ASSPT commends President Buhari’s decision not to interfere in electoral process
*Blames hitches in Osun governorship election on personnel that managed BIVAS
*Tasks INEC on competent personnel to manage BIVAS
A socio-political think-tank, the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts (ASSPT), has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his decision not to interfere with the electoral process.
The body also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to protect the sanctity of the electoral system in terms of accuracy and certainty of the results that will emerge from the polls.
Its Executive Secretary, Dr Sam Amadi at the weekly briefing on the preparation towards free, fair and credible elections, observed that the President has so far, given the right signals for free and fair elections in February and March. He added that attempts to shame the President into taking sides in the electoral process were efforts to further compromise the credibility of the elections.
Amadi argued that INEC has the responsibility to conduct the elections and not the President, stressing that instead of harassing the President in respect of presumed non-support for the candidate of his party, these politicians should be pressing the President to extract implementation strategies from his military and police chiefs on how to defeat the army of terrorists, insurgents and notorious criminals who would want to undermine electoral integrity through scaremongering and criminal actions.
He said: “We have watched with dismay how Nigerian politicians have created the impression that the President conducts the election and therefore, has the discretion to award the result to whoever he likes.
“This is a dangerous falsehood that puts unnecessary pressure on the President. We commend President Buhari for continuously restating his determination to leave a legacy of credible elections. The Abuja School is worried that some politicians are making statements that suggest that the president has a responsibility to interfere in the electoral process to guarantee success for members of his party.
“A lot rests on the shoulders of the President regarding a secured environment for free and fair polls. It is not the responsibility of the President to help any candidate win the election. The President does not conduct elections. No one should goad the President to act unconstitutionally and undermine his pledge to Nigerians and the international community”, Amadi said.
Adding: “INEC has so far, shown that it understands the huge responsibility it bears and happily, President Buhari has refused to be swayed by these misbegotten statements. The President has a responsibility to ensure a free and fair election. This responsibility is to create an enabling environment for INEC to deliver on its constitutional mandate.
“The most important aspect of this responsibility is security. The history of electoral malpractices in Nigeria shows that it is usually the involvement of incumbents in the process of the election that mostly compromises the freeness and fairness of elections. It is a good happenstance that in the 2023 election, the President is not on the ballot, even if his party is on the ballot.”
Amadi who stated that the decision of the Osun Governorship Tribunal has opened new cans of worms that show how fragile the electoral system is, especially the electronic accreditation and transmission, noting that the real failure in the Osun election was not BIVAS but the personnel that managed the BIVAS.
“As a matter of fact, there was no over-voting in Osun in the typical sense. What happened in Osun was a very costly oversight of the presiding officers, supervisory officers and INEC officials.
“We are happy with the technological innovation that INEC has pioneered for the conduct of elections in Nigeria but technology requires good personnel management to ensure success. It is not enough to have the BIVAS or electronic transmission of the election, you need to match them with the requisite institutional competence and integrity to manage election technology fairly and credibly. So far, Osun has shown that we are still far from the desirable state.”
“There was a practical failure in the implementation of Section 60 (4) and (5) of the Electoral Act. The relevant officers ought to be vigilant and ensure that the BIVAS accreditation results were fully loaded before ending the process. Even when the losers in the election demanded the report of the BIVAS, relevant INEC officials should have ensured that the full report was sent, or if there was extreme urgency, they would have accompanied with a letter to indicate its interim nature”, he added.
He stated that the president equally needs clear implementation strategies from financial regulations on how to stop vote buying by desperate politicians, stressing that the ongoing petrol crisis “is another issue of concern that presidential attention should be focused.
“Happily, only INEC staff and other electoral workers need to move around on election day. The President can ensure that these persons have enough petrol to move around and execute their responsibilities.”
Amadi warned INEC to be careful in selecting Ad-hoc staff, stating that in requesting for staff of sister agencies, INEC should not take any list from such agencies except the Nominal List backed up by recent salary slips to verify that those persons are real staff of the agencies.
“We fear that politicians will like to infiltrate the ad-hoc staff list to use the staff to manipulate elections. INEC has to ensure that these ad-hoc staffs are selected and vetted through a rigorous process in order to avoid the Osun debacle in a large scale in presidential and gubernatorial elections. Imagine the crisis we will have if Osun happens on a large scale in a highly competed presidential election where the incentive for violence will be very high”, Amadi said.