National chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has advised political parties to ensure that the process leading to their elections into elective offices is not tainted but free and fair.
Addressing a gathering of the Commission’s Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), Professor Yakubu noted that nation-building could not be guaranteed until sanity was restored to the electoral process.
He said: “You may recall that the Commission had earlier assured the nation that we shall review all aspects of our processes and procedures for the 2019 general elections in full consultation with stakeholders.
“We are convinced that there should be a major national conversation on the management of our electoral process. This process must be qualitatively different from what was done in the past and benefit from all previous efforts at reform. Today’s meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners is the first in the series of engagements within the Commission and with all stakeholders.
“We are convinced that until we get our electoral process on the right, consistent and progressively positive trajectory, our efforts at nation-building and promoting peace and progress shall remain epileptic. No doubt we have made progress since 1999 but a lot of work still lies ahead.”
Restating his call for the decentralisation of INEC to divert it of certain responsibilities, he further revealed that in the next two months, his Commission would start a process to inspire confidence building in the electoral process.
“The extensive responsibilities of INEC, which has become not just an election management body but a manager of the democratic process in general. This often leaves the Commission little time to plan for elections and simultaneously and effectively address other extensive and more complex responsibilities such as constituency delimitation and prosecution of electoral offenders.
“The Commission now conducts elections all-year round (court-ordered rerun elections, bye-elections and seven off-season Governorship elections).
“Inclusivity issues, involving the participation of women, youths and persons living with disabilities in elective offices in particular and the electoral process in general.
“The plethora of election observers, their accreditation, responsibilities and behaviour during and after elections.
“Funding issues: Elections are not only becoming increasingly expensive with an increased number of voters, personnel and materials requiring huge logistics and deployment of new technology. We need a deep conversation around the cost of elections.
“Above all, we need a conversation around the personal conduct of especially the political actors. The “do-or-die” attitude of some politicians and the inability to penalise electoral offenders incentivise bad behaviour.
“The Commission hopes that the recommendations arising from the national conversation will feed into an enduring reform of our electoral process. For it to be robust, we also need to take into consideration the reports of previous committees on electoral reform.
“Over the last 40 years, virtually all our elections have been accompanied by the report of one committee or another on electoral reform, among them the Babalakin Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO in 1986), the Uwais report on electoral reform (2008), the Lemu Committee on post-election violence (2011), the Ken Nnamani Committee on constitutional and electoral reform (2017).
The various administrative reports by INEC, investigation reports by the security agencies (the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army), the independent studies by the National Human Right Commission (2015 and 2017), the judgements of the various election petition tribunals, the reports of domestic and international observers, record of public hearing for the amendment of the electoral legal framework by the National Assembly and even confessional statements by some political actors. There is value in revisiting all these reports. The Commission will work with stakeholders in undertaking such a comprehensive review in earnest.”
By Brendan Umoren