By Okey Ndibe
Last week, the European Union’s team that monitored Nigeria’s 2023 general elections issued a final report. Let’s just say the EU observers, led by Barry Andrews, were far from wowed by INEC’s performance. They x-rayed serious shortcomings in the elections, concluding that these had “damaged trust in INEC.”
There’s no other way to slice it: it was a damning verdict. If its denunciatory language seemed restrained or tame to some, it’s because of a fundamental misperception.
Trust is at the center of any meaningful relationship between people or other entities. When trust is eroded or – worse – altogether scrubbed, little else is left. The absence of trust vitiates the legitimacy of a political mandate.
Despite their best effort to sound polite, the EU, in effect, indicted INEC. In the same breath, they rained on Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ongoing party.
The EU’s eyewitnesses did not tell Nigerians anything new. They merely echoed a fact well known to any Nigerian who has been paying attention since February 25, 2023.
After much solemn posturing and stirring pledges of preparedness, the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC tore its image to shreds in a paroxysm of fraud, hypocrisy and duplicity. A people with moral acumen would be outraged by INEC’s farce of a presidential election. They would abominate the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of an electoral contest rife with irregularities, violence and egregious manipulation.
Like the EU, I suspect that most Nigerians know that Tinubu never came close to meeting the electoral requirements that warrant his declaration as the victorious candidate. He’s the product of electoral hanky-panky, a process bereft – as EU monitors aptly stated – of trust.
Even so, Tinubu and his acolytes persist in self-delusion. In what amounts to a triple assault on language, logic and morality, he has declared that his election was the most credible in Nigeria’s history. If he believes it, then Nigeria is in the hands, alas, of a man totally at war with the truth and reality.
But what does one make of his team’s response to the EU’s devastating scorecard? His spokesman, Dele Alake, deployed familiar bromides in a longwinded statement.
Alake (who, for the record, was my colleague at the now defunct National Concord) alleged that the EU had long plotted to “discredit the 2023 general elections,” especially “the presidential election, clearly and fairly won by the then candidate of All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Tinubu’s campaign, he stated, had alerted Nigerians to the EU’s “unrelenting…assault on the credibility of the electoral process, the sovereignty of our country and on our ability as a people to organize ourselves.
“We find it preposterous and unconscionable that in this day and age, any foreign organization of whatever hue can continue to insist on its own yardstick and assessment as the only way to determine the credibility and transparency of our elections.”
Alake’s word salad continued: “Now that the organization has submitted what it claimed to be its final report on the elections, we can now categorically let Nigerians and the entire world know that we were not unaware of the machinations of the European Union to sustain its, largely, unfounded bias and claims on the election outcomes.
“For emphasis, we want to reiterate that the 2023 general elections, most especially the presidential election, won by President Bola Tinubu/All Progressives Congress, were credible, peaceful, free, fair and the best organized general elections in Nigeria since 1999.
“There is no substantial evidence provided by the European Union or any foreign and local organization that is viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes.”
Well, you get the point. My friend Alake believes one can overcome truth and overwhelm reality by throwing a profusion of phrases.
In other words, if the truth stands in the way – in this case, the fact that Tinubu is a possessor of purloined political goods – use a torrent of hackneyed sentences as well as wild, unproven accusations to obfuscate reality.
Let’s recognize the ploy for what it is: the (hopeless) art of seeking to impugn the truth with verbal diarrhea.
Alake, like Tinubu, knows that he’s trafficking in falsehood. Even so, the temptation to play the ostrich is irresistible. After all, there is the sheer thrill of power, the lavish bounty that can be obtained from exercising the prerogatives of an office, even one procured by crooked means.
Yet, there should be no doubt in Tinubu’s or Alake’s mind that Nigerians and the world are not deceived. In the eyes of those who still care for the truth, within Nigeria and without, the occupant of presidential power in Nigeria lacks legitimacy.
The EU is not the cause or source of Tinubu’s headache. He is plagued, instead, by a far more prosaic foe: the truth!
If Nigeria’s judiciary has some spine, then the defenestration of this impostor should go without saying.