March 7, 2023

Promises INEC chairman did not keep

THE Presidential Election, which took place along with the National Assembly polls on Saturday, February 25, 2023, was the most important of the general elections 2023. This is because a Nigerian president impacts the lives of Nigerians at home and abroad more than any other human factor.

At this juncture of our history where the nation’s cohesion, economy, security and human conditions are in tatters and our future threatened, the last thing Nigerians needed was a deeply flawed election such as we witnessed. We expected the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to live up to his promise of delivering a general election that improved on his predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega’s performance in 2015.

Yakubu raised our hopes so high, with frequently repeated promises of deploying the Commission’s homegrown technological devices to cut off human-based election rigging, such as ballot box snatching, falsification of results at the collation centres and electoral violence. He led the epic battles for the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the issuance of electoral guidelines which mandated the transmission of results from the polling units.

The Commission further built up the people’s trust by deploying the technology, especially the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, in the Anambra, Ekiti, Osun and other by-elections with acceptable outcomes. The INEC also conducted “mock” elections in some parts of the country, and on February 19, 2023, told Nigerian “we are ready”.

Indeed, the seeming assiduity of INEC’s preparations since June 2021 resulted in the most fervent youth stampede for the acquisition of the Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs. Its Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, brought in 9,518,188 new registrants, morphing the national voter register from 84,004,084 to 93,522,272 within one year. The new prospective voters were mostly the youth.

Nigerians were shocked when, through brazen acts of omission and commission, the INEC failed woefully to transmit the election results as promised, thus resorting to manual collation which resurrected the demons of our elections. INEC failed to justify the N300 billion it was granted for the general elections.

Secondly, during the national collation of the results in Abuja, the INEC Chair had promised to address the concerns of party representatives before announcing the results. This he failed to do. He went ahead to announce the winner, telling the aggrieved parties to “go to court”. He thus abdicated his responsibility to clean up his own acts to the courts.

Irrespective of whoever wins the case in court, INEC’s shoddy and shady handling of the Presidential Election has already imposed legitimacy questions on the winner and given us a bad name abroad. It dampens electorate’s enthusiasm to participate in future polls under Professor Yakubu.