New Telegraph

Guber/S’Assembly Polls: INEC’s last chance at redemption

Exactly 14 days after presiding over one of the most contentious polls in Nigerian history, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) once again has the opportunity of redeeming itself when it stages the final leg of the 2023 general election sequence with governorship and states’ Houses of Assembly polls today.

While gubernatorial elections will be held in 28 of the 36 states of the federation and 993 states’ Houses of Assembly seats are also up for grabs. With the constitution allowing only a two-term limit for governors, this means 18 incumbent governors are now ineligible for re-election creating room for new faces to occupy the various states’ Government Houses. Acutely aware of the pillorying INEC has received from Nigerians, including both domestic and international media, following the Presidential and National Assembly polls, Prof Mahmood Yakubu has once again strived hard to assure all that things will be different this time around. Meeting with state Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja a fortnight ago, Yakubu, who acknowledged that there were “some flaws” in the Presidential and National Assembly elections, directed that ad hoc staff will be made to undergo a refresher training ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections, also ordered that staff found to be negligent in the February 25 exercise would be dismissed.

“Refresher training must be conducted for ad hoc staff that participated in the last election. Where they are replaced for good reason, they must be properly trained so that processes are not delayed or compromised at any stage,” he said. In the light of today’s governorship and state assembly elections, Yakubu noted that the electoral body and RECs must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. “Nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians. All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including Collation and Returning Officers, must not be involved in forthcoming elections.

“RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established,” he said. Insisting that every effort had been made to ensure a smooth exercise, Yakubu said: “The planning for the election was painstakingly done. However, its implementation came with challenges, some of them unforeseen.

The issues of logistics, election technology, behaviour of some election personnel at different levels, attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely challenging environment in which elections are usually held in Nigeria.” Once again the 61-year-old Professor of Political History and International Studies, who assumed office on November 9, 2015, insisted that today’s exercise will be technology-driven.

“On Election Day technology, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will once again be deployed for voter accreditation and result management. The deployment of BVAS has gone a long way to sanitise voter accreditation as can be seen from the result of recent elections. Since last week, the Commission has intensified the review of the technology to ensure that glitches experienced, particularly with the upload of results are rectified. We are confident that going forward the system will run optimally,” the INEC boss explained. Unfortunately it was this same technology, which had been touted to be the ‘game changer’ ahead of the last election, that failed spectacularly in many places, leaving the Commission open to criticism of being incompetent and, perhaps, even complicit in the exercise which returned Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner.

However, just like I predicted in my piece titled: “Election 2023: Decision time for Nigerians,” Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who came second with 6,984,520 (29.07 per cent) and third placed Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) are currently challenging this in court – both men insist they have more than enough evidence to prove their cases. Speaking in Abuja, a tearful Obi said he won the election and would explore all legal and peaceful means to prove it in court.

“They asked me to go to court, and I’m going to court. Let me reiterate and assure my good people of Nigeria that we will follow all available legal and peaceful procedures to reclaim our mandate. “This will probably go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria. The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by the institutions and leaders whom we trusted,” he told the packed media briefing.

Atiku concurred, saying: “The processes and outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections of last Saturday were grossly flawed in every material particular and as such, must be challenged.” While no doubt the process and outcome of the Presidential/National Assembly polls left a sour taste in the mouths of many and may lead to voter apathy today, however, we should not forget the popular saying: “The show must go on.” And thus in spite of our anguish I will like to appeal to voters not to lose hope and still turn out in numbers to carry out their civic duty as governance at state lev-han at the centre. In fact, I believe that the performance or otherwise of governors and State House of Assembly members are felt more in our daily lives than that of the President and National Assembly members. The efforts of the young voters did not end in vain as tacitly acknowledged by the INEC chairman himself when he told the RECs: “Seven political parties have won senatorial seats while in the House of Representatives, 325 out of 360 seats have been won by eight political parties. In terms of party representation, this is the most diverse National Assembly since 1999.” In the Senate, 101 of 109 seats have now been known with the remaining being declared inconclusive. The eight outstanding seats will be known in the next few days with the reruns taking place today. The APC topped with 55 Senators and was followed by the PDP with 33 while LP had seven. NNPP and SDP have two seats each; APGA and YPP have one each. In the 325 House of Representatives results so far declared, the APC won 159 seats while the PDP placed second with 104. LP and NNPP won 35 and 18 seats respectively, APGA four seats, ADC and SDP two each while YPP got one seat. Thirty-five others were inconclusive and will be filled today. With 55 seats in the upper chamber, the APC has formed the majority though it has yet to achieve that in the lower house. A party requires 180 seats to form a majority in the House. Stories have also emerged of a graduate Okada rider and bus driver being elected into the lower house on the strength of belonging to one of the parties. The diverse nature of the National Assembly should ensure for a more robust legislation and, perhaps, end the belief that the outgoing one was too hands-inglove with the Executive. All said and done, we should put the experience of February 25 behind us and head to the polls and hope that this time around INEC will ‘not fall our hands’ – and who knows we just might see more upsets like we did with the LP getting the better of the APC in Lagos!

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