When political parties submitted report cards on 2019 elections
Between Sunday May 5 and Monday May 6, national chairmen and secretaries of 75 of the 91 political parties that participated in the 2019 general election converged on Abuja for a wrap up of the elections. Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, writes.
Ninety-one political parties partook in the national and state elections held on February 23 and March 9 across the over 120,000 polling units in the country. Of the 91 parties, 73 fielded presidential, while a majority of the parties also fielded candidates in the other categories of the elections.
Before now, the jury had been out there from different sources. There were the foreign observers, the independent observers, the Situation Room and the Observer Missions of the European Union, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (USA), the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mission and many others. All of the observers, however, came up with interim reports which condemned aspects of the election, including vote buying, militarisation and voter apathy.
As widespread as the observer missions were, however, none of them turned direct attention to the roles of the political parties, the main actors in the polls. None of the missions asked the parties to collate a report of the elections as well.
But the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), which led the nationwide observer team of local observers, deploying over 1,000 observers, made the political parties one of the key focus.
Acting executive director of the centre, Ms. Faith Nwadishi, who spoke at a pre-event parley, said the CTA, which co-sponsored the two-day roundtable of political party leaders to review the election, had made it known ahead of the election that it would be reaching out to the parties for their reports on the conduct of the elections.
She said the CTA had to wait some months to enable the parties collate the report, adding, however, that the wait could no longer be prolonged because it realised that the report could not wait for the two main parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which are in court against each other.
She added that some political parties have also decided to join the fray of legal contest and that the presentation of the report and the roundtable could not wait in perpetuity.
On Monday, the roundtable was formally declared open and since the groundwork was done the day before, it was largely a report card presentation occasion. Though 75 parties signed the communiqué, 74 were physically present to present their score cards for the elections.
One chairman or secretary after the other at the meeting heard of the different experiences the politicians went through during the general elections. One thing was clear: the parties saw the readiness of the Election Management Board (EMB) otherwise called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct acceptable elections.
They however saw the lack of sync with that agenda by the security outfits as well as the challenges with the use of card readers, which tended to polarise the country along the north and south divides as key issues that affected the elections. One after the other, the chairmen also condemned the negative roles played by the security, especially the military, during the elections.
But before the chairmen launched out with their score cards of Professor Mahmood Yakubu’s first national elections, acting director of the CTA, Faith Nwadishi, said the occasion would afford the party leaders the opportunity of reflecting on what happened during the 2019 general election, while also peeping into the reports of the various political parties present.
She said it was the first time such a roundtable had taken place in the 20 years history of the present democratic experience.
“Political parties and politicians are major stakeholders in the electoral process and indeed they take away the lion’s share of the benefits of any election. Some politicians are smiling at their fortunes and planning for the next elections, while others are in various tribunals to upturn the elections.
“This roundtable affords the political class the opportunity to interact with other stakeholders, in collaboration with CTA, a civil society organisation. Your reports are critical to engendering better democratic practices, which in turn will help the electoral umpire to fashion a credible pathway to elections and the electoral process,” she said.
Nwadishi noted that INEC, as the electoral umpire, “proved quite independent” in the way it responded to some unexpected challenges that reared their heads during the elections, adding that a proof of INEC’s assertiveness was how it prevented the ruling APC from fielding candidates in Zamfara State.
She also said organisers of the roundtable were appalled at the high incidences of vote buying, harassment of staff and ad hoc staff of the electoral body, as well as high incidence of violence.
She further said: “To the politicians and the political class, you will agree that our elections have seemingly been characterised by brazen and scandalously high level of vote buying and selling. The desperation showed by some individuals at the last elections calls for concern.
“I hope this roundtable, and with the deliberations since yesterday (Sunday last week) will suggest ways to tackle this in future elections and eventually help to address the issues of the high incidence of violence and vote buying experienced during our elections. It is in our place to make our elections better, and this calls for synergy between all key election process stakeholders, including citizens and the security agencies.”
The national roundtable, with the theme: “The Role and Performances of Stakeholders in the 2019 General Elections- Issues, Challenges and Prospects”, was chaired by Professor Remi Aiyede of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan and was moderated by Professor Anthony Olusanya of the Osun State University.
Besides the civil society organisations, security agencies and representatives of the INEC who graced the occasion, the immediate past vice president of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana, was also in attendance. He told the gathering that whereas democracy is not indigenous to Africa, the continent has a duty to make a success of it, having keyed into the global governance model. He added that a lot of countries in Africa look forward to the success of democracy in Nigeria.
Those who also made the event tick included the chairman of Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Peter Ameh, who also delivered a speech; and the chairman of the organising committee, Jeff Ojinika, who is the national chairman of the C4C Party.
At the end of the roundtable, the trio of Ojinika, Nwadishi and Chief Amen signed a three-page communiqué that captured the stand of the political parties.
A key item on the communiqué was the decision of the parties to pass a vote of confidence in the national chairman of INEC, Professor Yakubu.
The parties said: “The roundtable after a comprehensive review of the conduct of the 2019 general elections passes a vote of confidence on the national chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, for the successful conduct of the elections, and notes with satisfaction the transparency in communication and regular engagement of stakeholders at the national, state and local government levels which ensured that everybody was carried along in the process.
“The roundtable indicts the security agencies for the lapses in the election due largely to their collusion with unscrupulous politicians and negligence to do their jobs.”
The communiqué further noted with “satisfaction” the zeal, commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders with the INEC, while regretting that the electoral body’s adherence to the established rules for the election suffered certain setbacks in certain areas.
The communiqué further read: “The roundtable further congratulated the president and leadership of the National Assembly for timeously funding the INEC to ensure a hitch-free execution of the 2019 general election.
“The roundtable commended the National Assembly for meticulously responding to the challenging needs for an all-inclusive and responsive legal framework for the conduct of the 2019 elections, but regretted that non-signing of the amended Electoral Act was a major setback on the quality of the electoral process.
“The roundtable also noted with satisfaction the role played by the international and local observers that monitored the election and offered useful suggestion for the improvement of the electoral process, especially the EU Election Observation Mission and our partners, CTA.
“The roundtable also noted that the role played by the mass media in the publicity, shaping and moderating political activities and behaviours, particularly private radio and television stations, helped to balance and forestall electoral fraud and irregularities during the 2019 elections.
“The roundtable deplored the use of political thugs and security agencies particularly soldiers to disrupt, intimidate and molest INEC staff, journalists and voters during the election.
“The roundtable also noted the cases of use of security operatives to discourage participation during the election, which accounted for low voter turnout after the presidential and National Assembly elections.
“The roundtable noted the distractive misuse of incumbency factor by some governors to create tension, generate friction and insecurity, which affected the 2019 general election.
“The roundtable noted that the registration of more political parties prior to the election opened up the political space, which provided alternative platforms for youth and women participation in the electoral process and doused intra-party tension among ruling parties and the major opposition.
“The roundtable condemned the unpatriotic and desperate ambition of certain politicians whose overzealous supporters engaged in the destruction of billboards of opponents and even burnt down INEC offices, radio and television stations as recorded in Benue, Imo, Gombe, Plateau, Abia, Anambra, Kwara, Edo, Akwa-Ibom states, etc.
“The roundtable commended the INEC for maintaining an open and transparent communication of its plans and programmes and its involvement of other stakeholders in expressing the stages of implementation of the 2019 electoral design.
“The roundtable also commended the establishment of the joint taskforce on security (Inter Agency Committee on Electoral Security), comprising the army, police, civil defense, air force, immigration, prisons, customs and other security outfits with clearly laid-out plan to ensure electoral security.
“But it, however, condemned the role of some overzealous police officers and soldiers who compromised standards and engaged in acts contrary to their calling. Such erring officers should be identified and punished in accordance with the law.
“The roundtable condemned the hypocrisy of the leadership of the security agencies that manifested in the partisan deployment of police and security personnel to polling stations/voting points and also condemned the unprofessional conducts of security agents.
“The roundtable noted that INEC executed the election within its mandate in terms of monitoring campaigns by political parties, distribution of electoral materials, polling and counting of ballots but had pitfalls at the collation stage and announcement of results.
“The roundtable noted the low turnout of voters during election; it also noted that in spite of various meetings organised by INEC to sensitise stakeholders ahead of the elections on the need to avoid underage voting, vote buying as well as ensure transparency and secrecy of voting, party agents and voters still crowded the voting points in order to identify the candidates voted for. Cases of underage voting, vote buying and voter suppression reported different parts of the country without relevant authorities acting are gravely condemnable.
”The roundtable noted as worthy of commendation some INEC permanent staff whose patriotic and professional disposition in carrying out their duties led to the successful conduct of the 2019 polls. But the roundtable must not fail to condemn activities of some ad hoc staff drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and higher institutions whose conducts were inimical to free, fair and transparent polls.
“The roundtable also commended the dispatch with which all rescheduled and supplementary elections were conducted where applicable and lauded the dedication of INEC staff in their assignments.”
After going through the good and the bad that surrounded the 2019 elections, the roundtable made a number of recommendations. It equally asked the electoral body to strengthen the capacity of its polling staff through training and retraining particularly on the handling of the card readers, assisting voters as well as other electoral procedures to ensure transparency and credibility.
The roundtable also recommended that the INEC should consider recruiting permanent staff whose schedule should be collation of results; train them thoroughly for the assignments so as to save the country the embarrassment of ad hoc collation officers.
It recommended that efforts must be intensified to ensure proper coordination of Inter Agency Committee on Election Security (ICES) as well as guarantee non-partisan deployment of security personnel to all the polling units. Besides, it called on the National Assembly to immediately re-present to President Muhammadu Buhari the amended electoral and called on the president to assent to the bill.
It recommended the establishment of electoral offences tribunal to try electoral offenders, while also urging political parties and young people to leverage on the provisions of the Not Too Young to Run Act to increase political participation in elections.
To address what it called dwindling turnout of voters after the first election and increase the zeal to elect credible leaders, the roundtable recommended the reordering of elections and called for the conduct of the three principal elections, including presidential/National Assembly election, governorship/state House of Assembly elections and chairmanship/councillorship elections on the same day.
It said: “This will save cost, ensure emergence of quality leadership, the integrity of the ballot, large voter turnout and guarantee improved security on election day.”
The 74 political parties also said INEC should ensure it makes public dates for possible rerun elections, while scheduling election time tables.
“There is need for more regular interaction and engagement of stakeholders with INEC to fashion out ways of managing elections and developments therefrom,” the parties said, adding that political parties should also ensure adherence to internal democracy in their parties.