As the February 2019 elections draw closer Nigerians – politicians and non-politicians alike – are keen to get as much information to help them take decisions on who to vote for. Political strategists also want to take decisions on how to campaign, where to campaign and where to deploy resources. Nigerians are entitled to authoritative information from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This is one commission that should have an overabundance of resources readily available on its website.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason INEC’s website is not a repository of information and is in fact very low on key information. Some of the information that Nigerians would want to see on INEC’s website include: The Guidelines for 2019 Elections which as at today has not been published on the INEC website. Nigerians want to see in writing how elections would be conducted in February 2019. Of particular interest is what will happen if card readers fail. Premium Times of November 14, 2018 refers to Festus Okoye, a commissioner at INEC, who is also the Chairman of Information and Voter Education in the commission.
He was quoted as saying: ‘’the voting procedure will be in accordance with the Continuous Accreditation and Voting System (CAVS) and only voters with permanent voter’s cards verified by the smart card reader would be allowed to vote.’’
Whilst this is salutary, can we take Mr. Okoye’s statement to the bank without formal guidelines for 2019 elections duly issued by INEC? Should the guidelines not have been in place months ago? INEC has announced at press conferences that as at today Nigeria has about 82 Million Voters for the 2019 Elections.
Questions: Can we see on the website the breakdown of voters per state and per polling booth? Can we see how many of these registered voters have in fact collected their PVC’s on a state by state basis? Is this information not supposed to be updated on your website on an online real time basis, so as PVC’s are collected Nigerians and indeed political parties know which states are lagging, so they can ask questions and mobilize their constituents? Nigerians would also want to know the updated information on Polling Units for the 2019 Elections. The data on the INEC website is as at January 2015. How many more Polling Units are there in each Local Government? How many new Polling Units have been created? Where are the new Polling Units?
There seems to be no information on the INEC website on ‘’Aspirants and Candidates’’ as the placeholder created for it is empty. Knowing the candidates should be the most important thing about voter education.
In relation to the electoral amendment bill that was assented to by Mr. President, Nigerians wonder if INEC as an independent umpire should not have been the champion of the bill in the first place. To all intents and purposes this bill was aimed to amongst other things: create greater voting transparency and leverage on technology to ensure votes are counted electronically. Would INEC not benefit if the processes are tightened to ensure greater veracity in collation? And talking about collation, the word ‘’collation’’ seems to be trending with the recent issues around INEC’s Commissioner, Amina Zakari.
The major question being asked by opposition parties is whether Amina Zakari is related to the President or not and if she is does this raise a conflict of interest given her new appointment as Chairperson, National Collation Centre for the 2019 elections. Nigerians are also asking INEC: If as an umpire people have raised eyebrows about the political neutrality of a given person appointed a play a specific role should the Chairman of INEC not simply reverse the decision? Would reversing such a decision jeopardize the administration of the electoral process in anyway?
There is a general belief that it is fundamental that an umpire should be independent but beyond that it is also important that an umpire strives to ensure that stakeholders actually perceive the umpire as independent. If INEC would simply reverse its decision on Amina Zakari and appoint someone else in that role would it not greatly improve the perception of INEC’s neutrality?
That said, we must all agree that there are no perfect elections anywhere in the world, and INEC despite its best efforts may still be accused of being shoddy and sometimes even biased towards one candidate or another. There would always be accusations and counter accusations. Donald Trump who won an election through the electoral college still insists that he should have won the popular votes but for widespread voter fraud. President Trump claims that dead people on the voters register also voted. Despite how preposterous this claim may sound, it buttresses the fact that allegations would always be raised in every electoral process. There were allegations and counter allegations related to the 2015 elections and the same would happen with the 2019 elections. It simply comes with the territory.
Having said all, the strength of any electoral process is hinged on the participation of all of us. If more people participate the elections become more credible for very many reasons. So instead of being social media e-rats and political wall geckos we must all collect our PVC’s and go out there to vote. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying: “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” Prepare to vote!!
Jemide is Founder and Lead Partner of Detail Commercial Solicitors. An entrepreneur, public speaker and writer. Email: AJ@ayulijemide.org Twitter: @JemideAyuli