Ondo election: reenacting INEC’s feat in Edo
After series of controversial polls, Nigeria revved up to salvage a measure of confidence in its electoral process with the conduct of the September 19, 2020 Edo State gubernatorial election.
Despite powerful interests trying to sway the outcome of the exercise, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, lived up to its bidding and declared Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, winner, after defeating his All Progressives Congress, APC, challenger, Pastor Osagie Izeiyamu.
Many have fittingly adjudged the poll as one of the freest, fairest and most highly competitive in the recent electoral history. Thus, the Edo election sets a new paradigm for the conduct of elections across the country.
Some quick takeaways from the poll were the phenomenal peaceful conduct of the exercise, neutrality of security operatives, early distribution of electoral materials, orderliness, elimination of voter suppression and other exclusivist actions, among others.
As October 10 approaches for the conduct of Ondo State gubernatorial election, a perception exists that candidates might win but their results could be falsified because the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may not be fair enough to capture the interest of all and sundry.
Based on the antecedents of the electoral system, opposition parties thread on the assumption of Joseph Stalin, Former General Secretary of the Communists Party of the Soviet Union that “the people who cast the votes decide nothing; but the people who count the votes decide everything.”
On the strength of such assumptions, some watched suspiciously when INEC embarked on the conduct of the Osun state gubernatorial election on Saturday, September 22, 2018. It became a litmus test for its integrity ahead of the 2019 general elections. Hopeful that INEC would use the exercise to test-run its equipment, processes and logistics, as well as perfect the training of its staff on the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, many paid keen attention to the developments in Osun.
Reports indicated that the initial conduct of the exercise was generally peaceful and orderly, but all expectations came crashing when INEC barefacedly, declared the election inconclusive, after results from 30 local governments were announced and Senator Ademola Adeleke of the PDP won with 254698 votes as against Oyetola of APC with 254345.
In 2019, the electoral umpire made history with inconclusive elections in Kano, Rivers, among others. While INEC appeared unperturbed by the announcement, the incident sparked a nationwide debate over the dwindling integrity of the electoral body and its ill-preparedness to conduct elections.
As an electoral umpire saddled with the responsibility of ensuring fairness, the commission must cease and desist from actions suggestive of pandering to certain political interests or leanings. While the supremacy of the constitution remains, INEC must harmonise its rules and existing laws with constitutional provisions to avoid ambiguities over which law to depend on for electoral decisions.
INEC must also take seriously, the warning that any reckless action it takes is capable of setting up future elections for bloody encounters, which could result in avoidable deaths.
Without doubt, the centrality of security to the conduct of any election cannot be wished away as it represents a positive force to ensure sanity in the process. As we approach this election, security agencies must offer equal treatment to all Nigerians in Ondo state irrespective of party leanings; while politicians and their followers must imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship and play by the rules to forestall any confrontation with armed security personnel.
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