• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Future elections in peril as credibility dips

INEC extends Edo, Ondo voter registration to June 9

The just concluded off-cycle gubernatorial election in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa States has shown that the tradition of shambolic exercise has come to stay in Nigeria.

It has remained a matter of brute force and whose pocket is deeper than the other.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appears to be a lord to itself as the Commission does not care about the feeling of Nigerians.

Read also: CUPP commends INEC for successful off-cycle elections amid challenges

Many Nigerians are of the view that the conduct of the gubernatorial elections was a sign that the country still has a long way to go in ensuring credible, free and fair polls.

Across the states, reports of electoral violations were rampant with incidents of violence, ballot-snatching, abduction of election officials, voter suppression and in some dire circumstances, killings.

From the start of the vote, it was clear that voters were reluctant to go to the polls, for fear of the violence that marred past elections.

Despite the massive deployment of security forces, the vote was disrupted by violence, intimidation and vote buying.

Some polling stations even had to suspend the process due to the discovery of pre-filled result sheets. These irregularities raised doubts about the integrity of the votes.

Many observers say the level of vote-buying and other electoral irregularities in the gubernatorial polls was disappointing.

Commenting on the conduct of the polls, Nigerian Civil Situation Room expressed disappointment with INEC handling of the exercise, describing it as a major setback in the nation’s democratic development.

The body said the Commission did not show that it had learned from the challenges it faced in conducting the federal election early in the year.

“These elections represent a major setback in Nigeria’s democratic development,” it said in statement signed by its convener, Yunusa Ya’u, and co-conveners, Mimidoo Achakpa and Franklin Oloniju.

The group further stated, “The disturbing reports of high levels of results falsification and other forms of electoral irregularities in the governorship elections in the three states raise serious questions about the credibility of elections and the future of democracy in Nigeria.”

It, therefore, called on the INEC to fully review the elections in Kogi and Imo States to identify the incidents of malpractice that took place and reflect the genuine vote of the people.”

It also called for an independent audit of election administration in Nigeria and compliance with electoral law by INEC.

“Without this, we are worried that not much improvement can be achieved,” it added.

Read also: INEC presents certificate of return to Ododo, governor-elect of Kogi State

There have been wide condemnation of INEC handling of the election in the three states in recent days, many Nigerians are afraid that the hope of the nation having a credible poll conducted by INEC in the future looks slim.

Reacting to the conduct of the polls, Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), said it has become obvious that there will never be free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.

According to him, “Nigerian leaders do not have the capacity, will and interest to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country.”

He noted that it does not matter whether the election is off-season, general or a rerun, the leadership will mess it up.

He also described the electoral body, INEC as the worst electoral saboteur in Nigeria, followed by state electoral commissions and security agencies.

“It doesn’t matter if it is off-season or general election or even bye-election. @inecnigeria is the worst in sabotaging electoral democracy in nigeria, followed by the state electoral commissions, as well as security agencies who are programmed to ensure votes don’t count anymore. We need #RevolutionNow!” Sowore said.

Experts said flawed elections in Nigeria had reflected in shoddy governance and impeded development at all levels.

They said that flawed polls threaten Nigeria’s democracy, while there cannot be good governance, accountability for the people of Nigeria if nothing is done.

Sadly, the polls came few months after the 2023 general election, which many had described as one of the worse in the nation’s history, despite promises by the electoral commission that the process would be different.

Experts say the situation has been fuelled by impunity and lack of desire to punish election offenders by government and INEC.

They said if the trend is not checked Nigerians’ dream of having good governance and accountability may just be a mirage.

Read also: Off-cycle elections, snatch-and-run democracy: Courtocracy, Inecracy or both?

Many Nigerians have called for concerted efforts among stakeholders to check the ugly trend.

“What we need is a comprehensive overhauling of our electoral system. I do not think INEC as presently constituted can give us a free and fair election.

“But my fear is that those benefiting from the system may not want any meaningful change to see the light of the day.

“The level of vote-buying during the off-cycle polls was alarming, and I hope that the EFCC and ICPC will prosecute those vote-buyers they arrested across the three states. This will serve as deterrent to others,” Hameed Muritala, a media and development practitioner said.

In recent months after the 2023 polls, many stakeholders and political actors have canvassed several solutions to the nation’s electoral woes.

Part of the problems identified is impunity and the lack of punishment for electoral offenders to serve as deterrent to others. Others have also called for holistic overhauling of INEC to be able to deliver free and fair elections.

There have also been called for removal of the power to appoint INEC chairman and national commissioners from the Presidency to give more transparency to the electoral commission.

Speaking with BusinessDay, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, professor of political science, said there was nothing wrong with the current institutional framework of INEC, but noted that the people heading the electoral commission were the problem.

He further pointed out that the Muhammed Uwais electoral committee recommendations had provided solutions to Nigeria’s electoral problems.

According to him, “The is nothing wrong with the current institutional framework under which they are conducting the elections, it is the personnel and people heading those institutions that are the ones subverting them.

“There’s is nothing wrong with those institutions and interns of reforms there is nothing new that we are going to say that the Muhammed Uwais panel on electoral reform did not proposed.

“In terms of making sure that the hands of the executive is removed from the conduct of polls, the panel proposed that, but it was not implemented. The man who setup that committee did not stay alive to implement the recommendations that is the issue.

“Of course, I agree with you that people don’t act in a vacuum, you are talking about those who what to continue to command influence. The Uwais recommendations was that various stakeholders should be part of appointing individuals to INEC, but it is now left in the dust.”

Read also: Bayelsa: INEC announces two remaining LGAs results by 12 noon

James Adeshina, gubernatorial candidate in the 2023 polls in Lagos State, said it is imperative for INEC to address the shortcomings of the electoral process and restore public confidence in the democratic system.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must take decisive action to address the root causes of violence and irregularities, including strengthening security measures, ensuring transparency in the collation process, and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

“Furthermore, the allegations of vote-buying and manipulation raise serious ethical concerns.

“The buying of votes undermines the very foundation of democratic elections, where the will of the people should be the sole determinant of outcomes.

“Such practices not only distort the electoral process but also perpetuate a culture of corruption and undermine the integrity of governance.”

Speaking further, he said, “There is an urgent need for voter education and sensitisation to promote active participation in the electoral process.

“Civic engagement programmes can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among citizens, encouraging them to exercise their voting rights and hold their elected representatives accountable.”

Former deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Timi Frank, expressed scepticism about the possibility of free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in 2027 under President Bola Tinubu and the APC.

Frank highlighted the alarming levels of electoral fraud, manipulation, and rigging witnessed, particularly in Kogi State.

He said: “What happened in Imo and Kogi is a clear indication of the kind of elections Nigerians will witness in 2027.

“Our electoral system is presently in dire straits under our highly compromised Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has now graduated from rigging by manipulating the INEC Result View (IReV) portal and the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) to writing results of polling units before the people cast their ballot.”

He argued that such practices indicate a need for more credibility in future electoral exercises.

Read also: INEC publishes 90% of election results for Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa on IReV

Frank lamented the role of INEC, which he referred to as a rigging department within the APC, and expressed concern that the judiciary, now perceived as the ruling party’s legal arm, tends to legitimise the electoral body’s actions.