Seeks prosecution of electoral offenders
Davidson Iriekpen, Olawale Olaleye and Charles Ajunwa
The National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday said he was not in a position to guarantee conclusive polls in 2019 because he would not be pressured to step outside the lines of the Constitution, the Electoral Act and the Guidelines to impress anyone.
The INEC boss, who said this last night during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, noted that the conclusiveness or otherwise of any election owes greatly to the behavioural pattern of voters, of which he has zero control, adding that he would not dare second-guess any election.
He, however, frowned at the non-existence of any law prosecuting electoral offenders, saying the absence of such a provision or law has allowed for an abiding culture of electoral malpractices responsible for some of the many hitches the commission has been dealing with.
Dismissing the swirling assumption that virtually all the elections conducted by the commission under his leadership were inconclusive, Yakubu said so far since he assumed office, the commission had concluded about 137 elections, 80 of which were rerun and the rest were isolated polls like the Kogi and Bayelsa States elections, including also, the recent elections into the Federal Capital Territory.
While noting that the commission has continued to conduct elections practically every weekend unknown to many Nigerians, Yakubu maintained that “We won’t conclude elections at all means. But we will only always conclude elections with regards to the laws of the land and the Electoral Act.”
The INEC chairman, who noted that inconclusive polls were not peculiar to his leadership, went down memory lane to recall some of the major elections that were not concluded in the past with resounding emphasis on the 1983 re-election of former President Shehu Shagari, which propelled the military takeover of the Muhammadu Buhari junta.
Although he claimed not to be proud of such developments, Yakubu said the narratives trailing some of the elections conducted under his watch have made it look like it had never happened before, citing also the start of the 2011 elections, which the former INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega had to postpone even when voting had commenced in some parts of the country.
He, therefore, reiterated that “I can’t guarantee conclusive elections in 2019. I cannot second-guess Nigerians and I don’t know where they would head in 2019,” adding that he would not step a foot outside what the laws and guidelines dictate for the conduct of elections, urging Nigerians to work with him in ensuring that the polls are conclusive through shared roles and responsibilities.
Continuing, Yakubu said “The Electoral Act envisages the commission to sufficiently comply. You can’t second-guess any election. You can’t conclude an election on behalf of the people. The Kogi election came within two weeks that we assumed office and with its peculiar challenge. I don’t think anyone should blame the commission, but we found a way out.”
Identifying some of the challenges being encountered by the commission, Yakubu said the prosecution of electoral offenders was crucial to successful elections but noted that INEC neither has its own police nor the capacity to investigate infractions during elections.
He also identified threats of violence as well as over-voting as some of the challenges that informed why some of the elections usually turned out inconclusive. He maintained that “every vote in Nigeria must count and every polling unit must account. What they do at the polling units must be recognised and respected,” he added.
In addition to some of the distractions that the commission has had to deal with, Yakubu said his leadership met about 680 litigations in which it was joined, adding that whilst 600 of them were dismissed, 80 were upheld and that 80 were part of the ones responsible for some of the reruns held so far.