THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has severally failed to tell Nigerians what its challenges are. It is doubtful whether INEC is interested in its challenges, and tackling them to free itself from bungled elections and the threats they present to democracy.
INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega thinks INEC’s challenge is funding. He budgets billions of Naira, he gets it, and INEC organises a worse election than the preceding ones. Those who defend INEC list the size of the country and difficulty in accessing certain terrains as INEC’s headaches during elections.
They seemed to have a point until INEC started conducting one-off state elections. Since the 2011 elections, INEC has held governorship elections in Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Imo, Ondo, Kogi, Sokoto – they all had the same complaints as the general elections. Materials arrived late, or were inadequate, even in the state capitals, from which they were distributed to other locations.
INEC personnel were ill-prepared.
Losers claim distribution of materials is manipulated to deny them victory in their strongholds. Election results, most times, cannot
stand basic scrutiny for fairness. The elected get into office bearing the burden of INEC’s lassitude. INEC has no tenable defence for these lapses.
Why would voting material arrive late for every election? Why is this problem entrenched to the extent that when INEC conducts elections for senate or seats, in constituencies that are one-third of a State, it has the same challenge as in elections spread throughout Nigeria?
Nobody understands how elections work in Nigeria. Elections are mysteries. Politicians only criticise if they lose. INEC is a law to itself, though it should account to the National Assembly.
Its periodic promises of improved performances are indications that INEC knows the public has long faith in its ability to organise free and fair elections. It reclines to the most ridiculous excuses for its failing. From the registration of voters to voting, the processes are flawed. Election riggers take advantage because INEC ignores sanctions the Electoral Act prescribes.
Perpetrators of electoral fraud, Jega once said, had been punished quietly. Who are they? How would the public know they were punished?
Prof. Jega is optimistic over the 2015 elections. What are the bases of the optimism? He has promised to use governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti States in 2014 to conclude his experiments.
Voters’ education, which INEC relegates to the background, is critical to improvements in conduct of elections. INEC has funding from international donors for voters’ education. How is it used? INEC can move from its sordid past by educating its officials, enlightening voters and prosecuting electoral offenders, as a foundation on which to build transparency for the 2015 election.