By Udo Ibuot
FORMER governor of Edo State, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, has advised the National Assembly to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was adequately empowered to solely declare winners of elections and not the courts.
Osunbor in a memo he sent to both legislative chambers of the constitution review committees, advocated that to truly make the electoral body independent, courts should not award victory to a winner except INEC.
He said: “The 1999 Constitution in its Third Schedule Part I Item F 15 sets out the powers of INEC. Section 158 guarantees the independence of INEC with some other federal bodies to ensure that they exercise their respective functions free from external influence, control or interference.
“The need for the commission to carry out its functions free from any external control is very crucial considering the fact that credible elections form the basis of citizens’ participation in the choice of their elected representatives into public office which is the essence of democracy.
“The constitution could not have envisaged that INEC will share this power with any other authority or organ of government but sadly that has become the reality as election tribunals and courts have repeatedly declared as winner of an election a candidate different from that declared as winner by INEC – the body that organised, undertook and supervised the election in the first place.
“It is a serious anomaly, incongruity and an aberration for INEC to conduct an election and declare a winner and for other persons who took no part in the conduct of the election to declare a different person as winner. This renders the word independent in the name of the commission worthless and meaningless.”
It does not make sense and is inherently wrong. This is more so where the person declared by the court to have won the election did not originally have the majority of the votes cast in the election. This usually happens after the votes (sometimes running into hundreds of thousands) of the candidate declared winner are annulled by the courts and tribunals or are declared “wasted votes” for reasons due to no fault of the voters.
“This has given rise to the emergence of elected officials who were rejected at the polls by the voters but emerged through the courts as winners in total disregard of the will of the majority of the people that heeded the call to perform their civic duty.
“The essence of democracy is thus defeated. Elections to that extent, have ceased to reflect the will of the people but the will of the judges sometimes by a split decision of 2:1, 3:2, etc, as the case may be. “Elections should be won at the polls, not in a court of law. They should be a reflection of the will of the voters, not the brilliance of election petition lawyers or the will of courts of law or other extraneous consideration. Every vote must count because this goes to the very foundation of democracy.”