AS the nation gets ready for the supplementary elections scheduled for this Saturday, March 23, 2019, the eyes of Nigerians and the international community are still on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to complete the work it started about a month ago: ensuring the emergence of governors and the remaining lawmakers in seven states through free, fair, credible and conclusive elections.
Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had announced the new date when the Returning Officers in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto States declared the governorship elections inconclusive because the number of cancelled votes was more than the margins of victory. The election in Rivers State was also suspended because of widespread violence and shooting by soldiers and armed hoodlums aimed at hijacking the voting and collation of votes.
The INEC should be mindful that it is going into these supplementary elections with serious question-marks hanging on its head. One of these is the seeming correlation between violence, cancelled votes and margins that lead to the inconclusive ruling.
We are gratified by the President’s open undertaking not to succumb to the alleged expectations of some of his party stalwarts to “change the results” in favour of their candidates. We hope he will keep to his words and allow the supreme will of the people of the seven states to prevail. We do not want anything to rupture the post-election peace we are enjoying so far.
Our hopes are also buoyed by the INEC’s open declaration that it was not responsible for the alleged invasion of polling and collation centres by rogue elements in the military and security forces during the just-concluded elections. But we want the Commission to go beyond standing helplessly by while politicians use the nation’s agencies of coercion to rob the people of their freely-expressed choices.
The INEC should speak out where such lawless behaviour manifests and refuse to make returns in such places just as it did by withholding Governor Rochas Okorocha’s certificate of return for the Orlu Senatorial seat when its officials disclosed they were made to declare him winner under duress.
Political criminals must not be allowed to enjoy the proceeds of their crimes.