The Oasis Reporters
February 25, 2019
By Col. Dauda Gora (Rtd)
Whatever verdict will eventually be passed about INEC, Nigeria’s electoral umpire on the conduct of the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, it is very clear that the electoral umpIre has a lot of work to do if elections in this country are to come close to meeting international best practices.
We must though ponder over the extent to which the electoral umpire itself is INDEPENDENT. To the extent that the body is funded by government, as well as the many important appointments in the agency also being made by government, very serious questions should naturally arise as to the manner of independence ascribed to the body.
For example the appointment of a certain Amina Zakari to a very important role in INEC just before the elections almost caused trepidation nationwide as she is said to be a blood relation of the current president.
At the State levels, the very notion of having a so-called State Independent Electoral Commission is self deceiving. How for heaven’s sake can the contraptions we refer to as States ever make a creation and ascribe independence to them? See how the State governors have always gone ahead to serially rape the so-called State Independent Electoral Commissions of their independence during the conduct of Local Council elections. For sanity and some measure of fairness to return to the conduct of local council polls, the so-called State Independent Electoral Commissions must be scrapped and all elections notwithstanding at what level be made the responsibility of the national electoral umpire.
I write this post seething with anger over my inability as well as many others in PU (Polling Unit) 031 and PU 032 of Ungwan Boro, Kaduna South to cast our votes during the elections. We could not vote because INEC made it impossible for us to. How for example could INEC not have decongested these 2 PUs with almost 6000 registered voters. Ideally there should not have been less than 7 PUs for this area. The LEA Primary school which provides accommodation for the PUs was much of a battle field than a voting center seeing the number of people crammed into its small field. Many women were almost trampled over in the struggle to get to vote with many sustaining injuries and losing their footwears. The situation was so pathetic that an observer wouLd have concluded it was a do or die affair to borrow from Obasanjo’s vocabulary
Should not INEC have known that this small space could not accommodate such a large number of people ? Our people are believing that this is part of a grand design to disenfranchise them. In previous elections, I visited other areas in the main town, Tudun Wada, Barnawa and Kakuri where there were voting stations for almost every 500 yards or so. In the whole of Ungwan Boro including neighbouring areas we were all forced into this primary school area. When dusk approached and many could not vote they had to leave in frustration, yet INEC claimed it was fully ready for the election, which is a huge joke as well as a monumental fraud.
This adverse political predicament is not just occurring now rather it has been a recurring decimal starting with the voter registration exercises. Where many additional registration centers were created in areas that already have near adequacy, many of the outlying areas are hardly considered. Even in the very few and almost negligible registration centers only very few of the registration materials are sent there to undermine the entire exercise. This apart, the staff conducting the exercise do not usually arrive early enough for any purposeful registration. We are compelled into believing that there is a deliberate plan to keep our people out of what is called ” Our democratic process ” Sadly even those our so-called elected representatives who naturally should take up these issues show little or no concern. It is with this kind of lackadaisical attitude that our people are being taken for granted. From all of the above, can anyone in all fairness say that INEC has been fair to our people?
If INEC must be told election rigging does not only end with manipulating votes it actually starts at the point of voter registration. The moment you under-register or frustrate the registration process, you have actually rigged any election predicated on such a registration and so it is in almost all of the Southern Kaduna political space.
For those who will be emerging as representatives in this current electoral fiasco, whether they win fairly or not so fairly they must put the issues of very deliberate political short-changing of our people on the front burner when they start sitting.
One deeply worrying thing is why after over 16 years of conducting elections INEC appears not to have learnt anything to the extent that the same mistakes are repeated all over again but expecting different outcomes. How many years for example will it take the largest democracy in Africa to improve on the conduct of elections here? Should INEC not by now have evolved a system of registration such that a voter can cast his/her vote wherever they find themselves during elections? Considering the risks involved and the dislocation to businesses, are such movements necessary? If the truth must be told, INEC is enjoying so much of our collective patrimony ploughed into its budget that it is not even considering smarter ways of getting the business of registering and conducting elections seriously if the government is not complicit in what is happening, it has a responsibility to give the electoral umpire a dateline within which to come out with a smarter and more efficient way of registering and conducting elections in this country. It is the very tardy manner of conducting elections here that is responsible for all the acrimony and lack of trust in the conduct of elections in this country resulting in deaths and injury to many of our countrymen/women. What justification do we have for losing even a single life in the course of an election except in accident situations? This nation must make progress commensurate to our place at least on the African continent.
To God Be The Glory.