Of INEC and the challenge of credible elections, By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Posted by News Express | 23 February 2019 | 1,212 times

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• Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Few days before the presidential and National Assembly polls in Nigeria, I raised severe concerns over preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible elections in an article entitled, “2019 General polls: Can Nigerians bank on INEC assurances of credible polls?” The article basically bordered on INEC’c shoddy handling of the permanent voters’ card. To date, millions of Nigerians are yet to access their permanent voters’ card. The implication is that they have been automatically disenfranchised, as there are no efforts in sight to ensure that these voters will possess their cards before the shifted polls take place. More worrisome is that efforts by these voters to track their PVCs were all futile, lending credence to the allegations that some powerful politicians are in possession of these cards.

The build-up to the polls was characterised by widespread allegations of situating polling units in the living rooms of powerful politicians, moving sensitive election materials to illegal destinations ahead of time. On the other hand, repeated burning of INEC offices where election materials, especially PVCs, were consumed generated serious worries.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the electoral body has not lived up to its bidding, and one would have expected the body to avail itself of the opportunities provided by the 2019 elections to remedy its battered image, but the reverse is the case.

The electoral frauds have graduated from snatching of ballot boxes, massive thump-printing by few individuals, movement of electoral materials to prominent individuals’ residences, to destruction of election materials, even after elections in order to stall evidences in court. Another trend that portrays grave danger to our democracy is registration of underage children, which even characterised the present process.

The electoral process is a circle that begins at the expiration of the preceding one. Therefore, INEC has no excuses to fail. If INEC likes, let it continue shifting the polls to eternity, there are urgent issues begging for attention. One of the issues that demand attention is making available PVCs to those who are yet to possess them before the polls commence. If not, how will these Nigerians react in few months ahead when the elected leaders, in their usual way, begin to fumble. Will they be bold to say these are the leaders we elected and we are pleased with them?

Before now, videos of a high ranking official of the commission donning the cap of the ruling party at the centre, the All Progressives Congress, were making the rounds. In the past and present, INEC has demonstrated strong partisanship in areas where political parties hold sway. The commission’s alleged partisanship is not restricted to the ruling party at the centre, but is subject to parties’ area of influence.

Let the polls be shifted one million times, INEC has glaringly demonstrated that it lacks the capacity to conduct credible elections. If the commission debunks this, let it convince Nigerians by addressing those issues generating grave concerns.

Source: News Express

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