INEC’s Problem is One and Simple!

Yakubu with the result

The challenges currently being experienced by the Independent National Electoral Commission are defined by nothing but sheer incompetence, writes Olawale Olaleye

Later today, some of the results of yesterday’s governorship and state houses of assembly elections would have begun to trickle in. It is very likely the whole results, unlike the presidential run, could have been concluded by the end of today or latest Monday, thus clearing the coast about who emerged where.

But in all of the elections – from the first to the last – there is something you can’t miss out and it is the level of incompetence so far exhibited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its entire formation.

The outcome of the presidential election was a testament to the fact that nothing really had been learnt from the day the INEC National Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu assumed office. His early days were notorious for inconclusive polls and no one election was spared from that messy experience.

As such, when it appeared he had been able to get round his nervous start, the presidential election came and in spite of having produced a winner and a loser, the election was in general a non-starter, when compared to the successes recorded in the 2015 general election.

From mobilisation to logistics management, the process adopted, not to talk of the security arrangement, the election of Saturday, February 23, was nothing to write home about. It is unlikely that the INEC leadership as well as its members of staff were proud of what they put up as efforts during the exercise that is already being contested in court by the opposition.

Apart from exposing the fact that members of its ground staff are poorly trained for the job, its contract hands are no less an apology as the world watched professors of higher institutions of learning mumbling and messing up numbers as though they were kindergarten intakes.

How the management and deployment of logistics became physics studies by Yakubu’s INEC is indeed disturbing. And to think two weeks after the presidential election, the commission is yet to have the results it had so far released uploaded on its website beats the imagination of the ordinary observer.

You still do not want to talk about how practically all the numbers generated did not tally. In many of the states, not only were the numbers outlandish, they appeared impossible as they failed to tally in many instances, compelling agents of parties to raise objections at different turns during the announcement.

What about the sad reality of INEC’s sensitive materials discovered in the possession of politicians, sometimes with already thumb-printed ballot papers and filled result sheets? These are lapses INEC cannot explain away and yet, everyone moves around as if all is well.

The lapses and the poor coordination in this INEC of soft-spoken-Yakubu are indications that the chairman does not appear to be effectively in charge of many things. Indeed, the chairman often appears surprised about practically everything that happens right under his watch.

There is no doubting the fact that this INEC is typified by gross incompetence and that is evident in its delivery so far. No one in INEC is therefore excusable especially its chairman, who has failed to learn anything from the past let alone change the direction of the all-critical commission.

Whilst the Nigerian people and indeed the world wait to see the results of yesterday’s elections, coming back to discuss some of the inherent failings is definitely not an interesting task to embrace. But going forward, it may have become inevitable, given the avoidable operational glitches that were experienced in many parts of the country, let alone the high apathy that was recorded.

In summary, it is spot-on to infer that INEC has problems and needs urgent help, but in locating what the problem is before discussing the solution, it is important to first agree that the problem is one and simple: it is incompetence of the current leadership.

And as it is, the solution may not be in another chance for this leadership, which had four years to sell itself and failed; it certainly is in the need to change the leadership, with the hope that the new one would have picked from the strengths of Attahitu Jega and learnt from the weaknesses of Yakubu before coming up with the ideal and desired INEC.

But if the leadership of the country continues to beg the issue or considers retaining the current INEC head for whatever reasons, the potential damage for the collective national interest would be greater in another four years, when INEC would have achieved nothing but perfected its mesmerising incompetence.