The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, has said that the commission is not claiming perfection in the conduct of the 2019 general elections, stressing that ‘no democracy, no electoral process all over the world is perfect’.
In his remarks during the post 2019 general elections review meeting with Electoral Officers in Abuja yesterday, the commission’s boss revealed that he is not a greenhorn in the conduct of elections, having worked as a Presiding Officer and as an advocate staff during the 1979 general elections.
While extolling the virtues of the Electoral Officers, Yakubu said: “I have always had a soft spot for EOs. In 1979, 40 years ago, in a general election conducted over a period of five weeks, and again in 1983, I had the privilege of serving as a presiding officer and as an advocate staff.
“At that time results were not announced at polling units. There were these heavy metal boxes that we used to carry to the Local Government secretariats, which was then the counting and collation Centre. And it was at that point that I came face to face with the almighty EOs.
“Anyone who is familiar with elections knows that the work of the commission at the headquarters is important. But actually equally important is the work of the commission as the LG level for which the EOs play the most critical roles.
Anyone familiar with the way elections are conducted in Nigeria and has been to the field also appreciates what the EOs go through. You do lots of things, not just election day business. Let us start with the Continuous Voter Registration exercise.
“Despite the odds and all the difficulties, and rotation of centres, the commission within a period of 18 months was able to register over 14 million new voters and thanks to the work of the EOs at the LG levels.
“Before we conduct elections, before we finalise on the sensitive materials, political parties conduct primaries, do their meetings, congresses, and conventions, particularly for those who opt direct primaries, it starts right from the ward level and the EOs will coordinate these for the commission.
“Preparation for general elections, movement of staff, opening of polling units, coordination of PU activities on Election Day, reverse logistics. All these activities are heavily dependent on the EOs. Anything that anybody is going to say about the conduct of elections in Nigeria is secondary to the kind of information we are going to hear from those who truly conduct elections at the level that matters at the level of the PUs.
“The most important level of election on Election Day is actually the PU, anything that happens thereafter is the movement of results and collation. But the PU is actually where the election takes place and the work which you perform as PUs for the commission.
“We have 774 LGAs, meaning that we have 774 EOs. One meeting with the EOs simply would not do. That is why we said we should break this conversation into two phases. We take the first 19 states, we have over 380 EOs here and then we will take the next batch two days later.
“Where we should to be criticized, I consistently say that friends will criticise you, but your enemies will condemn you. But criticism is the basis for making any system work, no democracy, no electoral process is perfect. Every democracy is work in progress. So, feel free to suggest, advise on all the issues relating to the whole gamut of conducting elections. And you have the protection of the chairman that whatever you say will not be used against you,” he said.
Speaking earlier, chairman Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee, Mohammed Lecky, said that the meeting was the concluding part of the post election review from the states, disclosing that a total number of 774 participating EOs from the 36 States of the federation have been divided into two batches of 387 each.
“The review exercise is aimed to broadly evaluate the conduct of the 2019 General Elections and learn vital lessons and also afford the Commission the opportunity to review its policies and programmes during the last General Elections, which would serve as a roadmap to 2023 General Elections.
“This process is essentially a sort of analysis, involving identification of our strengths, performance, weaknesses or lapses, opportunities missed or taken, as well as impediments, bottlenecks and/or threats uncovered across all the processes before, during and the fallouts since the conduct of the 2019 General Elections.
“The Commission is aiming to be comprehensive in its attempts to review all the issues connected to the General Elections; from preparation through execution and its aftermath, hence the review timetable and schedule of activities has provided for consultations at multi-levels
“The Commission over the past two weeks undertook State level reviews, in each and every State of the federation. All the EOs present at this meeting were part of their respective States review exercise. Nevertheless, because of the very critical roles that EOs play in our elections, it was deemed it fit to have a more focused discussion with them, with a slightly modified template to dig deeper with regards to certain issues.
“In addition, we feel there’s value to be added by pairing EOs across states for them to share experiences and make more robust recommendations arising from this cross-fertilization of experiences and ideas.
“Today’s meeting is the one of a two-stage meeting with the EOs. We have in attendance a total of 387 EOs from 19 States, and over the next two days the remainder batch of another 387 EOs will be in attendance.
“The template for today’s discussion covers about seven thematic areas; ranging from RAC preparation and Election day Activities; Logistics; Voter Registration; Recruitment, Trainings and Remuneration of all categories of election officials; publicity and stakeholders engagement; Election Results Management; and Management of Electoral Processes at the LGA levels, for which the EOs are directly responsible. Details of these and modality for deliberations will be presented as part of today’s agenda.
“The Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee (PMSC) has the mandate of the Commission to superintend the Review Exercise in collaboration with relevant departments, including the States in taking the entire process of this exercise forward,” he noted.