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2019: Pressure Mounts On INEC To Deliver Free, Fair Elections

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In this report, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on the challenge before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the 2019 general elections

Full politicking in Nigeria has been enforced with political parties and their candidates struggling to abide by issue-based campaigns.

But the ‘unholy’ primary elections conducted by some of the 91 political parties in Nigeria which led to about 698 litigations against INEC is a cause for concern.

The causes of these litigations were not from INEC but the commission was joined in the suits because it monitored the conduct of party primaries.

Also, the threat by 75 political parties under the auspices of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) to boycott the 2019 general elections if the new amendment in the electoral act is not assented to is also posing a big challenge to a free, fair and credible election in 2019.

LEADERSHIP reports that the primary election conducted by various political parties in 2018 is the most acrimonious in recent history.

“Internal party democracy is still a source of concern to our electoral progress,” Yakubu said, referring to the the process that led to the commission being joined in 698 litigations.

“The implication of these challenges is that as we prepare for the general elections, we are also going to grapple with pre-election litigations,” Yakubu said of the court cases that is currently distracting the commission. 

“Parties that fail to respect the democratic process in selecting candidates during primary elections lose the moral right to complain about secondary elections,” Yakubu said while complaining about the burden political parties inflicted on them as a result of ‘unholy’ primary elections.

“Unfortunately, we have also witnessed some of the most acrimonious party primaries in our recent history. Internal party democracy is still a source of concern to our electoral progress,” Yakubu said, referring to the the process that led to the commission being joined in the 698 litigations.

“I wish to reassure the nation that we shall continue to maintain our neutrality as the umpire, registrar and regulator of political parties,” Yakubu said, announcing that 7,551 candidates have been cleared to contest various political offices for the national assembly and 29 gubernatorial seat elections in the 2019 polls.

“For National Assembly elections, a total of 1,848 candidates (1,615 male and 233 female) are vying for 109 Senatorial seats while 4,635 candidates (4,066 male and 569 female) are competing for the 360 seats in the House of Representatives.”

“As for state elections, a total of 1,068 candidates (980 male and 88 female) are contesting for 29 governorship positions with 805 male and 263 female deputy governorship candidates,” Yakubu said adding that Nigerians should expect a free and fair elections.

But some Nigerians have been expressing concern whether the 2019 general elections will be free and fair.

According to some pundits, security issues especially in the North Central States is a cause for concern.

“Security will play a huge role in the 2019 election especially within the North Central. It might not be so significant in the North East because of the familiarity or what we can call recurrent calamity, the fear may not be so pronounced,” a political analyst, Boladale Adekoya said. 

He said with over 130,000 displaced persons in the North Central, there might be some form of voter’s apathy as it relates to fear of attacks and the unexpected change of polling units by internal displaced persons as a result of forceful relocation.

“Nigeria is not in a full blown war state but rather a state of unrest which can be managed by the security forces to ensure the conduct of an election. In 2015, we all remember how the election was conducted in the North East in spite of the upscale attacks there. It was shifted and the military came in to do what was needed. If the Presidency wants the election to hold in the affected areas it knows what to do,” Boladale said. 

“By all means, the rights of the IDPs shouldn’t be denied simply because they are victims of a ‘failed state.’ If their rights to peaceful living has been eroded, their rights to vote and be voted for should not be stolen as well. INEC must look for a way to create artificial polling units at the IDP camps,” Boladale said while making a case for the IDPs.

On how Nigeria will achieve free and fair elections, Boladale said stopping militancy or insurgency is not really an academic exercise adding that it takes great intelligence gathering and will.

“For the North Central, there is no two ways about it. The nomadic system of grazing is archaic and should be reviewed. Cattle should be reared in ranches and not allowed to wonder about in search of food. Let those who wish to undertake the business of animal husbandry be willing to do it in accordance with global best practices.”

“For the North East, until one is able to access the same level of security briefing and intelligence available to the President, one can’t really say for certain what the problem is. However, the general promoter of insurgency around the world is poverty, unemployment and lack of proper education,” he said. 

Boladale who said the 2019 election is quite significant, added that 2019 offers them the opportunity to correct some mistake he said they made in the past.

“Some feels 2015 was a mark against the old order and so 2019 is an opportunity to protect that mark. But by and large, it is about the future of Nigeria and Nigerians must ensure they have a say in it. INEC on the other hand must be neutral” Boladale said adding that INEC must be totally nonpartisan.

“Not just in utterances but in deed” Boladale advised INEC adding that the major challenge the commission might encounter in the 2019 general elections is the security agencies.

“The challenges is the security and operatives who may be under influence or directive to be partisan. The commission must be bold enough to cancel the result of any polling units where there are irregularities. The level of vote buying may be more shocking this time around as well due to the prevailing level of poverty and it’s unfortunate the commission may not really be able to do anything about it practically.

“Well, naturally, violence hinders progress because where there’s no peace nothing meaningful can be achieved,” Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu, a gubernatorial candidate of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in Kaduna State said.

He said the on going insurgency attacks in the Northeastern part of Nigeria can cause a very serious challenge to the electoral umpire to conduct free and fair elections in the violence prone areas of the zone.

“The Middlebelt,  or better still North Central States equally have some security challenges that could pose a very serious threat to the election conduct.”

“I think they are surmountable,” Awwal said of the security threats to a free and fair election in 2019.

He said the nature of the violence in the Northeast, Northwest and the North central states can be tackled with strong political will.

“They are issues that if there’s political will by the government, the security agencies can handle it squarely. So, I do not see that posed a big challenge when it come to conducting election in north west and north central,” he said.

The gubernatorial candidate who said there can’t be election in an atmosphere of war, said it was not the Nigerian problem.

“No, once you say war, is a word that mean a lot or have many interpretation depending on the understanding and the situation on ground. But generally speaking there can be no elections where there’s war,” he said advising that elections should hold in the IDP camps.

“Yes, I think there’s need to conduct elections at IDP camps. Don’t forget, the people at the IDP camps are Nigerians.Therefore, they have right to vote and be voted for. if you don’t give them the opportunity to vote then you are in fringing in their fundamental right,” Awwal said.

He urged the government and the security agencies to adopt new techniques and modern strategy in war fare as well as procure more weapons, retrain the personnels to be up-to-date in act of war.

“Most especially, I want them to be advanced in gorilla war fare, because that is one of the method adopted by the insurgence that always hit and run,” Awwal said while calling on Nigerians to be up and doing.

“Nigerians must vote and protect their votes. We should refuse to be intimidated by anyone before, during and after voting. We should ensure that our votes count. We should also not look at political parties but personality seeking for votes because the political parties are only  platform use to seek electoral positions,” he said.

“Ask questions on who the personalities are, what are  their contributions, past antecedents and what they have to offer now and in the future. What’s their relationship with the people, before and now? Are they honest? This are things people needs to inquire before handing power to any one. We should shine our eyes” Awwal advised Nigerians.

According to Awwal, no burden should stop INEC from conducting free and fair elections in 2019, adding, “That’s why they are there to conduct elections and carry out  such duties as prescribed by the law that created them. So, they should simply do the right thing in 2019. Nigerians are waiting and watching.

“The security reality in some identified areas, including the inability of government to tackle this menace is a cause for concern,” a social commentator, Clement Kuliak said, advising that elections should hold even in IDP camps.

“They are citizens and their right to choose leaders should not in anyway be denied,” Clement said, adding that election at the IDP camps must be properly carryout including serious and sincere deployment of security personnel to safeguard the electoral staff and monitor the voters.

He said since security and welfare of the citizens is the cardinal objective of any government, governments at all level must find a lasting solution to the crisis bedeviling Nigerians so as not to jeopardise the chances of conducting credible polls.

“Nigerians should wake up and be sincere about moving together as one entity. We should be bold about our franchise and make sure we put peace, justice, development and equity in our consideration of candidates vying for political offices.”

“We should make sure our votes count by being alert till the end of voting processes and announcements of authentic results. INEC should exhibit patriotism by ensuring the sanctity of the ballot box. Any wrong move can affect all of us. INEC staff should write their names in our history as those who do the right things. This is how democracy can take form, grow and thrive”. in Nigeria,” Clement added.



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