Inconclusive elections in Nigeria
Last week, all but three states were yet to conclude the electoral process in determining who the elected governors after the supplementary elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The elections were held after the electoral management body declared results inconclusive in six states, citing violence, over voting and other unacceptable conducts as reasons.
The affected states include; Benue, Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Plateau, while the commission altogether stopped the announcement of results in Rivers state due to the takeover of the collation center by the military.
Section 26 of the Electoral Act allows for elections cancelation/rescheduling in areas where there is breach of peace or where the number of votes cast outnumbers the number of registered voters in that area.
Consequently, crisis in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi state led to the cancellation of results in the LGA as the Returning Officer of the area, Mrs. Dominion Anosike alleged that she was put under security threat and wrote the result under duress.
The election commission plans to organize supplementary polls in the seven affected states on March 23. Elections are therefore scheduled to hold in 20 polling units across nine LGAs in Plateau state and in 44 Polling Units in Adamawa.
Governorship elections are also to be re-run in parts of Benue state, as the margin between the incumbent governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP (410,576 votes) and his closest rival, Emmanuel Jime, (329,022 votes) is 81,554 votes. The figure is less than the 121, 019 registered voters in areas where elections were not held or cancelled.
In Sokoto state, Governor Aminu Tambuwal has threatened to challenge INEC’s decision to declare the state election inconclusive.
Tambuwal who was leading by a slim margin of 3,413 votes alleged that the commission had yet to give reason for its decision.
The pace of inconclusive election in perceived PDP stronghold has led to the party accusing INEC of colluding with the ruling party to alter elections in their favour.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, at a press conference insisted that INEC had become overtly partisan and carried on as “a compromised umpire with obnoxious impunity, thereby sending signals of being heavily bribed by the APC to alter results for its candidates.”
He said, “The PDP has full intelligence of how INEC is acting on instructions from the Buhari Presidency and the APC in orchestrating unwholesome situations and declaring already concluded governorship elections in Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau as well as other states as inconclusive, immediately it became obvious that the PDP was set to win.
“This also informs the foisting of unexplainable stoppage and delays in the announcement of already collated results in other states where the PDP is clearly leading the race, from the results so far declared at the polling units.”
‘Inconclusive elections’ became popular after the 2015 general elections. The term became a regular feature in most elections conducted since the exit of Prof. Attahiru Jega from INEC. Some major elections held since this period were also not conducted on the dates billed for them.
This phenomenon was repeated in the 2019 elections as the presidential and governorship elections were rescheduled due to logistic challenges on the part of the election commission. A situation that further confirmed INEC’s lack of preparedness contrary to its earlier claims that it was fully prepared for the elections.
With the series of inconclusive elections that marred isolated elections in 2016, one would have thought INEC should have improved on its logistical preparations for the 2019 general elections. But unfortunately, almost the same scenario played out in states where elections were cancelled.
Although the elections were generally peaceful, violence were a notch higher in flash points areas like Rivers and Delta states. There were also pockets of violence in on Oyo, Ebonyi, Ondo, Katsina and Edo where not less than 10 people reportedly lost their lives.
While one may not blame the INEC staff, who refused to conduct elections amidst the violence, we must however question the level of security provided for them.
Despite the deployment of security agents and President Muhammadu Buhari’s threat to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers, pictures of electoral materials being destroyed and ballot boxes being snatched permeated the cyberspace during the elections.
There were also reported shootings in some areas apparently aimed at scaring away voters thereby leading to elections in those areas declared inconclusive.
Whilst INEC cannot be blamed for the violence in such areas, the electoral body has the responsibility of conducting elections in a peaceful environment.
This it can do with proper coordination with security agencies, even though some of the agencies have been accused of being partisan in their roles during the election.
There is therefore an urgent need for political re-orientation across every strata of the Nigerian society.
The security agencies must understand that elections are an integral part of every democracy, they should therefore strive to be apolitical and allow only the will of the people stand.
Politicians should also be aware that the impunity that characterize the electioneering period will only give their supposed victory illegitimacy. They must begin to play by the rules at all times and rely on the judiciary to seek address if they feel they have been cheated.
On its part, INEC has a lot to do in building citizens’ confidence in electoral process. A situation where elections are hardly ever concluded can dampen people’s confidence and lead to voters’ apathy.
The commission should invest in capacity building for its staff and ad-hoc staff recruited for elections. Electoral officers must familiarize themselves with all the technological materials to avoid embarrassment on Election Day.
Most importantly, the commission must perfect all logistic arrangements for elections to avoid the embarrassing situation where elections are postponed hours before the polls and causing huge loss for voters and country.