The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the Governorship State Assembly elections from March 11 to March 18 to give it time to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System(BVAS) after the Court of Appeal granted it permission. But the commission has lost touch and credit with Nigerians.
For INEC, conducting elections in Nigeria must be a nightmare. The size of the country, the number of voters and the quantity and quality of materials needed for credible elections always presage a near impossible task.
Since Olusegun Obasanjo took office in 1999, INEC’s conduct of elections has left much to be desired. Elections in the country continue to be marred by violence, over-voting, voter intimidation, underage voting, rigging and other forms of electoral malpractice, all under the nose of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Indeed, how to conduct free and fair elections has remained one of Nigeria’s most urgent questions since democracy returned in 1999.The Independent National Electoral Commission continues to seek and fail to answer that question.
Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly election on February 25, 2023, won by Bola Ahmed Tinubu was wildly considered to be rigged. Peter Obi of the Labour Party is believed to have won the election.
The outcome of the election is already being contested in court while the Independent National Electoral Commission remains as Nigeria’s main electoral empire. But for how long?
Is the Independent National Electoral Commission capable of free, fair and credible elections? Can the Independent National Electoral Commission conduct elections that would pass the Nigerians’ test of transparency and accountability?
The Independent National Electoral Commission, just like the Judiciary has to contend with a perception problem. Nigerians think the Commission is corrupt and unable to conduct credible elections.
Nigerians consider the Independent National Electoral Commission to be staffed with staff that are pliable and easily compromised.
The resulting credibility crisis is crippling for the commission. Most times, even before the first ballot is cast at an election, not a few Nigerians conclude that the commission has already predetermined the winner.
Battle lines have been drawn in many states for the Governorship elections. The All Progressives Congress in many states is threatened by a wave of resurgent opposition political parties threatening to uproot their structures. The panic is real. As the ruling party has acquired a reputation for ruthlessness, many expect mountains to be moved to maintain party and power structures.
Can the Independent National Electoral Commission handle the pressure of giving Nigerians credible elections in many of the 36 states? Having performed so poorly in the presidential election of February 25,2023, can it cover itself in glory this time around?
Can the staff of the commission like Caesar’s wife climb above suspicion for once and give Nigerians cause to cheer? Can the commission insist for once that those who manipulate elections in Nigeria will no longer have their way?
Having lost so much face with the conduct and outcome of the elections on February 25, can the commission redeem itself?
Nigerians should also play their part in making INEC’s work easy. It is Nigerians that sabotage elections in Nigeria. The Nigerians who sabotage elections are not unknown. Their criminal enterprise should be brought to an end.
Nigerians need to strongly feel that their criminal enterprise should be brought to an end. If Nigerians could freely feel this way, it would fuel the sense of injustice and righteous indignation needed to bring down the empire of fraudulent elections in Nigeria.
Kene Obiezu, email@example.com