By Demola Seriki
It is to the consternation of Nigerians at the early hours of February 16th 2019 that the Presidential and National Assembly elections were postponed for another seven days. Who does that? I don’d know of any country that has ever resheduled elections for one week at the twilight of that degree of five hours to the commencement of the scheduled aforesaid elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had almost four years to prepare and deliver fair, free and credible elections in 2019. There is no alibi to absolve INEC umpires and managers of this all important exercise to a positive and acceptable state.
All necessary tools, instruments and logistics were sought by INEC and delivered in return sufficiently and timely by the executive organ saddled with this responsibility.
I’m particularly exasperated that INEC misled and chagrined the President by giving the assurances of its readiness to conduct the elections without rancor which invariably made the President to address Nigerians on Thursday evening approximately thirty six hour before the scheduled elections. On the same day, the Presidential candidates of the parties signed the peace accord which had in attendance eminent Nigerians and International observers. Up till that moment, the INEC electoral commissioners were so confident that all logistics were already in place and that the elections will proceed as scheduled.
The amount of resources and sweat that may not be quantified are so enormous. Of course, the voting apathy is looming. There is anger out of frustration in all nooks and corners.
I’m not a fan of bad pratice and the philosophy I embrace always is not to undertake or do what I cannot defend. I wholeheartedly expect anyone holding this exalted office of the Chairman of INEC to espouse this always.
Let me state here lucidly that it is time for us to stop having the conviction that only Professors can deliver a credible election. Where did we get this impression from? A professor is expected to impact knowledge and engage in research or design policy and by extension to possess oratory or, eloquent prowess. I’m not swayed that they are the most efficient managers of men and resources. All we need is a non-partisan, apolitical and credible individual with unquestionable character. In other words, a person of high intergrity with proven record of managerial skill and with no moral turpitude. Above all, someone with valour for the assigment. It’s a serious albatross to always zero down to a Professor as the number one qualification or prerequisite to be the INEC Chairman. Let’s dissuade from this archaic choice.
Further to my dismay is the comparisons of failing areas of Professor Jegas’ postponement of elections and that of Professor Yakubu. That’s flagrant disappointing and odious to be making such comparisons. In 2011, it was the National Assembly Elections that Professor Jega postponed at this much twilight not the Presidential, and in 2015 he gave sufficient notice and reason of insecurity as National Security Adviser was the proponent.
I have the empathy for President Muhammadu Buhari because of his imminent triumph which will invariably be blemished that the positive outcome of the election in his favour will be attributed to the postponement. That is incontrovertible. Apparently because there is this belief that the Presidency remotely controls INEC is the reason many people think that the All Progressives Congress (APC) Government is behind the postponement. Even though the President and APC National Chairman have both distanced themselves from this unfortunate and sad development, and in fact utterly condemned it still, a good number of our citizens considered their actions theatrical and a charade. A way forward regarding this false impression is to remove the word ‘INDEPENDENT’ from INEC. In real sense, how independent is INEC? INEC is in Presidency. It is the President that recommends the appointment of the Chairman and members of INEC to the National Council of States which is ordinarily an advisory body before the confirmation of the Senate. I believe INEC should just become National Electoral Commission NEC. This will give the body a real sense of independence in mental disposition. The National Judicial Council (NJC) is independent whereas it is NOT know as the INJC.
By happenstance and with humility, I’m privileged to be the Presidential agent for President Muhammadu Buhari, inLagos, hence I had the opportunity to be present at the Central Bank of Nigeria in my Locality in Lagos and waited around the vicinity to ascertain the effective distribution of materials till wee hours of the night preceding the election and vehicles were loaded and left for different locations. I believe strongly that we have too many candidates on the ballots. It is time to review our laws of the electoral act regarding the numbers of candidates. My position on this is, in order to minimize the number of Presidential candidates we need to enshrine in our electoral act that forany party to field a presidential candidate it should have been able to win a seat in any State of our Federation or a seat in the National Assembly. This will prune the number of unserious candidates with little or no National appeal. Too many unserious candidates actually made Logistics cumbersome. A party ought to have presence in a State or National Assembly in order to earn a spot for Presidential candidacy at the General Elections.
Simultaneously, a party must have a Councillor at the local government election before it may earn a Gubernatorial election. The plethora of candidates for Gubernatorial and Presidential Elections has made logistics very inimical hence efficacy may not be met. I hereby appeal to ease of enabling laws to be well enshrined in our electoral act.
Meanwhile, the INEC Chairman claimed logistics as the reason for postponement. That’s unacceptable. It’s rather tantamount to incompetence. In a civilized country, the chairman will voluntarily resign by taking responsibility because the balk stops on his table. I’m glad to know that the President said further findings would be made on why the postponement took place.
Going forward, let’s re-examine our stance on INEC’s composition in particular the Chairmanship and the entire ease of operations in order to carry out an effective election exercise. We are in a better position to avert and prevent an encore of such plight in the future before it erupts. We have to continually be ambitious to deliver a credible election at all times but ambition without knowledge and vision is like a boat on a dry land.
-Demola Seriki, Former Minister Defence/Interior/Agriculture/Water Resources/Mines/Steel.