THE surprise would have been if Nigerians did not debate the time table the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, released for the 2015 elections. We are in an era of mounting oppositions against anything that points to any semblance of orderliness, it is called the new politics.
INEC is being accused of fueling the fortunes of particular individuals while setting out the time frames for the elections. Specifically, with the presidential and the national legislative elections billed for 14 February 2015, the Action Peoples Congress says the elections have been skewed to favour the President. The governorship and state legislative elections would hold two weeks later.
The explanations of INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega for the schedule have not settled the matter. “We felt that instead of having three elections, let us have two. In 2011, we had three – we did the National Assembly elections first; then the presidential and then the governorship, as well as state assembly elections. But we felt that (in 2015), let us have two elections rather than three. Then we said what is the best combination in line with global best practice? The global best practice is that you do national elections separate from state elections, if you cannot do all together,” Jega said.
The combination of the elections seems to be the issue. More importantly, INEC did not consult the political parties before its decisions. It is where they are rooting their belief that Jega had ulterior motives.
Younger voters are bashing INEC for fixing elections on 14 February, Valentine Day. Their complaints centre more on the restrictions costing them social engagements that Saturday. They too were not consulted.
Others suggest, without considering INEC’s serial poor performances in stand-alone elections in Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Kogi, Ondo, and Plateau States are that INEC should conduct all the elections on the same day. Some of the elections INEC mismanaged were for smaller constituencies like the senate in Delta and Plateau States and a few wards in a local government in Imo State.
Desirable as one day elections are, INEC with its performance so far cannot manage them. It would be great to deal with the current schedule, which would cost the voter fatigue.
Were Prof Jega to listen to all the arguments, the debates would be on beyond 29 May 2015, the handover date. There are more important things INEC should do to ensure free and fair elections.
Outside its oft-mouthed determination, it should educate voters, update the voters’ register, dismantle obstacles to early arrival of electoral materials and be bolder in prosecuting electoral offenders, right from the campaigns, which thugs dominate with decisiveness.