Editor's note: Moshood Isah of YIAGA Africa writes on the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections and the governorship and states' House of Assembly elections.
Isah also analyses the various inconclusive elections in states across the country.
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Having endured avalanche of criticisms following the initial postponement of the Presidential elections, the electoral commission was also not spared after the conduct of the elections came with logistics and security issues.
The controversy that followed the declaration of the Presidential elections result also left the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the mercy of criticisms from political parties who lost the elections and reproaches from political analysts.
The latest from the barrage of criticisms INEC is currently facing is as a result of the declaration of inconclusive elections in six states and suspension of the process in Rivers State.
Understandably so because the commission is the only constitutional body responsible for administering elections in Nigeria and thus virtually every garbage regarding electoral issues lands on the commission’s doorstep.
Sadly, another round of taxpayers’ fund will be used to conduct supplementary elections as a result of misdemeanor of the same politicians who control the state resources.
Taking a holistic look at the circumstances where elections can be declared inconclusive, it seems obvious that INEC has been applying the margin of lead principle in a bid to further its credibility and transparency.
INEC guidelines for the 2019 elections succinctly explained that supplementary elections may hold in line with the ‘Margin of Lead Principle’ where the commission is unable to deploy to Polling Units due to logistical challenges, willful obstruction or resistance to deployment/distribution of election materials or where there is voter resistance to the use of the Smart Card Reader.
Similarly, supplementary election will be announced where the commission determines that violent disruptions occurred at a substantial number of Polling Units before announcement of result.
Although, there were reports of delay in deployment of materials in a handful of polling units, elections still held.
The main reason behind inconclusive elections is due to vote cancellation caused by either ballot box snatching, destruction of electoral materials, overvoting or violence at polling units or collation centers.
The commission itself obviously will not snatch its own ballot box or destroy its own materials and as a matter of fact, there cannot be overvoting in polling units without collusion of political party agents and security present at the time.
It’s no more news that politicians through thugs, agents and loyalists are usually the culprits and perpetrators of electoral violence in a desperate move to swing voters’ decision in their favor.
Reports abound on how political thugs inspired by desperate politicians disrupt the process or destroy election materials especially when their personal interest is at stake. The sudden inferno at a number of INEC offices close to the elections still await investigation.
More so, whether the security agencies involved in the election claim that they are being impersonated by political thugs in their uniforms or not, this security agencies also have the large chunk of blame when it comes to disruption of elections leading to cancellation and most times the infamous inconclusive election declaration.
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Election officials cannot be harassed, intimidated or assaulted and then still take the blame for snatching of ballot box while security agents who as a matter of fact are mandated to protect everyone including the materials remain exonerated.
The best INEC can do in such scenario is to cancel elections in such polling unit or collation center and if the total number of registered voters surpass the margin of lead between the two major candidates, the credible thing to do is conduct a supplementary election.
It is thus high time to call out politicians who are the major actors in the electoral process to desist from disrupting the process or face the wrath of the law.
It will even be better if these electoral offences that leads to cancellation of hard-earned votes can be investigated and when linked to principal perpetrators they should be punished accordingly.
Come to think of it, has the Inspector General of Police ever made effort to hold Commissioners of Police responsible in states where electoral violence occurs? Its high time Commissioners start holding Divisional Police Officers responsible at the Locations where there are disruption of election.
While this piece is not completely exonerating the electoral commission from the ills bedeviling Nigeria’s elections, the politicians and security agents should take large share of the spoils. The electoral commission does not operate in a vacuum and thus electoral actors must play their own role to ensure a credible process.
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