The outcome should reflect the will of the people
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will tomorrow conduct supplementary elections in five states following the governorship election debacle of 9th March. The affected states are Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Kano and Sokoto. Although with the rash of court cases, one is not exactly sure of whether some of these supplementary elections will hold as scheduled. Whatever the situation, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has a responsibility to put a closure to the 2019 general election so that the process of review can commence.
As we have said on numerous occasions, the frequent supplementary elections in our context undermine the integrity of the democratic process by introducing gang-ups, intimidation, thuggery, and voter alienation. In the process, the initial verdict of the electorate is sometimes thwarted while an unpopular outcome is rigged into place. Therefore, the best way for INEC to restore the confidence of Nigerians is to avoid constantly walking into technicalities that render elections inconclusive and thus necessitating supplementary polls. But we also understand the role of the security agencies on this score. That is why there is a need for a total overhaul of our electoral process.
But we are even more concerned about the sanctity of tomorrow’s polls in the affected states, especially given the desperation that we have seen in recent days. In many of such elections conducted by INEC after the 2015 general election, the commission has continuously been dragged into the mud over failure to assert its independence and authority. We hope that the commission will use the rerun polls in the affected states to conduct itself with dignity and honour.
Principally, INEC must be objective and professional in determining the winners of the inconclusive governorship polls in these five states. It must ensure that its earlier directive, asking members of the armed forces to stay away during the exercise is upheld. It must also ensure that the elections are conducted in an atmosphere where voters can freely exercise their civic rights without any fear or favour.
It is noteworthy that the schedule of the rerun polls has been a subject of controversy as both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been trading damaging allegations. INEC must avoid the pitfalls of the previous polls by ensuring prompt arrival of both the electoral officers and materials at polling units while ensuring that the votes of the electorate coming out to queue a second time ultimately count.
Since elections will be taking place in very few polling stations, INEC must ensure that the card readers work, the polls are devoid of rancour while the police and other relevant security agents should carry out their assignments professionally. The commission must also ensure quick counting of the votes at the polling units as soon as the elections are concluded, ensures results are announced in the presence of party men and women and in the end, the outcome of the polls reflect the will of the people.
The purpose of democracy is to afford the people the opportunity to choose their leaders and subsequently participate in the way they are governed. The basic way this is done is through the ballot box. While Nigeria is therefore anxious to enthrone a lasting democracy, great care needs to be taken to ensure that our variant does not end up enshrining the rule of violent mobs that vitiate public expectations and disappoint the rest of the world.
It is our hope that INEC will get it right tomorrow.