Prior to the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections at the weekend, 144 foreign and domestic observers had been accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
One hundred and sixteen were approved as domestic observers, including government and non-governmental organisations, religious bodies and unions, the remaining 28 were foreign observers, including African Union, ECOWAS, missions, embassies and international organisations.
But the foreign observers have since been at loggerheads with the federal government following certain observations raised by them about the seriousness and readiness of government to give the nation a credible poll.
This newspaper recalls that prior to the arrival of the foreign observers, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had accused the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of allegedly inciting them against INEC, thus giving the world an impression that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would connive with the electoral body to rig the elections.
The expectations of the people and indeed that of the international community is for the elections to be credible, free and fair. The government, the INEC, the security agencies and other relevant institutions are expected to do all within their power to meet those expectations of the people of Nigeria.
To this extent, we posit that the rest of the world is keenly watching Nigeria as the country grapples with the challenges of conducting this year’s election. It is important to note that this year’s election is an epochal event given that two decades ago, the nation staged a return to democratic rule after years of military rule. Agreed, on the part of the government and political operators, it has not been easy trying to put the system on a sound footing. Still, it is germane to observe that the outcome of the election will go a long way to determine how the country will be viewed and treated by other established democracies.
It is pertinent to stress that in international relations and regardless of the misgivings of governments and their agencies, no country can claim to be an island unto itself. What this entails is that while countries have the right to guard their sovereignty, often, they are compelled by factors that relate to the inter-dependability of nations and peoples to pay heed to the views of the international community.
We also need to remind INEC that in the final analysis, the integrity of the present management of the commission is at stake in regard to the record set by its predecessor in office. To that extent, it behoves on it to always bear in mind that the credibility of the outcome of the forthcoming elections will depend on the level of impartiality and transparency it demonstrates in ensuring all aspects of the elections are free and fair, thereby making the results to truly represent the will of the people.
The image and standing of Nigeria within the international community will be significantly affected by how INEC and the Federal Government as a whole are seen to have conducted themselves in all matters relating to the elections. It is trite to point out that people tend to have more confidence in a government they elected in free and fair polls, than one that wangled its way into office through artifice and subterfuge.
In the present circumstance, we commend the United Nations, the Commonwealth, ECOWAS, countries, institutions as well as civil society organisations for demonstrating a keen interest in the Nigerian election. So, it is our candid opinion that Nigeria must provide adequate security against threats from any section or individual in the country ahead of the general election. There is no gainsaying it that the safety and security of all foreigners, international election observers and, indeed, that of the Nigerian people ought to be guaranteed before, during and after the general elections.
However, much as we welcome and appreciate their efforts to ensure that democracy is firmly rooted in Nigeria, it is our view that the foreign election observers must resist the temptation to go beyond observing the conduct of the elections. An observer does not have any role in the administration of the election nor any control or oversight function. In conduct, observers are expected to be impartial,
unobtrusive, eschew pre-judgement of the process and avoid involvement in disputes. They should also be careful about their comments in the media just as they must ensure that their reports and conclusions are evidence- based.
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