- This is a wake-up call to all stakeholders in the electoral process to take their role more seriously
IN the build-up to the 2019 general elections, the onus is on all Nigerians to constantly and critically review preparations by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other agencies and institutions involved in the electoral process. Activities at the grassroots level have come under scrutiny of recent.
In most states, local government elections are either avoided, contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, or when they are held, the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) are deployed as agents of the ruling party in the state. Decency, integrity and transparency are flagrantly shunned, and aggrieved candidates challenged to approach the courts for redress, in realisation that the wheel of justice grinds just too slowly in Nigeria.
A very sad reminder of this was the charade of an election recently conducted into the local government councils of Kano State. In an age when technology has made it difficult to hide anything, photographs of children who were illegally accredited to vote soon filled the cyber space. Then, came the denials – from the state government, the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KNSIEC), the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and somewhat the INEC. No one wanted to accept that the constitution and the Electoral Act had been breached.
Indeed, in a swift reaction, as the alarmed Nigerian public, with an eye on the forthcoming general elections, asked INEC for explanations, the commission said it could not be held responsible for the rape on democracy as its involvement was limited to supplying the state authorities with the electoral register. This will appear unassailable.
However, it pledged to investigate what happened. INEC has released snippets of the result of the probe. It said no underage person exist in the register it made available to KNSIEC and the political parties in the state. The commission’s chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, told the press that the same register used for the 2015 elections in the state was given the state electoral commission. He added that the same register had since been used for bye elections with different political parties winning or losing, and there have been little or no complaints.
It is also unfortunate that the police are pretending that they have not heard anything about the criminal rape of democracy in Kano. We expect that, by now, arrests would have been made by the law enforcement agents and culprits arraigned. Until we start taking serious view of electoral offences, we will never make headway in our attempts to have fool-proof elections. Over the years, INEC has argued for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission to facilitate the conduct of credible elections. It’s high time such a commission was established.
Although we would have been pleased if INEC had made open the full result of its investigation, the point is the commission cannot be blamed, at least for now, for whatever might have led to underage voting in Kano. As a matter of fact, the commission could even claim that its investigation was for its internal consumption, to know if any of its staff was involved, and the extent of involvement. INEC has no power over the state electoral commissions. Moreover, it is also somewhat involved to the extent that it provided the electoral register that was supposed to have been used for the Kano election.
The onus therefore is more on the aggrieved parties to take their case to the appropriate quarters. We must first ascertain whether the register used for the election was the one given by INEC or not. However, since there is no electoral register that is completely faultless, the electoral commission should endeavour to work on the register regularly as it is a major factor that will determine whether an election is credible or not.
The Kano underage voting should be revisited. Aggrieved politicians should approach the courts, with the police moving in to investigate the allegation. Elections are not for babies. So, when underage people vote, it is a serious electoral crime which should not be taken lightly.