ANYONE who says he understands how elections in Nigeria work is only making a claim. Whether at the local government, state or federal levels, elections are mysteries various authorities sustain for their own purposes.
It would not be in the interest of power-seekers to conduct free and fair elections. Many politicians believe loose implementation of laws leave them a chance of manipulating the process to access the benefits of power.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not been helpful. It is a law to itself. Billions of Naira invested in its operations does not reflect in the results it delivers. After leading Nigerians through promises of improved performances, INEC reclines to the most ridiculous excuses for its failing.
Its conduct of the 2011 elections is praised by those who lower standards to accommodate mediocrity. What did INEC do in 2013 that was different from elections conducted from 1999? Have we moved away from the failings of 1999?
We do not think so. From the registration of voters to voting, the processes are flawed. There is no agreed explanation of the Electoral Act, making it a decorative document that remains legally challenging, failing to provide succour for those who seek comfort in its provisions. Why would election riggers not take advantage? Why would rigging stop when the punishments the Electoral Act prescribes are ignored?
There are fines, jail terms for almost any conceivable electoral offence. INEC does not prosecute electoral offenders, the major reason being that its officials are among the biggest offenders. If the matter is diligently investigated, field officers who compromise elections may not be acting alone. What have their supervisors done to deter them?
INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega, as usual, is brimming with optimism over the 2015 elections. No proper account of the 2011 elections have been given, especially how the technological advances that cost billions of Naira did not facilitate improvements in the process. INEC has moved on, and expects Nigerians to do the same. Perpetrators of electoral fraud, Jega says, have been punished quietly.
Our concerns about elections are many. For all the importance they bear to our future, INEC has failed to provide the transparency required to make them credible. Its plans skirt vital issues of fairness to contestants, access to information for all – these contribute to the fidelity of elections.
Voters’ education is relegated to the background, though international donors funnel billions of Naira to INEC’s purses for the purpose. INEC must show by its conduct that it is changing. A good start would be an account of the 2011 elections and punishments, according to the law, for those whose conducts thwarted transparency of the elections.