26 October 2012

Nigeria: INEC Getting Better With Each Election


Last Saturday, the electorate in Ondo State re-elected the incumbent governor and Labour Party's flag-bearer, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Though up to a dozen registered political parties participated in the election, it was obvious that only three political parties - the Labour Party (LP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) -- were the front runners.

At the close of the poll and collation of the votes cast, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared Mimiko the winner having scored the highest number of valid votes cast in the election.

It is instructive that soon after the result was announced, one of the first persons to congratulate the governor-elect was President Goodluck Jonathan. He had assured him that the federal government would continue to engage constructively and positively with the Ondo State government in collaborative efforts to achieve faster socio-economic development and better living conditions for the people of the state and all other parts of the country.

This is irrespective of the fact that the president belongs to a different political party and that his party's candidate in the said election, Mr. Olusola Oke, came second. President Jonathan had also exhibited the same sportsmanship when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole won the governorship election in Edo State on the platform of the ACN. He had defeated the PDP candidate in that election. The president may be consciously changing the mentality of do or die or win-at-all-cost philosophy foisted on his party by its past leaders.

Though there are no perfect elections, INEC, by all accounts so far, performed well. The few logistics problems that were recorded were promptly addressed. Significantly, there was no report of polling centres that did not receive electoral materials, even though voting commenced a bit late in a few centres. There was no report of electoral officers colluding with any of the political parties to influence the outcome of the poll.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the commission's performance is becoming better with each election. Shouldn't the merits of staggering of elections be seriously considered, especially now that the National Assembly is amending the provisions of the 1999 Constitution?

We are, however, appalled by the intimidating presence of security personnel, especially soldiers, during the exercise. This shows that our electoral process still lacks finesse, what with the order from the military high command that the soldiers should shoot any perceived troublemaker.

This is no longer acceptable in civilised societies. It is a challenge to INEC, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the civil society groups to ensure that voters are not only sensitised, but that they conduct themselves in orderly manner during elections.

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