With the supplementary and run-off elections in six states of the federation underway in Adamawa, Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau, Sokoto on 23rd March and the pending April 2019 collation, the cycle of voting in the 2019 general elections is expectedly coming to an end. The run-off and the supplementary holds within the context of a highly disputed electoral contest in the six states following the polls of Saturday 9th March 2019.
That election was marred by voter apathy and it threw a pall of disenchantment over the whole elections conducted in the 2019 general elections. The Centre LSD and PPA Observer Group had issued an interim report on the governorship and House of Assembly election where they noted the improvement in the conduct of the election especially in the speedy deployment of ad-hoc staff and materials to polling stations across the country. There has however, been a series of arguments by many Nigerians over the proprietary or otherwise for conducting run-offs and supplementary elections in those states. Believing that INEC has enough reasons for opting for the elections on Saturday 9th March 2019, we demand for;
(a) Sustaining the Standard by INEC in Logistics and Arrival of Materials:
The improvement in the deployment of ad-hoc staff and materials by the Commission showed in that INEC has the potentials to properly organize elections. The Commission should ensure that the standard it set in the deployment of staff and election materials should be sustained by the early arrival at polling units in the six states just as it happened across the country on March 9, 2019. Setup should also start as early as possible in all the polling stations involved in the run-off and supplementary elections.
(b) Rapid Accreditation and Voting:
There was an improvement in the simultaneous accreditation and voting process in the governorship and Houses of Assembly elections and we expect nothing less than that in the run-off and supplementary elections. Whatever INEC tweaked and whatever INEC did to make that performance possible should be done so that the decline in confidence in the Commission can be reversed and Nigerians can take pride in INEC as an agency that can provide truly free and credible elections.
(c) Turnout of voters:
The turnout of voters was a blight in the March 9 2019 election as it was abysmally low relative to the level of turnout during the presidential and NASS elections. In majority of places, there were unrestricted movement, including vehicular and movement of persons. Youths rather than participate in the elections, used the opportunity for extra-curricular activities, including playing football, getting engrossed in political analysis and socializing as a way of venting their anger against the electoral process.
We hope that INEC has been able to get to the root cause of the voter apathy and will persuade Nigerians in those states to come to vote in order to rekindle the interest of the voters on the process of democracy as still being he best option for choosing our leaders.
(d) Sustenance of the Secrecy of the Ballot:
The hallmark of the credibility of an election is the extent to which the ballot remains secret to individual voters. We commend INEC for sustaining the secrecy of the ballot in the March 9 2019 election and expects that the standard observed then would be upheld and if possible surpassed in the run-off and supplementary elections.
(e) Enhanced & Non-Partisan Security of the Election:
Perhaps the greatest threat to the credibility of the 2019 elections is the issue of security. INEC has consistently stated that the elections is a purely civil affair and should in no way be militarized but be left to the police and other civil security personnel. We demand that security should be enhanced and be nonpartisan. We asked that the army should rather help in providing a playing level field for all contestants even if they are called upon by INEC to provide support services and in under no circumstances any Nigerian be intimidated through use of force during the discharge of their civic responsibilities.
(f)Resolution of Issue with the Card Reader:
We note with a sense of pride that the much-maligned Card Readers performed creditably in the March 9 2019 election. It was attributed to the low turnout and we hope the run-off and supplementary election would provide another opportunity to further test the card reader and ensure that it becomes a dependable tool for other elections that will hold in Nigeria. We expect too that the high incidence of voided votes arising from the malfunctioning of the card readers would not re-occur in the run-off and supplementary elections.
(g)High Sense of Responsibility from Political Parties:
We note with concern that much of the violence associated with the election is perpetuated by political parties who would want to win at all cost. Winning at all cost is a huge cost for the democratic process because at the end nobody really wins. The political contest has been so acrimonious and too toxic for democracy to flourish and the accusations and counter accusations from the two major parties is at the bottom of all these crises. We implore all political parties and their agents to desist from turning the elections and election grounds into theatres of war and contest for supremacy in arms and thugs but to be responsible for the duty of vigilant observations assigned to them.
Conclusion: We expect that INEC will use the run-off and supplementary elections as means of demonstrating to Nigeria that it has total control of the process of conducting elections in Nigeria and shoring up the confidence of Nigeria that democratic values will be sustained as a system of choice in electing our representatives in Nigeria. We expect that all critical stakeholders can use the run-off and supplementary election to show to Nigeria that they will all play their part in using elections to pursue political development instead of anarchy. Therefore, the run-off and supplementary elections should be used to set the benchmark for a transparent, free, fair and credible election in Nigeria.
Priests Peace & Justice Initiative,
Ebenezer Place, After Gwagwalada Park,
Durumi 2, Area 1, Abuja.
Ag. Executive Director,
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD).
Suite 27, Tolse Plaza. 4, Franca Afegbua Crescent, Apo Abuja.