BODE OLAGOKE examines the recent verdicts by both local and international organisations on the 2019 general elections vis a vis confidence vote passed on the electoral empire by some political parties and their presidential candidates.
Expectedly, the 2019 general elections has generated intense reactions from local and international observers including different organisations and individuals alike. Of course, their observations and recommendations have been on public domain. Equally expected was the sharp outburst among political stakeholders whose mixed reactions have further generated knocks and applause depending on one’s aptitude for jealousy.
The European Union (EU), NDI and IRI were among international organisations whose reports had generated much intense but mixed reactions based on sentiment, political affiliations and interests, but some unbiased political analysts are concerned about the recommendations and not the verdicts.
For a fact, the common global believed is that no election is perfect all over the world, including America, Europe and other advanced nations who have practiced democracy more that 100 years. This form the basis and indeed the need to concentrate on the recommendations which the observers said if implemented it better future elections in the country.
The outcry, ignorance and mischief
The outcry has been that the 2019 elections were not credible, especially the presidential election which saw the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, being returned elected. Many have condemned the outcome of the general elections alleging that it must have been manipulated by the electoral umpire in favour of the ruling party-the APC.
But it seems though that many of these commentators have conveniently forgot that the same general elections produce Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors in Oyo, Bauchi, Imo and Adamawa states, which were hitherto strongholds of the ruling APC.
In his remarks recently at a public function, the chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Ezenwa Nwagwu, who blamed ignorance and mischief on the part of some citizens and political actors for the misgiving against the INEC, said elections are guided by Electoral Act, guidelines and constitution and not the social media.
He said: “If you look at the results of these elections, I tell people who are saying the vote did not count to go to Akwa Ibom and tell the people who voted out Senator Godswill Akpabio after he joined APC that their votes did not count. Go to Oyo state and tell the people who voted out the ruling party and voted in Seyi Makinde of PDP that their vote did not count or you go to Imo state where people voted for Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP that their vote did not count.”
Votes counted except in some places it did not turn out the way some individuals may have expected. This did not necessarily mean that because some persons’ expectations were not met the elections in general was deficient and therefore fell short of standard.
EU, NDI and IRI reports
Some of the reports creating tension are that of the European Union, National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) but so many political analysts are more interested in their recommendations than their verdicts. In fact, careful study of the three reports it would appear as if it was written by just one writer.
The international organisations, in joint statement released quoted the NDI President, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, urged the election stakeholders to take concrete steps to address the concerns of citizens with regards to the polls. Were this to be done, they insisted it would to rekindle their faith in the power and possibility of credible elections.
The report recommended a pursue of a comprehensive, inclusive and expeditious electoral reform processes and establish time limit for the adjudication of pre-election petitions to ensure that judgments are rendered before election day and early enough not to interfere with INEC’s election preparations.
On election administration, it is recommended that “a complete constituency delimitation exercise and identity of the necessary polling units at least one year before the next election, was another outstanding recommendation that connects with Nigeria.
“Make the continuous voters registration process more accessible to voters by pursuing technological advance that would allow for immediate issuance of a PVC upon registration and simplify the process for voters seeking to change their registration locations.
“Develop and adopt a strong strategic communications plan that builds on lessons learned from the 2019 elections to promote transparency and public trust.
“Reconsider the order and timing of general elections to ensure sufficient time for the preparations and to promote voter participation and engagement at both the grassroots and national levels.
“Create a process that facilities suffrage for those on official duty on election day, including polling officials, security agents and citizens observers.
“Adopt more transparent procedures for the tabulation, transmission and announcement of results.”
Worthy of commendation is the advice by the joint Nigeria International Elections Observation Mission to Prof Yakubu Mahmood-led electoral umpire to commence preparations for the 2023 general elections now.
After receiving the reports and listening to the recommendations, an elated INEC chairman Prof Yakubu promised that his leadership will study the recommendations and also partner with the IRI/NDI and others to improve the electoral and democratic processes in Nigeria going forward.
“The commission will study your recommendations in detail and will continue to partner with you to improve the electoral and democratic processes in Nigeria. We have already embarked on our own internal reviews. Your report is coming at the right time.
“I wish to assure you that we will implement aspects of your recommendations that require administrative action by the commission beginning with the forthcoming Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections scheduled for 16th November 2019. We will also work with other institutions on aspects of your recommendations,” he assured.
75 political parties confidence vote on INEC
While some foreign observers were tearing the outcome of the poll, especially that of the presidential election, some political parties and their presidential candidates, who are major stakeholders in the elections and democracy viewed contrary.
One party can’t rubbish INEC’s feat
For example, before the EU and co came out with their reports, about Seventy-five (75) political parties of 93 had passed vote of confidence on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yakubu Mahmood, and the commission over the outcome of 2019 elections.
The parties acknowledged the task the INEC had to contend with and said they were left in no doubt that given the Herculean logistics hurdles the commission was subjected to, it has done remarkably well.
The parties applauded the feats attained by the commission in a communique issued at the end of a two-day National Roundtable for the 2019 General Elections Review, organised by the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), held that the Yakubu-led INEC did well in the conduct of the just concluded elections and deserved to be commended.
“While thanking the INEC management for a well-planned and carefully executed 2019 General Elections, the roundtable passed a vote of confidence on the INEC chairman. It equally calls for a more regular roundtable discussion on the improvement of our electoral process,” the communique noted.
The group recommended the need for INEC to strengthen the capacity of its polling staff through, training and retraining particularly on the handling of the card readers.
Significantly, they also called on the National Assembly to immediately re-present to President Muhammadu Buhari, the amended Electoral Act bill and urged the president to do the needful to ensure that the amended bill was signed into law.
60 presidential candidates’ confidence on INEC
Weeks after 75 political parties passed vote of confidence on the Mahmood-led electoral umpire, 60 out of 73 presidential candidates that contested the presidential poll gathered in Abuja to say they were satisfied with the outcome of the presidential election. They also warned the main opposition PDP to stop heating up the polity over the controversial server issue.
One thing it is impossible to take away from the forum of 60 presidential candidates is that they were major stakeholders in the said election. Whether some of them could boast of a councillorship seat is another matter entirely.
Its chairman and national chairman of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (ABDA), Shittu Mohammed, who spoke on behalf of others, said among others that they saw nothing significantly wrong with the election.
The presidential candidates urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act amendment into law once it is presented to him again by the National Assembly, stressing that the amendment will hugely improve the nation’s electoral system and its processes.
The spokesperson of the forum, Mohammed, described the report of the European Union Election Observation Mission released earlier wherein it alleged a lack of transparency in the guidelines of the election as “bewildering.”
He said, “Having thoroughly x-rayed the 2019 election, and the unfavourable and hostile environment the election management body operated under, and the extant laws under which the elections were conducted, we have come to the emphatic conclusion that INEC performed creditably well and we hereby unequivocally reaffirm our confidence in INEC for its performance against all odds in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections.”
According to him, there were several innovations introduced by INEC which made the 2019 elections freer, fairer and more credible than what was obtainable in the past elections such as: the simultaneous accreditation and voting; the introduction of innovations for physically challenged voters; and the continuous voter registration which added 14 million new voters to the register.
He said the delay in finalising the electoral legal framework and the eventual withholding of assent to the Electoral Act amendment bill deprived the nation of the much-needed reform of the electoral process which must be anchored on the rule of law.
“We also demand the immediate setting up of the process that will lead to the sanctioning of all personnel of security agencies who compromised the elections to serve as a deterrent to others and to exhibit that there are consequences for risking the peaceful coexistence of the country and putting the country in danger,” he said.
Speaking on the INEC server controversy, he disclosed that all political parties were informed that electronic transmission would not be deployed in the election.
He said, “INEC informed all political parties in the election following the withholding of assent by the president that it would not deploy the electronic transmission of results since it would not be lawful to do so. We must inform Nigerians now that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was represented in those meetings and we do not know why they are heating up the polity with the server story.
“We reiterate that the INEC server controversy is unnecessary. It is a plot to discredit the election as parties agreed on a lot of issues with the Commission and those were implemented. It is worrisome that only one political party out of 91 is saying a different thing on the Presidential election while at the same time praising its performance on the other elections, especially Governorship, conducted by the same INEC.
“We are aware that INEC had run pilots on electronic transmission of results. It had informed us that these pilots were deployed in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.”
Also reacting, a joint convener of the forum, Chief Perry Opara urged the political class to give peace a chance and seek redress in courts, where there are issues, as a way of growing the nation’s democracy.
Is the endorsement right or wrong?
Blueprint sought to know the position of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) but its chairman, Chief Peter Ameh, said the body does not have right to stop any party or group of parties from endorsing the president and the INEC.
IPAC said that the council acknowledges that political parties within its ranks have the right to pitch their tent with any political leaning or camp.
Chief Ameh said IPAC will remain a non-partisan organization in its work with INEC and other relevant key stakeholders to create an electoral and democratic atmosphere that is fair, free and credible.
Chief Peter Ameh urges members of IPAC not to begrudge those who took a stand to support President Mohammadu Buhari.