Implications Of Inconclusive Polls Conducted By inec for Nigeria’s Democracy
BEVERLY HILLS, March 24, (THEWILL) – The suggestion of inconclusiveness following the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s suspension of the process in last weekend’s legislative rerun election in Rivers State has increased concerns about the commission's readiness to handle elections.
The Rivers polls were marred by varied degree of irregularities, necessitating the cancellation of elections in eight local government areas.
INEC's Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, had said the election suffered some disruptions “including the barricading of some INEC offices and registration area centres used for the distribution of electoral materials.”
The commission admitted that the election was characterized by high level of threats, violence and intimidation of election officials and voters, orchestrated by well-armed thugs and miscreants allegedly acting on behalf of some politicians. The situation climaxed with the loss of lives, kidnappings, ballot snatching, diversion of officials and materials, among others.
THEWILL is worried that the Rivers scenario is coming on the heels of previous inconclusive elections conducted by the commission.
The rerun elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States ended on the same sour note. Even supplementary and by-elections staggered in some states; Akwa Ibom, Abia, Kogi, Imo etc. proved knotty for the commission to handle.
Unfortunately, the factors that necessitated these elections could not have come as a surprise, as INEC had over three months to prepare for each of them. We are afraid that the emerging trend may creep into the governorship elections due to hold later this year in Edo and Ondo States.
Since Prof. Mahmood Yakubu took over as INEC Chairman, its best performance has been a far cry from the gains of previous elections. To say the least, we are disappointed at these developments and what they portend for Nigeria’s democratic highway.
THEWILL is profoundly disturbed by the torrents of inconclusive elections, especially against the backdrop of their limited scope of coverage. If INEC is unable to cope in rerun elections involving only one state at a time, how would it, in one day, manage the general elections in 2019, involving the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)?
When erstwhile chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega introduced the innovative card reader technology and customized ballot papers, among others, rigging and violence were significantly reduced. Although the system was still dogged by imperfections, concerned watchers had heaved a sigh of relief that at last, the era of ballot box snatching were numbered. But regrettably, politicians inordinate bid for power seem to have again overwhelmed the electoral turf.
INEC cannot claim to be oblivious of the security challenges that go with elections. If thugs could so brazenly disrupt the polls, of what use was the heavy deployment of soldiers, police and other security agencies? Were the attacks not envisaged? Did concerned agencies not gather intelligence report before these elections? What roles do INEC staff play in all of these? These are soul-searching questions the commission needs to answer.
If elections are shabbily held, they pave way for post-election litigation, with consequential tolls on the nation’s democratic process. THEWILL warns against undue interference from any quarters, including government, in the smooth conduct of elections. This is the only way to ensure sustainable voter confidence in the system. These negative signs of unpreparedness must stop.
In the final analysis, INEC must come up with a perfect model which would avert violence, rigging, ballot-box snatching and inconclusive elections.