Chuks Okocha in Abuja
At the end of a two-day seminar on the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, the commission said the two elections would correct the mistakes in the 2019 general election and set a new standard for future elections.
This is coming as stakeholders from Kogi and Bayelsa States have listed violence, vote buying and manipulation of youths as some of the issues that would determine the outcome of the polls in the two states.
Speaking yesterday, the Chairman of the Board of INEC’s Electoral Institute, who is also a National Commissioner, Prince Solomon Soyebi, said: “The election will provide the commission with yet another opportunity to test-run its policies, processes and new initiatives.
“Since the conduct and outcome of the 2019 general election, the commission has done a lot to reorganise and strengthen its processes, procedures and systems for better performance.”
According to the INEC national commissioner, “Although the conduct of the 2019 general election and the commission‘s performance had some challenges, we can use the 2019 general election as a barometer for comparison with subsequent elections, including the Bayelsa governorship election. Clearly, the commission is not under any illusion about the many issues and challenges posed by the electoral process.”
Soyebi said efforts would henceforth be made to further strategically reposition the commission and strengthen its capability to deliver successful elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, especially that they will serve as test-case on lessons learnt from the challenges at the 2019 general elections and improvement for the future.
He said the seminar was another strategic engagement by the commission with broad spectrum of stakeholders, which include academics, civil society groups and electoral experts to examine and interrogate issues of paramount importance to the conduct of credible elections.
He said that the seminar discussed the level of lNEC’s preparedness for the two gubernatorial elections.
Other issues discussed are: “What are the issues in the governorship elections? What are the critical success factors in the elections? How can the commission engage with critical stakeholders? Are there internal issues in the operations of the commission that are likely to affect the conduct of the election in the State?
“Are there any foreseeable logistic challenges at the polls, or on the issue of security or challenge of delegation of responsibility to ad-hoc election personnel?”
Stakeholders at the seminar, including an INEC Commissioner in Niger State, Prof. Sam Egwu, and Prof. Sofiri Peterside of the University of Port Harcourt, identified vote buying, violence and the manipulation of youths as some of the basic issues that would determine the outcome of the two governorship elections on November 16.
Peterside said apart from violence orchestrated by army and other security agents, the electorate see INEC officials and security agencies as agents of fraud rather than arbiters of fair play.
He further said that prevailing atmosphere was compounded by high level of poverty in the state like Bayelsa State and the get-rich quick culture associated with petro dollar politics makes it easier for the voters to succumb to the temptation of vote buying.
He stated that violence had become easier with the notion that with a combination of federal might to suppress, a ruling party easily motivates the youths to be galvanised into violence to protect the status quo.
The stakeholders also identified that the success of the elections in both states would be determined by the mode of transmission of electoral results because the “system of voting and transmission of results adopted by INEC has become a central issue of concern.
For example in the recently concluded general election, INEC in the last minute opted for manual recording and transmission of results instead of the electronic transmission from the polling units earlier announced
Egwu highlighted some of the issues that could affect the credibility of the election to include, violence, vote buying, ethnicity and the special nature of the state, which he said was more of riverine challenges.
He described the electoral officers as the weakest link that should be controlled as they had the capacity to make or mar any election.
He cited the example in Niger State, where some electoral officers were asked to hire 59 buses during elections and for pecuniary reasons hired less 30 buses.
He suggested that the activities of the electoral officers should be closely monitored.
Also, he called for a coordination of the activities of owners of buses and the drivers, urging that INEC should track the buses and have the telephone numbers of the drivers to ensure an easy tracking and monitoring.
He said on the eve of the election, INEC should encourage the police, army and other security agencies to have a show of force and power parade as it will go a long way to reduce violence and thuggery during the election.
He singled out Okene, Kabba, Ankpa, Anyamgba, Dekina, Igalamela and Ofu as some of the places that the security show of force should take place.
He explained that these towns are major trouble spots during elections in Kogi State.