There is no doubt that the postponement, last week, of the presidential and National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a few hours to the start of voting caught Nigerians unawares. It was, indeed, an anti-climax to a process that had enjoyed broad support from stakeholders from all sections of the country.
Apart from the negative effects that this postponement has on the country’s image in the international community, the social, economic, political and emotional costs of the delay are enormous. It is worrisome that the leadership of INEC had to wait until final hours before realising its inadequacies and the imperative of a shift in the dates of the elections. The election management body should have done better in discharging this important national assignment.
The postponement threw up a number of critical issues. It is worrisome that an institution at the level of INEC with rich historical antecedents could still worry about such a matter as logistics which is critical to its success and which should have become a routine. It is worrisome that the commission took Nigerians for granted. The embarrassment caused by this INEC’s action was avoidable.
Equally condemnable was the discomfort that corps members and other ad-hoc staff passed through preparatory to the rescheduled elections. Information in the public domain indicates that the ad-hoc staff passed the night before Election Day under harrowing conditions. It was alleged that neither their welfare nor security was taken care of. This, to say the least, is unacceptable. The leadership of INEC should, as a matter of urgency, review the welfare plan for the corps members and other ad-hoc staff. It is important that INEC appreciates the fact that for us to have decent elections, the ad-hoc staff who constitute the bulk of the electoral officials must be treated decently as poor welfare may make them vulnerable to manipulation by politicians.
There are also concerns about reports of compromise of the process and security breach in several states. Perhaps the postponement was God’s design to expose those electoral ills that could have constituted a huge albatross to the process. Those sad developments may be regarded as isolated cases but there is the need for INEC and security agencies to further scrutinise and sanitise the process in order to strengthen its integrity. Nigerians deserve peaceful and credible elections.
Going forward, INEC is called upon to work in concert with other stakeholders to ensure that necessary provisions are made in our laws to allow citizens to exercise their voting right wherever they reside at any given time. This will greatly reduce the difficulties that many Nigerians go through during election periods. We believe that this is no longer a difficult thing to do given the advancements in technology.
INEC and other critical stakeholders, especially the electorate, should not be demoralised by this temporary setback. It should rather be seen as an opportunity to make the electoral process whole again. No sacrifice can be too much to take Nigeria to greater heights.
Courtesy: Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), a Muslim civil society group.