It is perhaps, the best thing since slice bread, hearing President Muhammadu Buhari at various public fora reiterates the impregnable resolve of his government to help the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), under the dynamic leadership of Prof. Mahmoud Yakub, conduct a credible, fair and transparent 2019 general election.
Simply put, ‘Baba Buhari’ is saying he will not as Mr. President—and even more instructive—as the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flagbearer, compel the electoral body to either by hook or crook, return him as the victor of the February 16 poll, which by all indices, promises to an epic contest.
Already, political gladiators and their foot soldiers are not leaving anything to chance. They have since been throwing diatribes on the personality and character of one another. These are what we see often on the pages of our dailies. Various electronic media platforms have also not been spared the inexcusable shenanigans of our politicians.
In every election circle, the putrid skeletons in the cupboard of party A candidate are excavated by his rival-opponent in cahoot with members of party B—all in a bid to outsmart party A’s candidate, cleverly hoodwink some uninformed electorates, and then to eventually coast home to victory.
But trust the archetypal breed of politicians we have. They will not only engage in needless campaign of calumnies (at the expense of issue-based campaign), media propaganda, and political assassinations, among other scandalous acts, but they will further take their rascality a notch higher on the D-Day of election.
In their desperate bid to acquire power, our politicians introduced the ‘do-or-die’ style of playing politics. But that is not only it. They have also invented, popularized and firmly institutionalized electoral corruption which is conspicuously manifest in the form of vote buying, godfatherism, irregularities, outright bribery of election officials and security agents, intimidation of voters and the subversion of rules/procedures in favour of the ruling party, to mention a few.
Electoral corruption, which is also known as political corruption, refers to all actions or inaction of individuals, groups, political parties or institutions in aiding, abating and subversion of electoral process either by use of words, media, thugs, violence, money and state apparatus to confer undue advantage on oneself, acquaintance or a political party.
It is mostly perpetrated by powerful godfathers, hired thugs, politicians, security agencies, civil servants and sometimes by dubious INEC staff. Needless to say, the end-product of political corruption perpetrated through electoral heist will always be poor, if not misgovernance.
Though, INEC posted remarkable improvements in the organization and conducts of both the 2011 and 2015 polls, there are vexing issues that still need to be tackled and addressed if the forthcoming rounds of election will not end up as charade.
While, INEC has already evolved measures to guard against vote merchandising in 2019 polls, it must give no room for laxity on election days. Thus, they should seek the cooperation of security personnel deployed to polling centres, so that desperate party officials will not have a field day wooing prospective voters with money in exchange for votes.
Also, there is a compelling need for INEC to religiously abide by its electoral laws and Acts which guide its statutory operations, just as it is imperative for them to remain neutral, unbiased and uncompromising. Again, one clarion call INEC must make to all the political parties, their candidates and die-hard supporters, is for them to eschew hooliganism and acts capable of impugning the credibility of the polls.
Similarly, it behooves on INEC, to this time around, make good its threat of prosecuting electoral offenders who flout its clearly-outlined election rules. As Nigerians anticipate February 16 to ‘coronate’ the next occupant of Aso Rock, the Presidential Villa in Abuja, I am sure INEC will not allow teeming electorates to be disenfranchised, but if voters are not allowed to cast their ballots without monetary inducements, and are also intimidated by either security agents or parties’ thugs, then the 2019 elections will be everything but credible, free and fair.
Mahmud, a freelance journalist, writes from Abuja. He can be reached at: [email protected] and 08065262623