Fraudulent elections: INEC, security agencies, politicians sabotaging Nigeria’s democracy

THE off-cycle gubernatorial elections were held on November 11 in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states. They were, however, impaired by violence, ballot box snatching, low voter turnout, vote-buying and brazen manipulations of election results by ignominiously fiendish politicians who are ready to destroy their states even if it means presiding over only a heap of rubbish.

In Kogi, presiding officers were seen with pre-filled result sheets that reportedly gave victory to the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr Usman Ododo. It took protests and resistance by the people of the state for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the results of the affected areas.

In Imo State, there were reported cases of result sheets being produced in Orsu Local Government Area where elections did not take place. There were also cases of ballot box snatching. A video circulating on social media alleged that the husband of the APC deputy governorship candidate – a Senior Advocate of Nigeria – stormed a polling station with soldiers and armed thugs, snatching a ballot box. This allegation has not been denied up to this moment.

A policeman was reportedly beaten to stupor at Ikeduru Local Government Area for trying to subvert the will of the people.

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In Bayelsa, an INEC supervisory officer was kidnapped but later released after the gubernatorial election had been concluded. There were also cases of ballot box snatching, with the APC candidate accusing the military of conniving with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to subvert the will of the people.

There are fears that some of the manipulated result sheets have found their way into the INEC Result Viewing (ReV) portal. There are also allegations that security agencies, particularly the police, were part of the election manipulation malfeasance in many parts of the three states.

The Saturday’s elections in the three states were not different from the general elections held earlier in the year, where INEC officials and security agencies took sides in several states. Up till now, INEC has failed to inform Nigerians of the raison d’etre behind iREV allowing real-time uploads of legislative election results but failing to permit those of the presidential election.

There was no announcement of heads rolling or people being punished for the infraction. Nigerians were rather treated with an INEC spokesperson bizarrely defending an ignominy that would inevitably do a lot of harm on future voter turnout and political participation.

INEC showed Nigerians that their words were never their bond.

The body offered no apologies and moved on to conduct other elections, thinking, rather strangely, that politicians did not learn new things. If there were things politicians learnt from the February elections, it is the fact that it is much easier to rig elections now than it was in 2015.

Once the result sheets are pre-filled and pushed to the iREV portal, they will be declared by INEC. Big thanks to the Presidential Election Tribunal and the Supreme Court, which made it clear that INEC was not bound to transmit election results electronically.

Security agencies are also proving that they are not impartial. Even when an APC card-carrying member threatened voters in Lagos in February, all the security agencies turned blind eyes. Even when voters were prevented from going close to the ballot boxes because of their ethnicity during the Lagos governorship election, security agencies pretended that they did not see any of that.

Thankfully, the chickens are coming home to roost. The effects of bad governance at all levels have failed to spare compromised police or military officers, prejudiced INEC officials and even unrepentant politicians. Kidnappers, for instance, now abduct politicians, INEC officials, security agents, and anybody without asking which is which.

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The Nigerian democracy is consistently being undermined by those who are supposed to be its custodians. Where this leads Nigeria to, no one can predict. The truth, however, is that unless there are conscious and concerted efforts to save Nigerian elections from conscienceless and sociopathic politicians, Africa’s most populous nation may be heading for the rocks.

There is an urgent need to amend the Electoral Act. The amendment must mandate the police to prosecute electoral offenders. Rather than hand over electoral offenders to INEC, the police must prosecute them.

Secondly, the process of selecting INEC officials must change. The job of the INEC chairman should be applied for and background checks must be made. Same as resident electoral commissioners (RECs). Nigeria has more RECs who are members of the APC now than ever before, which only dampens the confidence of the voters.

The majority of ad hoc staff who work during elections are from ruling political parties in their states. This must stop immediately. The INEC ad hoc must be applied for and the selection process done by a recruitment agency. If INEC cannot handle this process, it may seek the help of non-partisan and credible civil society groups.

A stitch in time saves nine.

Economy Post Media Limited

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