Few days before the presidential and national assembly polls in Nigeria, I raised severe concerns over Independent National Electoral Commission's INEC preparedness to conduct credible polls in an article titled: "2019 general polls: can Nigerians bank on INEC assurances of credible polls? The article basically bothered on INEC's shoddy handling of the permanent voter’s card. To date, millions of Nigerians are yet to access their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and the implication is that they have been automatically disenfranchised as there are no efforts in sight to ensure that these voters will possess their cards before the shifted polls take place. More worrisome is that efforts by these voters to track their PVCs were all futile, lending credence to the allegations that some powerful politicians are in possession of these cards.
The build-up to the polls was characterized by widespread allegations of situating polling units in the living rooms of powerful politicians, moving sensitive election materials to illegal destinations ahead of time. On the other hand, repeated burning of INEC offices where election materials, especially PVCs, were consumed generated serious worries.
Since the return from civil rule in 1999, the electoral body has not lived up to its bidding, and one would have expected the body to avail itself of the opportunities provided by the 2019 elections to remedy its battered image but the reverse is the case.
The electoral frauds have graduated from snatching of ballot boxes, massive thump printing by few individuals, movement of electoral materials to prominent individual’s residences to destruction of election materials, even after elections, to stall evidence in court. Another trend that portrays grave danger to our democracy is registration of underage which even characterized the present process.
The electoral process is a circle that begins at the expiration of the preceding one. Therefore, INEC has no excuses to fail. INEC can continue to shift the polls to eternity; there are urgent issues that are begging for attention. One of the issues that demand attention is making available PVCs to those who are yet to possess them before the polls commence. If not how will these Nigerians react in few months ahead when the elected leaders, in their usual way, begin to fumble. Will they be bold to say these are the leaders we elected and we are pleased with them?
Before now, videos were made of a high ranking official of the commission donning the cap of the ruling party at the center, the All Progressives Congress. In the past and present, INEC has demonstrated strong partisanship in areas where political parties hold sway. The commission's alleged partisanship is not restricted to the ruling party at the center but is subject to parties’ area of influence.
Let the polls be shifted one million times, INEC has glaringly demonstrated that it cannot conduct credible elections. If the commission debunks this, let it convince Nigerians by addressing those issues generating grave concerns.
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
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