INEC: We’ll Leverage on Lessons, Challenges from US Presidential Elections

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 Says new electoral law will compliment commission’s desire for strong institutions

By Chuks Okocha

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said that it would take advantage of the ongoing electoral reforms at the National Assembly to leverage on challenges that the last presidential election in the United States could pose for elections in Nigeria.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, who is currently acting as the chairman of the commission, said there are lots of lessons the commission have learnt from the current political debacle that occurred from the last presidential election in the United States.

According to Okoye in an interview with THISDAY, he said. “We shall work assiduously to transform and build the commission to an institution that can run professionally and ethically and in the best interest of the Nigerian people.

“We recognise that individuals can make a difference and can make that difference within the institutional framework that is strong.

“Some of the proposed amendments of the electoral laws will strengthen the commission and give it the muscle to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process. The amendments will strengthen the regime of internal democracy in the political parties, strengthen the commission to assess funds timely from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and make our elections more transparent. Our laws must be in tandem with societal movements and dynamics.

“However, we are conscious of the fact that we need strong institutions and political players with the requisite democratic spirit to complement the spirit of the law and the intendment of the law makers. We are confident that the new amendments will enable the commission pilot new initiatives and courageously and incrementally introduce new, creative, impactful, sustainable and acceptable innovations,” Okoye stated.

Dwelling on the lessons INEC has learnt from the political debacle in the last presidential election in the United States, Okoye said: “The commission has a lot to learn from and has learnt a lot from the United States presidential election. The first lesson is that the people must take ownership of the electoral process and develop strong institutions to protect and support it.

“The second lesson is that the nation comes first and the political preferences and affiliation of some of the state actors’ pales into in significance when the democratic and electoral process is concerned.

“The third lesson is that democracy and the electoral process is a work in process and each country must continue to work on it and nurture it. The fourth lesson is that advanced democracies can experience storms based on the political practices and actions of some of the operators but what is important is that the democratic process has shock absorbers to absorb challenges and proffer solutions.

“The fifth is that nations must design their electoral process to suit their circumstances both geographically, historically and culturally. The sixth is that the American electoral system is anchored on the principle of voluntarism and this is the base of mandate protection,” Okoye explained.