By: Muhammadu Buhari Omolori
Regards to you Professor. Today, nothing is as disturbing as the conduct of INEC, especially the postponement of elections at a time when most Nigerians argue on the side of the reality of the paradigm shift. Unfortunately, we Nigerians are taken aback, and this time, far behind the progress made in 2015. According to you In June 2018, at a meeting with the organized private sector in Lagos, elections are no longer seen as an event but a process which begins much earlier than the election day. In January this year on Osasu show, you described the preparedness of INEC and how you deliberately planned the 2019 elections, you talked about the project and strategic program of action, and the establishment of the principle of ensuring that elections are held on the third Saturday of February of the election year starting from the presidential and national assembly and followed by the governorship and state assembly two weeks later, given that Nigeria has previously postponed elections. Going by what you said, and giving the fact that election was postponed just hours to the commencement, one is tempted to ask if INEC were a tool influenced by some powerful forces.
The postponement of the 2019 election on the grounds of logistics and free and fair conduct is not in line with the electoral act and the Nigerian constitution. The 2015 postponement of election was largely due to security challenges in the northeast states and was In line with section 26 of the electoral act, “an election may be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to occur or on account of a natural disaster” .Whether the threat of insurgent was as real as portrayed by the national security adviser in the letter addressed to INEC to postpone the 2015 election, it was entirely beyond the controls of INEC to go on with the election as it would have put the security of INEC officials at risk.
The bone to the flesh here is beyond the shift in the election but mainly the welfare of ad-hoc personnel and the grave implications of their ill-treatment. I am sure you have seen the condition of the corpers trending on social media. What I am not sure about is if you are aware that the supposed N8,500 training fee was reduced in some places to N4,500, some N3,000 while others got nothing. To be precise, some people got nothing in Kogi central district. Some of these ad-hoc personnel have traveled from different states and will have to go and come back for the election without proper provision. Some are already doubtful of the N13,500 payment once the election is concluded. These, coupled with dangerous challenges as plying some of the worst roads in the world, have made them easy prey for corrupt politicians. Is our democracy not compromised thereby? Where do these personnel feature in the 143 billion naira budgeted for the 2019 election?
Globally, Nigeria is one of the biggest spenders, if not the biggest in terms of conducting elections. India, which is the largest democracy in the world with 815 million voters, spent $600 million in conducting the 2014 election according to the electoral commission of India (ECI). According to the national institute for legislative studies, Nigeria registered 67 million voters spending $625 million in 2015.
In the report published by the African Journal of Elections, INEC received 87.7 billion naira in 2011 for the registration of 68 million voters over a period of three weeks using the biometric devices, while in Bangladesh, 9.7 billion naira was used on the biometric voter registration for a period of 11 months in 2008, and they had over 81 million voters for the 2008 election.
If some INEC officials have already been arrested with over 10,000 PVCs, some seen with politicians in position of material while others are said to have collected huge amount of money to facilitate the rigging agenda of some politician, what should we expect from the adhoc-personnel who are not properly featured in this unnecessarily bogus budget? And where does that leave our democracy? The postponement of election for the third consecutive time is a clear sign that INEC is dependent. I therefore suggest that it should be changed from INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) to DNEC (Dependent National Electoral Commission).
Prince Muhammadu Buhari Omolori writes from Okene.