Editor's note: Public affairs analyst, Michael Oche, writes on the just concluded Ekiti governorship election with emphasis on the sterling performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He states that the exercise is a plus for the INEC boss, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
When Professor Mahmood Yakubu took over as INEC chairman, there were, quite understandably, concerns in the polity. This fear was not borne out of question marks over his credibility or integrity. Nor was it propelled by concerns about his competence. No! Rather, it was the fear of his ability to fill the shoes left behind by his predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, who had just conducted an historic election which witnessed for the first time in the country's history ,an incumbent president being defeated through the ballot.
Three years down the line, the man, Yakubu, is smashing records, and perfecting the electoral process so much so that politicians have long abandoned the idea of ballot box snatching behind. Indeed, no Nigerian wants to remember those dark ages when thugs walked into polling stations and made away with ballot boxes, stuffed them with already thumb-printed ballot papers and returned them to the spot where they were snatched.
We are now accustomed to seeing one new innovation in the conduct of elections with each election. And on Saturday, July 14, for the first time, INEC introduced a new innovation that enabled it to track all vehicles carrying sensitive materials to locations real time from departure, en route and arrival.
The trending word among young Nigerians when they attempt to commend a man for doing well, is "he deserves some accolades."
Indeed, accolades is what Professor Yakubu Mahmood and his team at INEC have been receiving from various election observer groups that observed Saturday's Ekiti governorship election.
With every passing election, Professor Mahmood continues to prove his detractors wrong. And with yet another successful Ekiti election, where both local and international observers hailed the conduct of INEC, Mahmood has once again let his actions and achievements speak for themselves. The INEC boss and his team just added the Ekiti election to their kitty of successful polls.
It is becoming clear to every Nigerian that elections in the country are getting better, both in terms of preparations and outcome.
In Ekiti, election observers noted with satisfaction, that there was a tremendous improvement in the performance of INEC. Such innovations as simultaneous accreditation and voting, tracking of movement of materials and electronic transmission of results to the collation centres have improved election management as was clearly shown in this election. In few cases, where there were reports of dysfunctional card readers, INEC made prompt efforts to address these glitches. The perennial logistical nightmare that usually was the bane of past elections was thoroughly surmounted. Between 8-8.30am, Mahmood’s INEC had achieved 70 percent deployment to polling stations and by 9am on the same day, it had surpassed 99 percent deployment and commencement of voting.
Despite its global acceptance, not many Nigerians remember that after the 2015 general elections, 80 elections were nullified by the courts; 23 elections were upturned and the INEC was ordered by the courts to issue certificates of return to the rightful winners, making a total of 103 elections from the 2015 general elections that was to be charitable, faulty.
But it is interesting to know that so far, only four of the 180 elections conducted by INEC under Mahmood have been successfully challenged in court. Even so, the election petition appeal tribunals did not order the commission to entirely rerun any of the elections.
With such track record, the man does not need to convince anyone that he is ready to deliver a free, fair and credible 2019 elections.
The most difficult elections to conduct in Nigeria are off-season or stand alone elections. The reason is simple: the political actors try to mobilise everybody, nationwide to focus on a particular place; the kind of attention you do not see in general elections.
The initial concern was that there would be an armageddon in Ekiti on Saturday. And the politicians and social media propagandists didn't help in anyway to assuage the concern.
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We are all aware that in Nigeria when a politician wins an election, he would used the choicest endearing words to describe INEC as the best thing to have happened to this country , but when he loses, INEC becomes the ''enemy to democracy.''
Not that anyone expects politicians to love the umpire. After all, he is the man who stands between them and their agenda of winning at all cost. However, every observer who was deployed to observe the Ekiti election attests to the fact that INEC has indeed made tremendous progress and is poised to deliver a credible, free and fair 2019 elections.
The amiable professor, indeed, deserves some accolades.
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