HE 2011 ELECTIONS: TOWARDS A FREE, FAIR AND CREDIBLE ELECTION
The much talked about 2011 elections is around the corner. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of its promising chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega seemed determined to get it right this time. Thanks to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who has continuously assured that he would leave an enduring electoral system as a footprint, a promise he vowed to keep no matter the odds.
However, as the elections draw near, tongues are wagging and teeth are gnashing creating a seemingly despair of hope despite the renewed spirit in the Commission and its glowing tides.
The just concluded Delta rerun of January 6th seemed a test case. The Commission as meticulous as it tried to impress all the parties in the Delta elections, particularly using that privileged window as some measure for confidence building mechanism to somewhat showcase its preparedness for the upcoming general elections in April, yet the results of that election was still contested.
According to reports, aggrieved parties in the Delta rerun is already headed for the court, pointing accusing fingers on some INEC officials and security personnel, alleging that they abused their offices and compromised in their duties thereby making nonsense of the whole exercise and the good efforts of the Commission. But on the average, the drawbacks and time constrain notwithstanding, INEC should be commended this time for the huge success it recorded, far too remarkable than it used to be business as usual in the past. No doubt, this is an eye-opener for the Commission.
In any democratic setting, the electorate has been identified as a major tool for dynamic change. They form political parties; they also form the voting strength in any election, as well as the main beneficiary of the overall integrity of the electoral process. Therefore, all hands must be on deck, and much more has to be committed to foster adequate awareness and to achieve a widely acceptability of election results in Nigeria.
The commitment will include continuous and unceasing information dissemination, enlightenment and education of the citizens so that the people and indeed the electorate can wholly comprehend the gains and the need to strictly adhere to the electoral process.
Accordingly, legitimate voters should be fully mobilized for the voters registration exercise bearing in mind the empowerment and what the exercise symbolizes. Emphasis must be made on the consequences of leaving the process in the hands of dubious elements who connive with desperate politicians to undermine our collective will and to thwart the electoral process and with specific reference to the drawbacks and consequences for double registration.
Political parties too, need critical re-orientation and overhaul. They must be made to perceive politics quite differently, and not the usual do-or-die affair as was characteristic of the unprecedented electoral frauds and massive rigging in the eight year tenure of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
This time, deliberate attempts must be made by INEC to create adequate awareness to promote good governance. Internal democracy must be entrenched and upheld to ensure integrity and transparency in the system. It should be noted that any vacuum created mischievously or otherwise can be criminally diverted to the overall disadvantage of the entire exercise. Hence, the need for all to be up and doing and keep vigilance to ensure success of the 2011 elections is paramount.
Imposition of candidates either in the form of consensus, unanimous or unopposed candidates or in whatever guise should be discouraged in strong terms by the Commission because it portends danger for our growing democracy and has the capability of suppressing the voices of the minority which runs contrary to democratic doctrines.
Grassroots campaign should be encouraged, and aspirants should be made to reach all nooks and cranny of their respective constituencies so that the people can decide and have a feel of those who represent them. It is a boost to self-esteem in the electoral process.
Election is that point of decision making where voters cast their votes and election results are declared transparently to the widely acceptability of all parties and the world at large. It is a crucial and sensitive stage of the electoral process and a determinant factor of the integrity of the system. With the renewed slogan of “one man, one vote”, INEC should do more to ensure transparency in the April exercise and subsequent elections, so that the votes count.
People of voting age should be allowed to vote freely without any hindrance, fear or favour. The incumbency factor should be addressed. The Commission should ensure that voters perceived to have voted against victorious candidates should not suffer any injustice or untold hardship.
Although, much cannot be said of free, fair and credible elections without reference to the yet to be fully accepted Uwais Panel Report adjudged by most commentators as the best in our circumstances. However, INEC should ensure that people who contravene electoral offences should be made to face the full weight of the law. This will serve as a deterrent to others who may be nursing such ambition in future exercise.
With the Delta experience in mind, INEC has certainly learnt some lessons. The task is huge and enormous, thus begging for the attention and joint efforts of religious bodies, political parties, Civil Society Organisations and NGOs alike who should mobilize radically and conscientiously towards the success of the electoral exercise. INEC Therefore should ensure “one man, one vote” as promised by our amiable President Goodluck. Certainly, we all desire decent governance, let the votes count.
Edoreh F. Edoreh
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