2019 General Elections, INEC Boss’s Triumphal Self-assessment, and the Stakeholders’ reactions

Nigeria's 2019 general elections might have come and gone, but relevant stakeholders have continued to interrogate its many aspects.

And rightly so, after all, the country and its institutions did ‘belong to nobody and to somebody’, to borrow the gnomic utterance of President Muhammadu Buhari during his inauguration speech in 2015.

Indeed, the outcome of the elections means different thing to different people depending on where they stand in its conduct. More so as human beings, we see and remember things differently.

As a stakeholder, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is first among equals. As the umpire of the elections, the bucks stopped on their table.

Perhaps, at this juncture a little tracking of what transpired, especially, before and on the eve of the elections might be of help.

Truth be told and on the surface of it, no one could doubt the solidity of INEC’s preparations towards the elections.

But stakeholders, all the same, have continued to argue back and forth as regards whether their performance was a step higher or lower than what they are used to juxtapose with the resources made available to it and it pre-election promises of readiness.

The question, if we assume they performed poorly, however, remains would they had done any better in the circumstances they found themselves?

And if indeed, they did well, why hold from them their deserved accolades.

Before we attempt to look at who said what and why; and whether correctly or not. Let’s have a look at the budget for the elections. The umpire was known to have asked for a little over 300 billion Nigerian naira.

In the end, it got around 200 billion Nigerian naira to prosecute the elections which insiders and a section of the stakeholders argue is grossly inadequate.

However, many others too differed.

To this group, whom we may say are on the critical overdrive, the electoral body got more than it should get considering where the country is economically.

Put the same amount, they argue, that was given to INEC to the nation’s education sector and a lot would have been achieved.

Up until the eve of the last general elections, everything appears to be working according to plan.

Then came, the shocker, by way of postponement due to what INEC calls logistic complications.

The Presidential election which is the first of the ordered elections eventually took place on the 23rd of February 2019 instead of 16th it was earlier scheduled.

And it can be adjudged to be peaceful, relatively. The same thing, however, cannot be said about the remainder of the elections.

Reportedly overall; violence marred the elections in some states with regrettable deaths and injuries to the electorates, INEC’s ad hoc staff, and members of the security corp.

There was also massive disfranchisement of voters either due to INEC’s officials' delay in arriving at their assigned polling booth or by the malfunctioned card readers.

Sizeable numbers of electorates also were unable to locate their polling booths leading to frustrations and inability to vote eventually.

Four months or thereabout after the general election and report after report has been falling on the table of the electoral umpire. The most notable should be that of the EU.

Expected like different examiners assessing the same script of an examination using different yardsticks, there have been differentials in the scorecards of these local and international observer missions.

While some say INEC has conducted the worst elections since 2007 when late former President Yaradua publicly admitted that the election which brought him to power was flawed; others gave them pass marks.

The conclusion you draw from of these is there is no agreeing among all the stakeholders on what went down in 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

The latest bone of contention is the statement credited to the INEC chairman Prof. Mahmoud Yakub, that INEC is the most improved public institutions in Nigeria.

He has been widely criticized by a section of the stakeholders for unnecessarily playing the triumphal card in view of what they claimed was a disgraceful 2019 general elections.

While they themselves are not in agreement as to what constitutes a fair scorecard for the electoral body, they, however, expect him to rate low the body he oversees.

When it is clear that most of the problems INEC had always contended with as electoral umpire in Nigeria are generated by the strategic stakeholders like political parties and politicians.

The cases of what happened in Zamfara and Rivers come to mind. In the two states, the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not field any candidates in the last general elections because desperate party members ensured that the processes of selecting their flag bearers did not conform to the extant electoral rules and regulations. And consequently, it was barred from the elections.

Not forgetting also, as I mentioned earlier, the condemnable incidents of violence, deaths, injuries and the likes around the elections.

They are all fuel by the desperation of the political class to manipulate the process to their advantage even though such they are aware would have comprised its integrity at the end of the day.

All they are after is safeguarding their political interests and by extension their political territories by the most crooked means imaginable.

INEC may have encountered logistics challenges prior to the elections, nevertheless, they wouldn’t have been enough to undermine the elections in any way safe the disruptive impact from the maverick Nigerian politicians.

INEC may also appear to be playing the victim.  And they are indeed one if we take into cognizance how their men have been at the receiving end of the politicians’ shenanigans.

We hear of situations whereby politicians, obviously playing a well-crafted script, either harass or kidnap their men forcing them to declare them as winners.

Like the professor said, I agreed that INEC is one of the most improved public institutions in Nigeria the outcomes of the last elections in terms of some noticeable contra-indications to the effects, we all want to see in our elections notwithstanding.

Yes, there are still rooms for improvements either in terms of electronic voting, Diaspora voting, timely accreditation of voters, timely deployment of electoral officers and materials, name it. They can surmount them all if giving all the requisite supports by the stakeholders.

The cause of unsightly incidents that are prevalent in our elections are and will always be the Nigerian politicians who are more than prepared to get overboard in their bid to get into elective offices.

Did I hear you say the lure is just irresistible? Among others, that perspective again is for us to honestly interrogate going into the future like the INEC boss hinted at the world press conference shortly after the postponement.

What is more? The average Nigerian politicians are bad losers and perpetually disgruntled. And so they are free to rant about the result if it doesn’t go their way and about the electoral umpire if they praise themselves. By now, we should be used to their acrimonious antics.

INEC is like the proverbial lizard which praises itself after jumping down from a high wall and still don’t get your praise from onlookers.

Finally, for Nigeria electoral system to improve, there must be a change of attitudes from the politicians in term of their readiness to play by the rules.  

By so doing INEC will have less and less work to do in terms of curtailing their excesses and deploying their meager resources to hiring lawyers who are to represent them at various electoral tribunal or courts.

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