The will of the people should determine the outcome of the elections
As the people of Kogi and Bayelsa States go to the polls again on Saturday, this time to elect their governors, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has another golden opportunity to make a bold statement that it is truly an unbiased empire with the capacity to conduct credible elections. In view of the controversy that trailed the 2019 general election as well as other stand-alone gubernatorial elections in recent years, we expect INEC to have learnt its lessons from past flaws and conduct these elections with every sense of responsibility.
Meanwhile, the two states where the elections would be held on Saturday have unbridled records of violence. The last elections held in Bayelsa and Kogi in 2016 were marred by violence and eventually declared inconclusive. Against this background, these are not the easiest states to conduct elections in the country. But INEC has a responsibility to prove that it is up to the task, but they also need all the support they can get. Beyond the usual banal promise to deploy thousands of policemen, questions remain as to how prepared the police are to carry out their tasks with every sense of professionalism that can enhance the credibility of the polls.
More worrisome, however, is the role of the military which ordinarily should not be involved in electoral matters. During the last general election, there were accusations of interference by soldiers at polling units and collation centres. Such was the level of their involvement in Rivers that the INEC headquarters in Abuja had to suspend collation of results in the state when it became obvious that some soldiers were bent on determining the outcome by force of arms. We must restate that soldiers have no role to play at polling stations and collation centres.
We expect all security agents deployed in the states to insulate themselves from partisan politics and dispassionately discharge their responsibilities by refusing to be willing tools in the hands of politicians to stall the will of the people. We also appeal to the major political actors in these elections to give room for peace and allow common sense to prevail. These elections must not be seen as do-or-die affair as we have had enough of bloodshed. The fundamental rights of Nigerians to live must be sacrosanct.
We specifically call on Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and former Governor Timipre Sylva to avoid the temptation of seeing this election as a battle for supremacy or a test of might as the aftermath of such will be catastrophic for both the country and lesser mortals as it will only underscore the maxim that where two elephants fight, the grass suffers. We extend the same appeal to Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi State and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) opponent, Musa Wada, to resist any acts of desperation that can forestall peace during and after the polls.
Once again, the onus lies on the INEC to rebuild the confidence of both Nigerians and the world in its ability to conduct free, fair and credible elections from the outcome of Saturday elections. We expect the commission to demonstrate a strict sense of professionalism in the overall conduct of the poll in the two states. Logistics must be deployed at the nick of time. It will be a gross failure, for instance, if there are reports of late arrival of voting materials or cases of voters waiting for the arrival of electoral officers at polling stations on Saturday as well as the use of non-functional card readers.
Notwithstanding the posturing by the principal actors, one fact about the Ondo elections which also is true with all Nigerian elections is that it is not going to be fought on ideological platforms. Neither the PDP nor the APC can also be described as an ideology-driven party by any stretch of the imagination. It is therefore important for the politicians to allow the people of Kogi and Bayelsa States to decide their destiny for the next four years. There should be no room for coercion and violence. As for INEC, if it can conduct the Saturday polls without hitches, then Professor Mahmoud Yakubu would have proved that the commission has indeed learnt useful lessons.
Once again, the onus lies on the INEC to rebuild the confidence of both Nigerians and the world in its ability to conduct free, fair and credible elections.