparent in the mid-1940s. Later, after the nation’s long romance with militarism, a shadowy political elite also prodded the media to revolt against the military rule; they did it as if with one voice for the return of the country to democracy.

In 1906, Lagos (which became a Colony of Britain in 1861), and Oil River Protectorate with headquarters in Calabar, were joined to become the Southern Protectorate. Eight years later in 1914, the patched work merged the contiguous British colonial Northern and Southern Protectorates – on paper. Thus, Nigeria is a geopolitical construct of the British by fiat through amalgamation in name only.

Professor James Coleman, in his 1958 book on the background to Nigeria’s nationalism stated that the nation was birthed from “Three separate, independent, and uncoordinated forces”. Ever since, the nation has behaved more like cobbled patches of ethnic nationalities, and barely the image of one united nation. As such, forces that fostered geo-political cleavages that would define Nigeria’s political structural contentions should not have surprised anyone; the surprise is that the entities have remained somewhat together, a perpetually unresolved problem.

The press in politics:

The decade between the 1920s and 1940s marked a significant era in the history of the media in Nigeria. Several momentous political occurrences in the period defined the character of the Nigerian media and the nature of her politics, in the period leading to independence. A decade and a half earlier, media power had gradually begun to shift from the old and established elite – descendants of freed slaves – to the emerging young, indigenous, educated elite. What the new leaders lacked by way of experience, said Omu, they made up for in their unbridled zeal and adept use of the press to insistently demand for self-rule. The media of this period began to have a stronger influence on public discourse. Its influence and confidence grew beyond a small circle of the urban elite to include a growing number of ordinary literate Nigerians; it was the beginning of what could have been a populist press.

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It was during this period that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his newspaper, the West African Pilot, arrived from the United States of America by the way of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) to set a new tone for the press and politics, redefining both. Chief Bola Ige in his political masterpiece said that Azikiwe and the West African Pilot infused the Nigerian press with an American brand of journalism, with vibrancy and colour in style, urgency in tone and assertive language, along with new production techniques.

In Prof. Alfred Omu’s impressive industry study of the early Nigerian press, which spans the first six decades, he called Nigeria’s early press a political press that played a crucial role in “cultural nationalism and in resistance to imperialism”. According to him, this early press “Attracted many people of intellectual competence and quality”, and it “Provided the most distinguished intellectual forum in Nigerian history”. They “Laid a good foundation for the new epoch of nationalism”. Sadly, their brand of promoted nationalism quickly derailed; it benefited the emerging Nigerian nation-state. Their specialty was the promotion of ethnic or regional nationalism, for which the press was a veritable tool.

In the immediate post-independent Nigeria (leading to 1966), true professionalism seemed to have vanished from most newsrooms of press organisations. The few that remained steadfast were torn between serving their ethnic groups or regions and serving the larger nascent nation-state. They were also torn between intersectional conflicts of allegiance: loyalty to the profession or to ethnic politicians who owned and used the press as stepping-stones to national political relevance and prominence.

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According to Dayo Sobowale, the majority “promoted inter-ethnic hatred as well as inter-ethnic distrust and acrimony that eventually led to the collapse of the first republic” And Dare concurs, noting that through crude and overzealous partisanship, journalists transformed opponents of ruling parties into dissidents. Outside the commonly acknowledged but limiting role of the press in agitating for independence, the problem that the press may have contributed in the more fundamental manner to the forging of a dysfunctional post-colonial identity and character that modern Nigerian state currently has.

Dr. Ikiebe, who is the Chairman of the Board of Businessday, is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Pan-Atlantic University, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos.

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