For INEC’s Independence

INEC’s performance during the first round of elections this year was well below average. The electoral body should strive to achieve a pass mark in this Saturday’s elections. It has no excuse to give anymore.

This week’s polls can be better than the previous ones, because INEC and everyone else have an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. All the rigging strategies deployed are now known. Accordingly, we hereby remind INEC, soldiers, police, and politicians of the major loopholes that need to be blocked this time round.

First, INEC must make use of the card reader compulsory, as provided in the Electoral Act. On February 23, the electronic device introduced to check over-voting was abandoned in many remote areas. TV cameras showed people queuing and voting in cities, but both journalists and observers did not visit most rural areas. It is from inaccessible villages that votes were manufactured.

Second, representatives of all political parties must be allowed to watch the back-end of INEC’s computer where results are collated. Everyone knows that the results INEC announced were different from the results announced in polling units mostly in the south. In the north, there was no voting in many places and no results were announced at polling units as prescribed by the electoral law. INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu should make a clear announcement: all results must be announced at polling units.

Third, the activities of the military, police and other security operatives should be limited. Like INEC, they are public institutions – they belong to everybody and to nobody. If they were really impartial, they would have prevented hired thugs from snatching and burning ballot boxes and papers in parts of Lagos. No fewer than 40 Nigerians were killed on Election Day! Nobody’s ambition is worth their blood. Election is not war. There are many wars for soldiers to fight now; election is not one of them.

Fourth, the issue of voting materials arriving late should no longer be reported. The electoral body has had enough time to ensure this does not happen in any part of the country, unless it deliberately seeks to disenfranchise some Nigerians. Party representatives should ensure close monitoring of election materials as they are moved from one place to another. Result sheets must not be missing.

Many people already discouraged by the events of February 23 should persevere to vote again. Leaving polling stations free for thugs alone will do more harm than good. Eventually, many cases will be decided by election tribunals and higher courts. The courts will need evidence, and one cannot gather evidence without being at the scene of action.

By now, INEC and security agents must have identified flashpoints. Rivers and Lagos states should be watched closely. But we are not advocating flooding the states with armed men. Rather, security operatives should establish communication links with community leaders ahead of Voting Day with a view to avoiding youth restiveness or any confrontation. Usually, it is alleged partiality or misconduct of military men and INEC officials that leads to protests and violence.

INEC is challenged, once more, to prove it is an impartial umpire. It has to live up to its name: Independent National Electoral Commission. Being truly “independent” is the irreducible minimum requirement for conducting free, fair and credible polls.

With: The Oracle Today

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