By Boniface Chizea
I am gradually becoming sold on this promise which Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) never tire of making; that our votes will count. And this is music to my ears as free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections is one of the recognized and acceptable hallmarks of Democracy anywhere in the world. The current players at the helm at INEC are surely enroute to bequeath us a strong institution in INEC. Our best wishes are with them for a resounding success so that they are able to itch their names in gold in the annals of Nigeria history.
The recently delivered Osun State elections has spoken resoundingly for the bona fides of those in charge at INEC today. In the past all systems could have aligned with the prediction of victory only waiting to confirm it. Adegboyega Oyetola is the incumbent with all the powers, privileges and opportunities pertaining thereto. He is said to have delivered good governance as salaries, wages and pensions were paid as at when due. The only complaint that is heard was his inability to tackle accumulated arrears in this respect. He comes well connected as a blood cousin of Senator Bola Tinubu. His mother is the elder sister of Bola Tinubu and he has the sympathies of the powers that be in Abuja because of party affiliation. And yet inspite of these formidable advantages he lost the elections. Are we still looking for any other convincing proof that in 2023 that our votes will count?
Though we must give credit where it is due by not forgetting the contributions of other important stakeholders for this success. The Presidency deserves some credit for providing a level playing field and not wanting to interfere in anyway. Witness the laudable step taken by the President by promptly extending his congratulations limiting the option of usual recourse to litigation which has recently become the hallmark of election results in the country. The President is also on record to have assured that one of the legacies he promises to leave for Nigeria as he departs is an electoral process which is robust, free, fair, inclusive and transparent. We must also acknowledge the role which the security agents must have played in providing peaceful environment as there was notable absence of the usual fracas as attempts are made through fraudulent and illegal means to dictate outcomes.
But this INEC we must admit is a class act. The Chairman of INEC Professor Mahmood Yakubu with his flawless diction has this aura about him that exudes confidence and assurance. INEC now has a chain of successful outings to its record which includes; Edo, Ondo states successful elections on 15th and 10 October, 2020. Then Anambra State which was held on November 6, 2021. Therefore INEC is entitled to bragging rights as it assures all that the make or mar February 25, 2023 will be confidently delivered. We are expectant since with successful elections you harvest peace which is now badly needed as Nigeria has been in the vice grip of unsettling violent disruptions for a long time now.
In addition to these successes which INEC has recorded with elections, there is the need to straighten out its relationship with the political parties. Currently there is running battle with APC with regard to the Party’s attempt to substitute those Candidates who staked their luck at the Presidential primaries and who now as it were want to eat their cake and still have it; those who still want to return to their previous positions as if it is their birth rights to take over from those who were successful with primaries which were observed by INEC officials as required by the Electoral Law. I doubt that they have any chance at all. But where some care has to be exercised is in the recognition of factions that now proliferate within the parties. There is the need to urgently clear any blurred lines of demarcation in this respect as to who is responsible for what. The reviewed 2022 Electoral Law should provide useful guides and reduce scope for contentions as we must struggle to eliminate as much as possible often resort to litigation arising from concluded elections.
There is also the need not to vacilate with the handling of relationship with political parties. There must be well informed firmness and with the need to avoid as much as possible shifting the goal post once decisions have been made otherwise we might end up clothing INEC in the garb of maliability and therefore susceptible to kowtowing to powerful interests. The promise to announce results 12 hours after the election is very attractive as it reduces tension in the polity. All these promises are possible to keep with the best of intentions and as the use of technology is leveraged on to deepened the culture of our elections to compare favourably with the best any where in the world.
As Elections February 25, 2023 approaches, there is the need to ensure that we have capitalized on appropriate lessons from our experience in this respect. There is the need to encourage wide participation during elections to ensure that mandates received are truly representative. Festus Okoye who looks very much the part as he discharges the responsibilities assigned to him with regard to voter education and enlightenment creditably has his work cut out for him as he tries to encourage the participation of more citizens in our elections. The momentum now galvanised following the resolve of the youths to participate during the election is an opportunity which must be seized at high tide to change the narrative regarding the extant election culture in the country in terms of mass participation and hitch free conclusions of elections in the country. We congratulate INEC for the journey so far and as morning shows the day, we have no doubt for a successful outing next year during the elections so that the aspirations of a majority of the population is delivered seamlessly and not miscarried. 🙏🏼
Dr Boniface Chizea is a development economist and consultant