INEC’s chairman on the wheel of history
A peaceful and credible election in Nigeria is a good recipe for Africa. This is because, it will among other things open economic windows and make the continent richer and respected in the comity of nations. Therefore, Nigeria’s wobbly exemplary elections in 2015 must not be robbed with mud in the forth coming general elections. But, wait a minute is that achievable having in mind the traditional attitude of African leaders towards power? Also, taking into cognizance the relationship between the ruling party and the opposition parties and especially so with the judicial conundrum currently playing out. Of course, sit-tight power mongers remain a threat to democracy anywhere in the world. However, lust for power and political deficiency in many African leaders blind them to stay on with power for ages and wait until they are disgraced or forced out of office.
History will forever remember Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan for the peaceful democratic handover of power from one political party to another in 2015. To some extent, that has been both a blessing and a curse for the country. The upside is that democracy has given room to Nigerians to express themselves and become more vocal on national issues. But the downside is that Nigerians are being greatly disappointed by politicians who have raised their hopes with promises that never find the light of day. It is a shame.
The election umpire has promised to keep up the pace with the game and never to disappoint. This was made known the other day by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) chairman, professor Mahmood Yakubu when the German Ambassador to Nigeria Bemhard Schlagheck and Germany’s Secretary of State Walter Lindner visited. Prof Yakubu said: “We cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians. We shall not disappoint the international community…we are aware that the eyes of the world are on Nigeria…what Nigeria achieved in 2015 and what we hope to achieve in 2019 is not just in the handiwork of what you see in the commission…so I want to assure you that we will not let the world down…”
From what the INEC’s chairman said, it seems the commission is set to redress itself to squarely face the political “dirty” game and come out clean, instead of being bitten with new guilt at every elections. Often than not, Nigerians are greeted with devastating contradictions that riddle elections conduct and its results. Under this commission, several elections conducted have deepened the mystery over what causes the notoriety of election inconclusiveness. Although, INEC have on several occasions exonerated itself from guilt, leaving the blame at the door step of political stakeholders, while urging the media to do more in sensitising both the political stakeholders and the public on the need to allow free and fair elections.
No doubt, election malpractice is an age long disease that has always been there. However, one of INEC’s major strength has been its ability to reform and change the shape of electioneering by introducing new technology into the game. The card reader and permanent voter’s card (PVC), for instance, have changed the character and tempo of politics for good. However, nothing better illustrates a pinch-of-salt or a hidden agenda in INEC’s recent backtrack on its promise not to use the controversial incident form that it has earlier publicly claimed to be unreliable. This is a result of president’s curious refusal to sign the 2018 electoral Bill into law.
At this time, the country is in dire need of noble persons for an ignoble task such as conducting election. Knowing what politicians are capable of doing to win election, INEC should therefore, strive harder to sit up and monitor its officials closely so that their relationship with politicians may not be too cosy. Of late, vote buying has become the new phase of election rigging. A case in point is the commission’s recent revelation of plans that politicians might buy votes through food vendors among others. INEC should also look inward and nip this vote buying menace in the bud. This singular effort of self cleansing will go a long way in changing the negative perception towards the commission of compromise. Equally, any unpalatable decisions or actions of INEC may not boost its image neither will it do the nation any good.
Again, rather than wrap INEC in red tape of blames each time elections process fails to yield results in the eye and opinion of the public, it will be nice to also examine the character and conduct of politicians during elections. Over the years politicians medicate their ambition with rigging and violence. The more dangerous and degrading the better result it yields for the perpetrators. Rigging of election must stop for our democracy to evolve and grow naturally through free and fair polls.
Notwithstanding the above, it is hard to argue whether INEC is doing well in terms of its principles and rules. Rules are needed to guide and ensure that elections are free, credible and fair. By and large politicians sometimes try to cut corners and without INEC melting stiff penalties, irresponsible politicians cannot be kept in check. Also, it would be a mistake or efforts in futility to pile up rules on an election exercise in order to tackle malicious riggers who will simply ignore them and nothing happens to the offenders. If INEC chooses to turn a blind eye to the above, and continue to conduct elections with such irregularities and mis-steps, elections results might continue to be a debacle.
The unionism of agreement among politicians and well meaning Nigerians the other day, who hailed the United States of America and United Kingdom for their vow to sanction polls violence perpetrators, is not only surprising but shameful. The question is: Why do we have to wait for the international community to wield the big stick for us to do things right? Can’t INEC and the security agencies arrest and punish election offenders without a foreign input? As the elections draw nearer, INEC need to know that apart from conducting the election and announcing the results, it also needs to play the hobbler to bad practice knowing the many benefits that come with that for the nation.
Let us hope that Nigeria’s politics is nearer the end of rigging than the beginning of a new era to rig elections. It is left for the Nigerian people and institutions to decide which path to trend. The world is watching us even as the INEC’s chairman is indebted to his words, accountable to the Nigerian people and history is waiting to accredit him.
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