Notes For An Electoral Commission

The Results Have Come In, But INEC Has A Few Lessons Of Its Own

by Gottfried Moh

Notes For An Electoral Commission

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come under fire lately, and not without good reason. The operational independence of the Commission (or lack thereof) is a reflection of the democracy that exists in Nigeria, and if at any point the Commission don’t inspire confidence in the hearts of citizens, then we need to talk.

The Chief Returning Officer and INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announcing the result at the national collation centre on Wednesday morning, said that Buhari was declared re-elected, having met the constitutional requirements.

First things first, the INEC had the luxury of four years to plan out exactly how these elections were supposed to go, only to realise that they couldn’t hold the election on the exact day and date they had earlier disclosed to the general public. The ripple effect? A large number of people made the trip to their home states the day before the initial scheduled date, only to discover in the early hours of that morning that it had been postponed. What were the people supposed to do? What would become of profit margins forfeited by the businesses that had to close early, and for those who borrowed money to make the trip, what then?

At different points during the announcement of the election results, the chairman of the Commission would call for a brief recess and give a time frame for when the Committee will reconvene, only to stay out longer without any cogent reasons. Most would fall asleep while waiting for collation to resume.

It was also widely reported during the elections that some INEC officials failed to show up at the collation centres, so where did the results in those centres come from? The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja, feeling hard done by, prevailed (unsuccessfully) on the Commission to discontinue the collation of results, saying the process was fraught with irregularities and manipulations.

As advanced an economy as Nigeria is (or supposed to be, at least, it was sad to see that votes were still counted manually. Surely, there has to be a much better way of doing this. The elections were conducted on Saturday February 23, but it took four days for all the results to be completely ready.

Beyond all that, reports from several polling booths across the nation showed that violence marred the electoral process in a number of places, including Rivers, Lagos, and Kogi state. Six people were killed by soldiers on election duty in Rivers state during a gun battle. Pictures of suspected political thugs burning ballot boxes and disrupting elections in Lagos state flooded social media. All in all, the death toll added up to 30 persons. However, there have been no statements from any law enforcement agencies addressing this issue.

With the Governorship and state House of Assembly elections still to come, what is the way forward and will the Commission do things any differently? What does the future hold? Some have suggested an Electoral Collage which is basically an indirect system of elections practiced in the United States. Its goal is to divide the power of selection between the Legislature and the people and allow a balance between federal and state powers in keeping with federalism, but the quandary is whether or not such a system is applicable in the Nigerian context.

Ultimately, the Commission has its work cut out: it needs to figure out more effective ways of conducting elections around here.