The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been under pressure following a number of inconclusive elections in some states. The commission, at a recent forum to sensitise the public on the commencement of distribution permanent voter cards (PVCs), reacted to the development and other issues. The spokesperson of the commission in Ekiti State, Alhaji Taiwo Gbadegesin, spoke to journalists after the event. SAM NWAOKO brings excerpts from the interview.
The issue of inconclusive elections has become a kind of albatross for your commission. How do you react to this?
The truth, which is constant, is that INEC as a body wants elections to be concluded because it invests so much in elections. Inconclusive elections in parts of the country are not the making of INEC. In a bid to add value to whatever elections organised by the commission, it is pertinent for INEC to ensure fairness to all participants. INEC plans all elections to be concluded. It invests so much in terms of human and other resources. It is even to the disadvantage of the commission and the country that funds and sundry resources are sunk into conducting another election when violence and sundry unwholesome acts cause an election to be cancelled.
But still elections are declared invalid and therefore cancelled?
We all hear of ballot snatching and stuffing. We also hear reports of security agents causing chaos at election venues. You can’t expect INEC staff members to snatch ballot boxes nor would you expect any legitimate security agent of the state to snatch ballot boxes or thumbprint ballots. It is the political class that sew police and army uniforms for their thugs and we in turn get the report of security agents misbehaving. Of what advantage is it for INEC to cancel an election? What will a corps member do with ballots or of what use will a ballot box be to a soldier or policeman simply monitoring an election? It is politicians that induce all the crime and we must beg them to help us and help this country.
How much of these do you tell the Ekiti politicians and how it has affected your commission?
We as a commission invited the political parties to the forum we held in Ado-Ekiti to announce to them the commencement of the distribution of permanent voter cards. At the gathering, they raised the issue of inconclusive elections and we told them that they are culpable in the issue of inconclusive elections. If they can give the election management body the opportunity to showcase its capability and build on our achievements, there would not be inconclusive elections in the country. The commission is spending fortunes on voter education, voter awareness and civic education. It also does a lot on human development and training only to be ridiculed with instigated violence during elections. So, the commission is pleading with the political class to assist and cooperate with it to achieve the most desired free, fair, credible, transparent and acceptable election and consolidate our electoral process. The governorship election in Ekiti State was so transparent that we were even given an award and commendation. The losers in the election came to do forensic tests and we were so relaxed because we knew we did our best to ensure the election had no unnecessary flaws. IPAC was also here and their chairman in the state cited the Ekiti governorship election as the fairest in the history of elections in Nigeria. Their reason for saying this was because we had suffered embarrassments in elections in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State and in Anambra State before the Ekiti 2014 election. The Ekiti governorship election was the only avenue to redeem the image of the commission following the Anambra State debacle. The people saying it was over-militarised should use the examples of what politicians are doing now in terms of violence to tell us why adequate security should not be provided at election venues. The members of the political class are not prepared to ensure free, fair and credible election. If it would take the use of the military to have free and fair election in the country, we should use it.
What about the accusation that your commission used photochromic ballots for the election?
This was a strange accusation from one of the contestants in the election. When members of the political class lose an election, they come up with all sorts of excuses to cover their inadequacies. I dare to say that with ‘photochromic,’ Ekiti has given Nigeria another political word in our lexicon. What does that mean? They came here and we gave them the papers and other materials used in the election. They said when you thumbprint on A, it would go to B. We said ‘thumbprint here and let us see what you mean and how it happens.’ It was so unreasonable of them. It just didn’t make any sense at all.
What is your advice for the active players on the political turf?
They should please tell their followers to allow peace to reign. No security man worth his name can stake their career for an election. Any security agents fomenting trouble during an election must be fake. The political class has to educate themselves and their followers to stop causing trouble and allow the electoral process to thrive in a civilised country like Nigeria. If the IPAC should come here and be praising us for being so fair in the 2014 and 2015 elections, it means a lot. In the 2015 general election, Ekiti was the first and the best state to submit results and this prompted our then chairman to promise us another cow after he had awarded us one earlier for the quality conduct of the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State. There was no violence of any kind in the elections of 2014 and 2015 and our results were excellent. How then can we say the same INEC cannot conduct elections? We have the credit of being transparent enough because we involve all stakeholders in the state and have always carried them along in our activities and sought their input and listened to their pieces of advice.