INEC… Setting new template for credible polls
THE 2015 elections will be like no other elections in the history of Nigeria. Several reformations and scientific approach have been introduced into the electoral process under the Chairmanship of Professor Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science, who was appointed by the incumbent president in 2010, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2010.
One of the factors that would make the 2015 election standout and unique is the fact that Prof. Jega would be the first electoral chairman, in the history of the country to conduct two general elections consecutively, despite the tremendous pressure on the presidency by politicians and other political interest groups to show him the way out.
As a matter of fact, tomorrow election will be among the most politically active election in Nigeria’s modern history. For instance, expectations are high as to who wins the presidential election between the two major presidential candidates, President Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Maj Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the rival All Progressives Congress (APC).
For the first time in the democratic history of Nigeria, 24 hours to the election, the integrity of the electoral umpire has remain absolutely intact to such extent “no one could rightly predict, guess or rather hold on to any prove that the outcome of the election will go in favour of the ruling party. This is a situation never recorded in the democratic past of the country.”
As at when this report is being filed, the integrity of the electoral umpire is yet to be eroded as to where it tilts or whom it will favour.”
Jega and his team have build a legacy, different to the previous ones where the opposition parties always have the cause to “fault the integrity of the electoral umpire few days to the elections.”
These elections, obviously, will be keenly contested and won on the basis of the wishes of the electorate.
Indeed, one person that can never lose this election, either way the result goes is President Jonathan, under whose administration the electoral umpire has gained substantial freedom.
To a considerable extent, the INEC under Jega has been able to make the Nigerian electoral process more efficient and in conformity with global best practices.
Althogh, credible elections are not a function of what INEC alone does or fails to do; but more a function of the commitment of all stakeholders to make positive and scrupulous contributions to the system.
The umpire has been able to disseminate adequate information and regards the conduct of tomorrow’s election, if not completely to the understanding of all Nigerians but at least better than what it used to be like in the past.
Some other unique aspect of the exercise Nigerians will witnessed, as they go to the polls tomorrow to elect a president, is the use of Permanent Voters Card and Card Readers, which was a new innovations in the nation’s electoral process but aimed to further enhance free, fair and credible elections.
It becomes very interesting that even the ruling party and some of its stakeholders have the cause to fault some positions of the umpire to the extent of calling for the removal of Jega, while the opposition argues in different direction.
The present leadership of INEC has always taken such challenges as lessons necessitating additional policy measures to further insulate the electoral system against potential breaches.
It has however gives no room in its planning to make tomorrow elections the best in this country’s history, which could be if other stakeholders, including the electorate, also play their roles in making things work.
Tomorrows polls will be characterised by some innovations aimed to fortify the system against abuse by partisan desperadoes.
As from now, elections henceforth will be conducted strictly with the biometric Register of Voters. The Addendum List, which is susceptible to abuse, is being eliminated. This list was generated for the 2011 elections from the Manual Register to accommodate persons who did come out to register during the general exercise early that year, but whose data were lost along the line and thus are not captured on the biometric register.
The commission has also succeeded in introducing the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise nationwide, towards updating the biometric Register of Voters.
Basically, the exercise was targeted at persons who turned 18 years since the last registration and have thus not been biometrically captured; as well as those who, though were 18 years and above during the last exercise, did not come out to register.
Also crucial is the fact that persons whose names are on the Addendum List can be captured by the CVR.
Before the exercise takes off, a t display of the biometric register as composed at the various polling units took place; and it is imperative that every registered person – even while in possession of a Temporary Voter Card (TVC) – go out to verify that their name is on the displayed register. (Such display was done before the Anambra State governorship election in November 2013, but many residents, unfortunately, didn’t take advantage of it.) Whoever can’t find his/her name when the biometric register is displayed is required to come out during the CVR to get their data recaptured.
The important of the exercise was the fact that the biometric exercise has helped greatly in eliminating multiple registration, which has been a bane to credible elections in the past.
Multiple registrations by itself, is a punishable electoral offence. But also, the Advanced Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) software being used by INEC for de-duplication of voters’ consolidated data automatedly retains only one instance of an individual’s data and eliminates the extras.
Some of the persons who accused INEC of disenfranchising them because they could not find their names in the biometric register during were really multiple registrants who on Election Day may find their extra name eliminated.
For avoidance of doubt, a multiple registrant who on Election Day goes to the polling unit where the extra data had been eliminated will not find his/her name on the biometric register and will not be able to vote. Such a person cannot legitimately accuse INEC of having disenfranchised him/her.
The issuance of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to all voters who have been properly captured on the biometric Register of Voters was another gallant steps the commission took to address the issue of multiple voting.
Although seriously criticized and was used as one of the reasons to postpone the election from February 14 to March 28 but one ready value that the PVCs adds to the system is that anyone who fails to get his/her card (and who had not taken advantage of the display of the present register preceding the CVR) would instantly know that he/she is not captured on the biometric register and, hopefully, would do the needful before Election Day otherwise such person may not be able to vote.
The strong argument of INEC in support of this was that it would serious help in averting the challenge of missing name on Election Day.
It is almost certain that almost everybody with PVC will vote for the candidate of their choice tomorrow.
But more importantly, the use of the PVC’s will check the tendency by unscrupulous persons to engage in multiple voting during elections. With the use of card readers, the PVC will allow for 100 per cent verification and authentication of anyone showing up at the polling unit before he/she is allowed to vote.
In other words, the tendency in our electoral experience whereby partisans buy up the voter cards of other people will no longer be of any effect.
Other than denying those who choose to ‘sell’ their PVC the opportunity to vote, one point to note is: the card readers are programmed to decline verifying anyone who presents a PVC not belonging to him/her, thus making such a person ineligible to vote.
The Commission has also reinforced the security features on sensitive electoral materials like ballot papers, result sheets and ballot boxes by customising them to polling centres.
This innovation will no longer give room for snatching of ballot boxes. Any ballot box snatched under the present system, for instance, is simply eliminated from the collation equation.
Indeed the Jega-led electoral umpire has succeeded in creating a template for free, fair and credible election if only Nigerian politicians could accept defeat and join hands with whomever wins to further improve on it.
President Jonathan himself has demonstrated the maturity and understanding not to temper with the affairs and innovations of the umpire even when it does not favour him.