Stakeholders ponder roles of INEC, security agents in credible Kogi, Bayelsa polls
Already, the political atmosphere in the state is getting more charged, suggesting the imminence of violence on election day considering how the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have kept accusing each other of sponsoring thugs.
The incumbent governor and flag bearer of APC, Mr. Yahaya Bello is perceived as having no other factor to enable him retain power other than to deploy violence to intimidate his opponents while his party has also accused PDP and other fringe political parties of fanning the ember of crisis to disrupt the exercise.
At a recent press conference in Lagos, candidate of the PDP, Mr. Musa Wada raised a similar alarm that INEC and security agents should not allow what happened during the Ekiti and Osun states gubernatorial elections to repeat in the coming Kogi polls. He expressed fear that recent developments indicated that some people were desperate to retain power when it was obvious they are no longer in tune with the electorate.
Insinuations are rife that the ruling party, with the alleged support of some forces from the presidency, has allegedly hijacked the platforms of most of the fringe political parties ahead of the poll. But speaking on the election, a stakeholder and participant in the electoral process, Mr. Oluwole Aguda said the essence of democracy is true representation.
He said, “The gubernatorial election coming up on November 16 in Kogi and Bayelsa states is a critical test to Nigeria’s democracy. It will also how the system could provide true representation at governorship levels for the people of Kogi.”
According to him, “If at any level, the election management (INEC) system is unable to effectively deliver on the constitutional assurance that votes will count and that the will of the people will be supreme, we would not only have embarked on a morally deficient course but one that makes mockery of Nigerians who consistently retain trust in the voting system.”
He noted that Nigeria, from known history, usually has to grapple with mainly two national bodies, whose actions or inactions make or mar elections, namely: security agencies and INEC. “Once the enormous powers the two bodies wield in the course of elections gets misdirected, it undercuts further the flailing confidence of the people. It is a moral duty that the two agencies have been unable to deliver on with excellence. Elections are beyond the declaration of winners and losers. It is a moral assignment, which must be done with a very high sense of duty to the nation. It is as important as protecting our territorial integrity of the sovereignty of the constitution,” he said.
Just like Wada and the National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu have said, Aguda also told The Guardian that his biggest worry for the Kogi elections was the INEC. “Our faith and trust in the commission have been dwindling over the last few years. This worry is based on the glaring and aggressive position that INEC takes in disputes amongst parties. INEC tends to operate as a parallel political party and not as an unbiased umpire. The balance of temperament and judgment is sadly missing from their operations and so even before elections are conducted, you hear people generally suggesting that winners are not those who earn the highest votes, but by whom INEC declares as the winner.”
He charged the commission to reinforce its independence while actively repairing its image through the Kogi and Bayelsa elections. “They certainly make efforts but these efforts need to be seen as representative of the will of Nigerians,” he noted.
Taking a cursory look at the candidates and parties contesting in the election, Aguda dismissed the notion that the race will also be restricted between the ruling APC and PDP. He said: “We should be more concerned about the quality of candidates contesting the elections beyond whether it is a dual race or not. Within these parties, both the big and what you might want to call smaller ones, there are capable hands in abundance. The interest in my opinion, however, should be whether their programmes have alignment with the people, the social calls for development, and the calls for accountability in leadership. The capacity of leadership to formulate and implement policies, which, at the first instance, bring succour to the common man on the streets, must be tested.
“Nigeria is undoubtedly a blessed nation but leadership remains a huge challenge. We should be promoting credible and capable hands in leadership as a priority, especially in the coming gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa. Parties are important but the personalities they present are equally important because he/she executes in the capacity of governor. After elections, what you may want to term poor leadership actively starts with a poorly performing Governor, before the party.”
Talking on the anxiety that the election may be prone to violence and the request from President Muhammadu Buhari for an approval from the Senate to pay the Kogi State Government N10.069 billion, being refund of money spent by the state on behalf of the Federal Government, Aguda said he was more worried about violence that emerges from hunger for four years. “The brand of mental violence that makes it impossible for fathers and mothers to sleep well because they cannot pay school fees irks my nationalism. I worry about violence that is beyond the physical and which cannot be arrested by the police or security agencies. A lot of electoral violence is bred by hunger and disenchantment with the performance of the political class.”
He dismissed the saying that the N10 billion request by the Federal Government, on behalf of Kogi, was meant for the poll. “I have no worries about it since it seeks to develop Kogi, which is my state. My worry, however, is the failure of assessment, which publicly suggests that the request is a ploy to ensure liquidity for political activities. Whether rightly or wrongly, the government must not only be fair to the people, it must be seen to be so. So, in one breath, you will not at any time begrudge a lawful request but when it fails a simple test of timing and public opinion, then it must be reconsidered. Kogi State has borrowed serially and severally and the minimal expectation would be accountability as pre-requisite for the release of more funds because the funds belong to the people and not to a political party. It is a good thing being done at the wrong time.”
He, however, condemned the high cost of running elections in Nigeria, stressing, there are huge channels of waste that accrue just because we want to hold elections. We must seek amendments to our constitution to enable electronic voting.
“Lastly, I also do not understand why we have to continue to run the same model of results collation that has more bearing with the realities of Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) of over 35 years ago than smarter, more effective and contemporary execution possibilities for elections. The arguments are often about Internet penetration and the enlightenment levels of voters in rural areas but I have always posited that technology can always be localised to achieve the same goals.
We must jump-start the process someday and be willing to make mistakes that we learn from. We cannot afford to continue to live in fear of imminent change. Elections management has to veer into the digital now for leaner costs and for more reliable and efficient processes,” he said.
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