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INEC undermining confidence in public institutions!

The recent governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states have made it abundantly clear that, as currently constituted, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)…

The recent governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states have made it abundantly clear that, as currently constituted, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is totally incapable of organising elections which pass any test of fairness, probity, financial frugality and operational efficiency.  

In the just “concluded” elections the Labour Party’s (LP) governorship candidate in Imo State accused security operatives of colluding with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to manipulate results. He contended that the Returning Officer should have halted collation after noticing the discrepancy between the results uploaded to the IREV and those presented by the collation officers at the state collation centre!

In Kogi State, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) seriously complained of malpractices affecting the integrity of the process, especially relating to missing results sheets, INEC staff manipulating BVAS machines to record over-voting and the pre-filling of results sheets. In Bayelsa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) protested the highjack of election materials and refusal to allow voters to vote. INEC consequently cancelled over 24,000 votes. These reports of INEC’s routine inefficiency and inability to get things right show that they are incapable of solving the well-documented problems of the 2023 presidential elections.  

There is little doubt that as usual, the winners will be those declared by the courts not those announced by INEC. The commission routinely squanders billions of naira in a failed attempt to organise acceptable elections. Persistent logistical problems, cases of bribing INEC officials, missing or pre-filled results sheets and prevention of voting despite the presence of security agents who are in no way impartial indicate the need for a full-blown public inquiry and transparent, effective, credible and broad-based investigation into the operations of INEC. It was nothing short of an insult to all Nigerians that INEC Chairman Yakubu squandered so much money on technology only to shamelessly turn around to claim that he was not under any obligation to use it!  

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INEC’s failure to conduct credible elections can be traced to the top where the buck stops because their chairmen are unqualified for the job. The background and knowledge required for an INEC chairman to do his job effectively is an understanding of quantitative techniques including logistics, statistics, operations research and job scheduling. Despite this, the current chairman is a professor of history which in no way equips him to understand, let alone design, systems required to conduct acceptable elections at the most economic cost.

His predecessor was a professor of political science who happily approved over 100 political parties, based upon having offices nationwide, providing tax-clearance papers and paying INEC various sums of money with absolutely no requirement to state the political philosophy they espoused.  The end result of that nonsense is that the nation now wastes so much money printing unnecessarily large unwieldy ballot papers, counting votes of parties that will never win any election, and creating a situation in which several political parties will be in court claiming to have won the election! Worst of all it has enabled a scenario in which a candidate who more people voted against than voted for, is declared the winner!  

The stories coming out of Nigerian universities and indeed election tribunals make it abundantly clear that our professors are not endowed with any superior integrity let alone intellect! The problem is that because they are “professors” they exhibit intellectual arrogance despite not “professing” anything relevant to conducting elections. They shamelessly cling to office when their failure has been exposed, insult their detractors and refuse to accept truth or reality.

All INEC top officials are consumed by their self-beliefs and egoistic illusions. No matter how much evidence is presented to them they never admit their total failure. They are blinded by ego, lack of in-depth knowledge and their need to be seen as being correct and over-intelligent even when they are neither.  

INEC’s performance will never improve as long as their top officials blame everyone except themselves for the mess which Nigerian elections have become. Indeed the biggest threat to democracy is INEC itself. Nigerians have completely lost faith in their ability to conduct elections that meet standards of decency, probity and fairness, and consequently have zero trust in the results INEC announces. Indeed the number of governorship, House of Representatives and senatorial results routinely overturned by the courts is disgraceful.  

For INEC to improve its performance and redeem its image, there must be a public investigation of the irregularities reported in three states. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded that the INEC chairman disclose the costs of the three governorships which disenchanted and boycotted voters; less than 25 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot.

Quite tragically, the judiciary has to carry its fair share of the blame. It’s perhaps understandable even though not justifiable that the Supreme Court will never remove a sitting president even if he is invalidly elected, but it isn’t acceptable that neither the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC), nor the Supreme Court deemed it fit to reprimand INEC for their nonsensical conduct of elections. As long as courts focus on declaring winners instead of validating processes, the situation will never improve.

Electoral integrity is critical to legitimate democracy and when the integrity of that process is compromised, the legitimacy of government and the public confidence in our public institutions is seriously undermined. That is the unfortunate situation which INEC has placed the nation in. 

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