INEC’s hurdles in 2023




The successful conduct of the off season governorship elections in Anambra, Osun and Ekiti states by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is being threatened by the twin-evil of vote buying and hate speech and falsehood being peddled by social media influencers. This is, indeed, a sad development for the 2023 general elections as they will dent the credibility of the exercise.

Speaking on the issue of vote buying, the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, described the phenomenon as an evil force that is threatening the sanctity of democratic process in the country. Sanusi spoke virtually during the fourth-anniversary lecture of Penpushing Media, with the theme: “Social Media Regulation: Insecurity and Elections Accountability in Nigeria”, held recently at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun state.

He said vote-buying was against the tenets of democracy and a disrespect to the electoral law, as well as the sanctity of the ballot. Sanusi particularly expressed worry over voters’ display of thumb-printed ballot papers as evidence of trading their votes to politicians.

He said, “So as Nigerians commend the politicians for improvement to the law, we need to call on all Nigerians to be vigilant and for institutions to respect their mandates while remaining neutral and to ensure justice and fair play.

“One of the major ways in which elections are being subverted in the new Act is the policy of vote-buying, and this is a lack of respect for the law on secret ballot. The Nigerian people and citizens must get together to ensure the sanctity of their ballot and secrecy of their elections. We need to ensure that those we elect into office are those who were announced.”

At the recent presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the influence of money in the exercise was overwhelming. Money exchanged hands freely and with such impunity that tended to ridicule the exercise. The primaries conducted by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and other political parties were no different as vote buying was also commonplace. The vote buying trend almost marred the recent Anambra, Osun and Ekiti governorship elections.

Notwithstanding the collaborative efforts of INEC with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to stem the cankerworm of vote buying, the menace was still pervasive in the Osun and Ekiti governorship elections.

The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had told party leaders, traditional rulers and other stakeholders in a meeting in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state, ahead of the June 18 governorship poll in the state, that the electoral umpire would work with the two anti-graft agencies to stop the trend of vote buying and ensure a free, fair credible and acceptable elections in 2023.

INEC also had cause to disown a website urging Nigerians to enroll for voter cards despite the closure of the exercise. The commission officially ended the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) registration on July 31. The deadline, initially set for June 30, was extended to July 31, following public outcry.

The INEC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, last week, cautioned Nigerians against a fake website claiming that the federal government has approved individual registrations of PVC online. “The commission states unequivocally that the site is not linked to the commission and the link/portal is spurious and from a dubious source,” Mr Okoye said.

He did not disclose the name, the link or other details of the website in question, but reiterated the commission’s exclusive power to register voters and conduct national elections in Nigeria. The INEC added that it has ended the exercise and Nigerians should therefore embrace the new reality.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission is the only body constitutionally and legally mandated to conduct the registration of persons qualified to vote in any election in Nigeria and to update and revise the register when the need arises.

“The commission is solely responsible for organising, undertaking, and supervising national elections in the country and does not share this responsibility with anybody or organisation.

“Members of the public are strongly advised not to succumb to the antics of online scammers and should avoid such fake sites. The commission has concluded the Continuous Voter Registration exercise nationwide and does not need to open an additional site or portal for the purposes of registration of voters,” Okoye said.

We commend INEC’s efforts to stem the ugly trend of vote buying and the vices of social media, which are the main hurdles facing the commission in the conduct of credible elections next year, having overcome ballot box snatching with the adoption of Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) technology.

However, as the electoral umpire is set to declare the commencement of the campaign by political parties and their candidates contesting in the 2023 general elections, it is necessary to advise the INEC to up its game in stemming vote buying and fake news and hate speech pervasive in the social media. The establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission being propagated by ok INEC has become imperative.

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