The Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS) has issued a statement regarding the forthcoming election.
In the communique signed by CORFEPS Chairman, Vice Chairman and Publicity Secretary, the group called on all Nigerians to eschew violence and deploy their patriotic understanding to embrace the official results declared by INEC when the time comes, adding that this is to be done in the true spirit of fair game, as we have no other country to call our own.
Below is the full statement from CORFEPS.
CORFEPS STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF THE NATION
THE EMERGING COLOUR OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST ON SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2023 AMIDST THE CHALLENGES OF THE CURRENT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NAIRA SWAP POLICY
Preamble: The Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS) is a Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) registered organisation made up of top civil servants who retired after attaining the grade of Permanent Secretary and higher. Accordingly, the Council is made up of retired Federal Permanent Secretaries and retired Heads of the Civil Service of the Federation.
The Motto of the Council is: Continuing Patriotic Service
Key among its objectives are:
i. “Engaging in meaningful discourse on important and relevant issues of national development, including matters pertaining to the public service”; and
ii. “Carrying out periodic objective assessment of the overall performance of the nation and giving constructive advice on key public policy issues”.
The Council, whose members are as diverse as the nation in its composition, and is committed to non-partisanship in its operations, having reviewed the State of the Nation with particular focus on the Emerging Colour of the Presidential Contest on Saturday 25 February 2023 amidst the Challenges of the Current Implementation of the Naira Swap Policy,
hereby states as follows:
The Major Candidates
1. For the first time since 1999 the top contenders with a chance of winning the forthcoming Presidential election are from the three major ethnic groups in the country, namely: Ahmed Bola Tinubu, APC; Atiku Abubakar, PDP; and Peter Obi, LP.
2. We wish to observe that notwithstanding the politically calculated spins on conditions and capabilities of the candidates, all three leading candidates have been able to prove their mettle by travelling the length and breadth of the country to cover the schedules of their parties in a wide array of rallies, consultations, and interactions with diverse groups across economic, political, socio-cultural, and religious divides.
3. What the country is now left with, largely, is the vision and the programs of the various political parties and the perceived capacity of the candidates in terms of their truthfulness, courage and political will to deliver the promises contained in their manifestoes, based on their track records in previous political offices and socio-economic endeavours.
4. We are happy that despite the initial apprehensions and the recent challenges of fuel and swap-induced naira scarcity, Government and its electoral and security agencies have been able to uphold the timetable and that the elections will commence on Saturday 25 February 2023 as scheduled.
5. However, the make-up and coloration of the 2023 candidates have turned out to be a departure from what has been playing out since 1999. By way of reminder, in 1999 the contest was between Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae both of Yoruba ethnic stock in an all-South region contest. In 2003 it was between Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammad Buhari in a 2-way North- South regional contest. In 2007 it was between Umaru Yar’Adua, Muhammad Buhari and Atiku Abubakar a 3-way intra-regional all-North contest. In 2011 it was between Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammad Buhari and Nuhu Ribadu a 3-way contest but between 2 regions. In 2015 it was between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammad Buhari, again a 2-way North- South contest. Whereas in 2019 it was between Muhammad Buhari and Atiku Abubakar in a straight forward 2-way all-North contest like in 1999.
6. While the 2023 contest is showing the beauty of democracy by bringing out formidable front runners, the emergence of the three leading candidates and the energy trend of their campaigns appear to be eliciting the 3-way regional party-induced ethnic cleavage that held sway at Independence and the immediate post-independence era. An ethnic cleavage between our three dominant ethnic groups is like an axe at the very foundation of our country’s existence as a nation. This calls for concern.
7. It should be stressed that the need to avoid the pitfalls of the immediate post-independence politics was what led the Military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to institute an experiment with the 2- party system from 1989-1993, an arrangement that was upheld and midwifed by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998 to produce a President for the nation in 1999 after 16 years of military intervention.
8. Given the impending 3-way fierce contest between the three leading candidates, a litany of CONCERNS is now beginning to manifest, namely:
– How to reconcile the frenzy of social media postulations and predictions with the actual results declared by INEC, as the ground truth of each candidate’s electoral strength.
– How the candidates would take the election results.
– How the winner and his supporters would manage and/or celebrate their victory.
– How the losing candidates will take their loss and rein in the anger and/or frustration of their supporters.
– How Governments, at both federal and State levels, and the elite would manage what our regional variability in the density of social media savvy populations portends for the triggering of social unrest.
The Naira Swap Policy
9. We acknowledge the calculated good intentions of the Naira Swap policy and commend Government for it. However, we have serious concerns with the implementation of the policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the deposit banks. Indeed, judging from the pains and hardship being experienced by the generality of the populace because of the non- availability of the new notes while the old notes have been withdrawn from circulation, we are constrained to state that it does appear that the electorate is now more prone to the financial inducement that is one of the key malpractices that the policy was intended to curb in the first place.
10. In this regard, we wish to point out that attacking Vote Buying syndrome with strategies that seek to block voters from taking moneys from Candidates focuses merely on the RETAIL end of the election process chain, whereas the real inducement to influence or compromise election outcomes might have already taken place at the WHOLESALE level.
11. A lot of this wholesale level of inducement is what has been observed over the past months in the postures and pronouncements coming out of many quarters including private print and electronic media houses, leadership of cultural, ethnic, regional, traditional, and religious groups, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and labour unions as well as prayer merchants. The entire nation was treated to how these played out in the past by the open confession of a now late Senator, and in the revelation of the alleged disbursements from certain government agencies which showed the importance attached to “taking care” of security agencies and the above listed groups in any efforts aimed at influencing electoral outcomes.
Notwithstanding these concerns, the die is now cast and all that remains is how to manage the election process and the post-election period.
Managing the Election Process and the Post-Election Period
i. We call on the CBN to reappraise its channels of currency distribution and to direct the deposit banks to activate all their physical cash and electronic fund disbursement strategies immediately, to ease the strain of access to the new currencies by the populace throughout the election period.
ii. Recognising that the confidence of the populace and, indeed, of the political parties themselves in accepting the results of the election is contingent on the integrity of the electoral processes, we call on INEC to, at all levels of its operations, live up to the expectation of Nigerians and the international community as a truly independent entity, immune to the extraneous influences of agents of either the political parties or the sitting administrations, whether in physical forms or through remote cyber hacking challenges.
iii. We also call on the Intelligence Community to be alert and proactive in its duty of identifying security flash spots to fish out observed malpractices and for the security enforcement agencies to ensure a level playing ground in taking appropriate decisive actions as required by law.
iv. To ensure effective security for the elections, we call on the Federal Government to, through its appropriate agencies, attend to the needs of the Intelligence Community, to avoid any inducement temptations that may arise from inadequate provision for their out-of-station allowances and other sundry hardware requirements.
v. We appeal to the conscience of all Public/Civil Servants to remember their traditional non-partisan role and display exemplary patriotism in managing the affairs of the nation at this critical time when their Ministers and other political office holders are out in the political field.
vi. Judging from the provisions of section 134 of the Constitution, which is binding on INEC for the declaration of a winner in a presidential election, the stark realities of our national situation in this Constitutional Democracy is that all the major ethnic groups need each other to produce the President of the Federation, as no ethnic group can make it alone.
vii. Accordingly, we enjoin whoever emerges as winner to be humbled by the reality that he owes his victory mainly to the support outside his ethnic group while at the same time imploring those that fall short of meeting those conditions not to see their result from the narrow prism of ethnic resentment but as a clarion call to double their efforts, to foster our joint aspiration for national unity; and finally,
viii. We call on all Nigerians to eschew violence and deploy their patriotic understanding to embrace the results declared by INEC, in the true spirit of fair game, as we have no other country to call our own.
Issued this 22nd Day of February 2023
M. Yayale Ahmed CFR (National Chairman); Engr. Ebele Okeke CFR (1st Vice- Chairman); Goke Adegoroye OON (Publicity Secretary).