INEC: The world is watching!

Election cycle is a periodic exercise in the life of any nation, providing the electorates’ unique opportunities to evaluate government programmes and policies. The obvious reality would help the electorate decide the direction they want to go when they approach the ballots by either retaining the government in power or voting for a totally new government, the choice is that of the electorate to make. The task of conducting this ritualistic exercise lies solely with a neutral and unbiased electoral umpire, as we have in Nigeria, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) saddled with the onus of ensuring that the elections are transparently free, fair and credible in line with global standard and best practices.

Interestingly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have consistently and unequivocally without mincing words assured and reassured Nigerians and the International community of its readiness to conduct the elections, but unfortunately the hopes of many were dashed when INEC rose from its “coven-like” meeting to announce to Nigerians in the wee hours of Saturday February 16, 2019 and the world of its inability to proceed with the election as scheduled, exactly six hours to the commencement of the elections, due some “logistical lapses” on their part to botch the electoral process which would have climaxed well. The unilateral decision made by INEC to postpone the election by one week was a rude shock to many, causingthe country both national and international embarrassment, resulting in untold economic losses for the country.

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However, INEC must not forget that their actions and inactions are being watched, as a matter of fact all eyes are on Nigeria, to see how the already disturbing situation is addressed by the umpire without snowballing into something else. In as much as one would want to sympathise with the commission for the situation it found itself, it is also important to reiterate that the commission displayed a very high level of ineptitude and irresponsibility, when it has more than three years to prepare for the exercise for which it was adequately funded. For me, the reason given for the postponement does not hold water at all, there is more to this than meets the eye. Whatever, the reason may be the commission should get its act together and deliver on its promises to conduct credible elections that would be satisfactory to all concerned.

As a people we must keep hope alive, despite the temporary setback witnessed during the bungled last Saturday Presidential and National Assembly elections. The electorate must not be deterred by this reckless action, but rather be more resolute in defending our democracy by ensuring that we throng out en-masse to exercise our civic responsibilities by voting for candidates of our choice.

INEC, I must say have another unique opportunity to redeem its already damaged image and reputation before the electorate and foreign observers come February 23, 2019, to demonstrate to Nigerians that truly it is independent both in words and actions. The commission must be above board to regain the confidence and trust of the public by being firm and transparently honest in the conduct of the elections.

It is also important to passionately appeal to the political parties to make the work of the commission easy, by strictly adhering to electoral act and INEC’s timetable, which was one of the many reasons the commission gave for postponing the elections. Politicians should endeavour to play by the rules of the game, so as not to plunge the country into avoidable crisis.

Whatever is required by INEC for Saturday February 23, 2019 election to become a reality must be done properly. By now, all the identified loopholes ought to have been blocked and the logistical challenges well addressed. With all “i’s” dotted and the “t’s” crossed for a seamless rancor free election on Saturday. This time around there is no room for excuses. No doubt, the coming days and weeks ahead of the rescheduled elections would be a very tough one for the commission, that notwithstanding, the commission must prove to all and sundry that it has the capacity, character and competence to superintend over the conduct of the elections. Failure to correct the bad impression, already created in the minds of the public about the electoral process by the commission may not go down wellwith the country. Abnormality must not become the new normal in our country.

Let INEC be reminded, that the rest of Africa is looking up to Nigeria to get its electoral processes right and not only the continent of Africa but indeed the entire world is watching!

John Kokome is Public Relations Practitioner, Lagos

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