•Blame military, police for electoral shortcomings
•It’s a welcome devt, says commission
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
At the end of a two-day national roundtable, which brought together political stakeholders, 75 political parties, excluding the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday in Abuja, passed a confidence vote on the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, saying the 2019 general election met the expectation of majority of Nigerians.
However, some chairmen of the parties, who spoke at the two-day roundtable, which ended yesterday at the International Conference Centre, blamed operatives of security agencies, particularly the military and the police for whatever shortcomings that might have been witnessed in the election.
Speaking through its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Isa-Onilu, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said the vote of confidence on INEC was an ‘’indirect endorsement’’ of APC and President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, which he said had done well in terms of providing the right environment for INEC to conduct a credible election.
He said: “APC is never against the IPAC even though it is not a statutory body. But APC is not against the organization and so we have no reason not to be there. May be our absence was due to communication gap.
“As a party we have stated our position on the conduct of the general election. As a ruling party, we believe that we have provided a conducive environment for INEC to do well and if 75 political parties are passing a vote of confidence on INEC, then it is indirect endorsement of APC and what President Buhari-led government has done in terms of providing the right environment for INEC to conduct a credible election.”
In a swift reaction INEC described the vote of confidence passed on the commission’s chairman as a welcome development.
Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the acknowledgment by the political parties would spur the commission to pursue objectives that will improve the electoral system.
“This is indeed a welcome development and I thank the political parties for this important acknowledgment. This recognition will spur the Commission to continue to pursue lofty objectives that will improve our electoral system,” the electoral body stated.
With a theme, “The role and Performances of Stakeholders in the 2019 General Elections, Issues, Challenges and Prospects,” the event brought together strategic and key players in the Nigerian political landscape, including, state chairmen of political parties in Nigeria, INEC, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), tertiary educational institutions, security agencies, members of the diplomatic corps, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and foreign/local observers that monitored the electoral process.
The event was graced by immediate past Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana, and chaired by Prof. Remi Aiyede.
In her address, the Acting Executive Director, Centre for Transparent Advocacy (CTA ), co-organisers of the event, Ms Faith Nwadishi, said that INEC as the umpire of the general elections proved quite independent in the way and manner it responded to the unexpected challenges thrown its way by the stakeholders in the process and other unforeseen circumstances during the last general election.
“Of note is how it bravely prevented the ruling party from fielding candidates in Zamfara in its determination to follow the rules no matter whose ox is gored.
‘’More crucially, on the ground, during election and voting day, it refused to be intimidated by threats and violence unleashed on its officials and ad-hoc staff leading to some certificates of return being withheld by INEC though this is now subject to litigations”, she stated.
In a communique read by the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Chief Jeff Ojinaka, at the end of the well-attended conference, the group explained that the decision to commend the INEC Chairman was anchored on his commitment to ensure that things were done in a transparent manner.
“The roundtable after a comprehensive review of the conduct of the 2019 general elections passes a vote of confidence on the National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for the successful conduct of the election, 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 communique added.
Reviewing some of the challenges encountered during the election, the roundtable deplored the role played by the military and other security agents, as well as the activities of thugs who they said were used by desperate politicians.
The roundtable also noted with satisfaction the role played by the international and local observers, who had offered useful suggestions for the improvement of the electoral process.
It also commended the Nigerian media for the publicity, shaping and moderating political activities and behaviours, particularly private owned media that helped to balance and forestall electoral fraud and irregularities during the elections.
Condemning the ‘’hypocrisy’’ of the leadership of the security agencies, which the group said manifested in the ‘’partisan deployment of police and security personnel’’ to polling stations/voting points, 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.
Making some recommendations, the group asked INEC 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 during future elections.
‘’INEC should consider, recruiting permanent staff whose schedule should be collation of results, train them thoroughly for the assignment to save the nation the embarrassment of ad hoc collation officers.
‘’Efforts must be intensified to ensure proper coordination of Inter Agency Committee on Election Security (ICES) and the non-partisan deployment of security personnel to all the polling units to ensure peaceful conduct of polls.
‘’The roundtable calls on the National Assembly to immediately re-present to President Muhammadu Buhari the amended electoral bill and calls on Buhari to do the needful to ensure that the amended Electoral Bill is signed into law’’, the roundtable recommended.
It also demanded for the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunal to try electoral offenders, which should be structured to take off less than a month after election petition tribunal hearings have concluded.
It also advised political parties and young people to leverage on the provisions of the ‘’Not Too Young To Run Act’’ to increase political participation in subsequent elections.
It further recommended, ‘’In order to address dwindling turnout of voters after the first election and increase the zeal to elect credible leaders, the roundtable recommends the conduct of the three principal elections: Presidential/National Assembly election, Governorship/State Assembly elections and Chairmanship/Councillorship elections on the same day.
‘’This will save cost, ensure emergence of quality leadership, the integrity of the ballot, large voter turnout and guarantee improved security on election day. While scheduling election time table, dates for possible run-off, re-run or inconclusive polls should be included.
‘’There is need for more regular interaction and engagement of stakeholders with INEC to fashion out ways of managing elections and development therefrom.’’
The roundtable also stressed the need for the political parties to maintain internal democracy and engage in transparent primaries to select their candidates with less rancour, and minimize defections.
‘’Parties are equally requested to review their manifestoes to strengthen their ideologies and loyalties and stem intra-party conflicts that bedevil the nation’s polity.
‘’Freedom of Information Act should be given life so that media outfits and journalists would be adequately protected while carrying out their legitimate duties during elections’’, it further advised.
The Roundtable recommended the event to be organised in the geopolitical zones and states to bring down to the grassroots, the experiences and recommendations of the conference.
Some of the political parties that attended the event include, Action Alliance (AA), African Action Congress (AAC), Advanced Allied Party (AAP), All Blending Party (ABP), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Labour Party (LP), Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and others.