WOULD the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, use Ondo State to continue its learning processes? Since INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega came into office two years ago, INEC has promised to be better with every election.
Before the 2011 elections, Jega told a round table in Lagos: “Let me inform you that when the new commission was put in place, there was a retreat at Obudu.
The commission’s report was studied by members of the commission and in the report there was indication that there are about 87 ways of rigging elections that were discovered and since that time INEC has been doing everything possible block those loopholes.”
The 2011 elections either did not benefit from INEC’s knowledge, or the malpractices in the elections were not among the 87 that INEC knew. Jega told the same audience: “It is not our skills, knowledge and experience that will make the electoral process successful.
Instead, it is our actions that will make or mar the process. Consequently, it is our resolve in INEC to be guided by transparency, integrity, credibility, impartiality and dedication.”
Debates will trail these promises, but most importantly, the software Jega praised in 2010 has not changed anything. Jega has said: “The significance of the new software is that it will tackle many of the lingering challenges that had questioned the credibility of our voters’ register.
The system will no doubt lead to improvements in the accuracy and convenience with which the register can be revised and updated. The new direct data capturing machines is a clear departure from other machines used in the last registration exercise.”
Are the direct data capturing machines still in use? INEC has held one off elections in Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Kogi, Rivers, Sokoto states since then, with the challenges appearing more overwhelming each time. Last July’s election in Edo State witnessed late arrival of materials in an unprecedented magnitude that affected even Benin City, the state capital. INEC had no explanation for the flaws.
Updating of voters’ register is an assignment INEC has abandoned. It gave up the attempt in Edo State after complaints about compromise of the process.
INEC should use the Ondo State governorship polls on 20 October — just 12 days away — to showcase improvements it has made, following lessons from Edo which shares similar terrain with Ondo.
Free and fair elections would be challenged in Ondo. The opposition is fierce, and the incumbent governor believes he has done enough to be returned. The contest should remain healthy.
Security of voters should be a priority. Violence has no part in democratic decisions and politicians should advise their followers accordingly.