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By NBF News

Since that revelation by former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, on the undercurrents that determine the outcome of elections in Nigeria , I had been an ardent critic of electoral umpires. I recall an article published in two national dailies in 2003 shortly after the election.

In the said commentary, I had castigated erstwhile INEC Chairman, Sir Abel Guobadia, for the electoral magic in Ogun and Rivers State . I had recommendied that he should be hauled into the gulag.

After, the 2007 election, I found myself in the same flush of rage. I was angry with Professor Maurice Iwu for the outcome of the election in some states especially my state, Edo . I was convinced that Professor Osunbor could not have won that election, fair and square. And for that, I blamed Iwu. Now I know better. And may God bless Duke for his uncommon boldness. It will only take a penitent heart to spill the beans in the manner he did. Many people have labelled him a hypocrite after that expose but I beg to differ. It is a mark of courage, patriotism and self-purification for someone who profited from a crime to openly admit it and repudiate the act.

But it doesn't matter now what name we may wish to call Duke. What matters is the import of his revelation. He chronicled how governors rig elections in states with active connivance of security personnel and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) as chief actors in the rigging game.

The structure of INEC is such that there is only one chairman, six zonal commissioners (one for each zone of the federation), 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, 774 electoral officers for the 774 local government councils, and 120,000 polling officers for the 120,000 polling booths across the nation. This is the line up for the conduct of any general election. It looked complex and probably designed to check fraud, but it has also proved most vulnerable to compromise. Each of these officers has absolute power such that once result had been declared by one officer, the other cannot invalidate it.

The RECs are in charge of states and going by Duke's testimony, it is at the level of these RECs that elections are rigged. And such rigging takes place without the chairman's knowledge. This should sound a note of warning to Professor Attahiru Jega. He must keep his eyes on the RECs lest they wreck him. It is on this note that one was moved to sympathise with both Iwu and Guobadia and in fact any other electoral umpire. It is true that as chairmen of the commission in their respective days, the buck stopped on their table but it is truer and clearer that organising free and fair election is a function of the purity of the general polity rather than the uprightness or otherwise of one man.

This is also why the virulent accusations and attacks on Iwu by some politicians need further examination and should not be taken on their face value. Former Governor of Lagos State , Bola Tinubu, for instance has found a new pastime since rigging the state election (all governors rigged, according to Duke) and installing his own man, Babatunde Fashola. While one may consider this rigging productive as Fashola has been outstanding in governance but it goes without saying that Tinubu or any other politician should not play Pontius Pilate. They are all culpable. I am not a fan of the PDP but the manner the Action Congress had been denigrating the PDP, Iwu and any person outside the AC fold smacks of infantile logic.

The latest of such attack was the accusation by Tinubu that INEC under Iwu pirated the software of a Canadian firm during the 2007 election. Pirated? He even alleged that INEC awarded the contract for the supply of the Direct Data Capture, DDC, machines to a Canadian firm. This is the height of fallacy. It is common knowledge that a Nigerian firm executed the contract and the promoters of the company have severally admitted to it. Where then did Tinubu get his cock and bull story that INEC pirated the software. Why would a man of Tinubu's age and status as former governor go about spinning falsehood?

It is even an insult to insinuate that a job done by an indigenous company was executed by a foreign firm. This is detestable and it does not in any way advance the cause of democracy. Tinubu should learn to draw a line between mischief and good manners. I recommend he reads the treatise of Duke and learn to admit his own obvious frailties rather than his fixation on the frailties of others.

Tinubu has shown a blatant revulsion for INEC each time the decision of the electoral body goes contrary to his wish. He must learn to wean himself of this and resist the temptation of extending same to the new INEC team. The truth of the matter is that Tinubu is not a political saint and he should not be deluded that people believe his spin. No right-thinking person will because every Nigerian now sees the politicians for who they really are.

If I have to choose the patriot between Tinubu and Duke, I will choose the latter. Duke is the hero for finding the courage to blow the whistle which Tinubu held in his mouth for years and pretended it never existed.

Iyare, student, writes from Ekpoma