By Dirisu Yakubu
The declaration of six of the 29 governorship elections conducted last week as being inconclusive has raised the issue of inconclusive elections in the country to a new height. By that count, it meant that 20 of the elections conducted last Saturday were inconclusive. The issue remarkably, is not limited to governorship. Eight of the 109 Senate contests were also declared inconclusive.
With the election management body fixing new dates for polls to resolve the stalemate civil society organisations and allied stakeholders have weighed in on the issue.
They have urged the 9th National Assembly to prioritize a review of the nation’s electoral laws to prevent a repeat of inconclusive elections in the future.
Founder and President of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Odumakin expressed worry over the number of states where the elections were stalemated.
Apart from the financial implications, she further observed that the exercise now slated for March 23 would also cost the nation huge resource of time.
“It is a worrisome development and this once again raises the inevitable need for us to critically review our electoral laws and the system of voting itself.
“Beyond the burden of time re-run elections imposes on INEC and other stakeholders in the electoral process, we need to be worried about how much of our resources that will have to be deployed into concluding inconclusive elections.
“The 2019 general elections have witnessed an unprecedented number of such situations (inconclusive elections) and I hope that INEC, National Assembly and other stakeholders will consider a quick review, in order to save the country from worse situations in the nearest future.”
She further lamented the development this way: “The spate of inconclusive elections in the 2019 elections is the highest in the annals of democratic system of governance since 1999.
“Given the humongous amount of N242 billion spent on the 2019 general elections, one would have expected a very much free, fair and credible elections in the model of 1993 elections.
“The template for deepening democracy was laid by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, when he gave the then INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega and his team the much needed enabling environment for the conduct of a free and fair elections.
“Inconclusive elections make us to spend more resources that could have been deployed for the execution of capital projects.
“The introduction of the Card Reader technology made a whole lot of difference in 2015 Elections.”
Sharing her experience from the monitoring of the recently concluded polls, Dr. Odumakin noted that “The Electoral Act clearly stipulates the circumstances that warrant the declaration of an election inconclusive. But reports from the field and domestic observers indicated so many manipulations.”
She recommended a holistic review of the electoral system in subsequent elections, saying “There is a need for us to replicate the voting pattern of developed nations like the United States in Nigeria.
“The Card reader machines process in Nigeria is presently a sham. It has been compromised by unscrupulous elements in our political space.
“The need for the introduction of Electoral Offences Tribunal cannot be over emphasized.
“The Cubicle for casting of votes should be made more enclosed as voters are usually being monitored by party agents who are being used for vote buying at the polling units.
We just can’t continue like this as a progressive nation.”
On his part, Constitutional lawyer and convener, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Inebehe Effiong, sees inconclusive elections as threats to democracy in the land.
According to him, “Inconclusive elections pose serious danger to our electoral process and democracy. INEC position on this should be revisited.
“The Constitution requires that a winner should be declared based on majority of lawful votes cast and twenty-five percent of votes in two-third of the local government areas of the state or constituency.
“History has shown that supplementary elections rarely inspire greater confidence in the process. The electorate do not trust the electoral commission in this regard.
“It is my view that the National Assembly should give a legislative solution to this problem by amending our laws. INEC should not have a discretion.”
He continued: “The Electoral Act gives INEC discretion to organise supplementary elections where the total number of registered voters in the areas or polling units where elections could not hold is more than the margin of win. However, this does not reflect the reality.
“In many instances, fewer people actually have voters card in the affected areas. Therefore, it should not be based on names on the voters register but number of PVC collection and accreditation. My conclusion is that a winner should be declared once the constitutional requirement is satisfied by a candidate.”
Taking a slightly different position is Haruna Abdullahi, founder of the Open Dialogue Initiative, who opined that inconclusive polls are not necessarily bad omen for the nation’s electoral system.
“As unfortunate as inconclusive elections may be, I still think it’s better the right things are done than rushing to declare results that will leave room for shoddy and messy outcomes.
“Let the processes be followed so that no one is cheated at the end of the day. Again, our culture of subverting process is the reason we have inconclusive elections.”
“Politicians should avoid the temptation of winning at all cost and they should help in sensitising their supporters to play by the rules,” he added.
Speaking to Vanguard on the issue, the Executive Director, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative, GOPRI, Amb. Melvin Ejeh, said the development was an embarrassment to the country, charging INEC to brace up in its onerous responsibility with a view to resolving it.
Ejeh, who noted that the high rate of cancelled results which sometimes overwhelmed the winning margin between candidates were responsible for the action, asked the commission to liaise with the National Orientation Agency, NOA, with a view to carrying out intensive awareness campaign drive to every nook and cranny of the country.
According to him, “it is when the voters are adequately informed on how to vote for their preferred candidates without necessarily tampering on areas that can invalidate or void their votes that inconclusive elections as being currently witnessed in the country can come to an end..