Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent promise that his administration will ensure the conduct of a free, fair and credible election in 2019, many Nigerians believe that the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and other security agencies involved in election matters are critical to making the exercise credible.
The shoddy conduct of the recent gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, which witnessed massive vote buying and other infractions, can be a source of worry to some Nigerians ahead of the 2019 poll.
To avoid a repeat of what happened in Ekiti and Osun, INEC and the security agencies must surely improve in the conduct of the 2019 election. Therefore, for the forthcoming poll to be credible and acceptable to all Nigerians and the international community, the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Inspector-General of Police, (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, and other security chiefs must maintain a position of absolute political neutrality during the exercise.
And they must be seen by the public to have remained apolitical before, during and after the poll. For sake of emphasis, INEC officials and security agents on election duties must not align, whatsoever, with any political party. And for the electoral umpire to be seen as being neutral, it must indeed be fair to all the political parties and their candidates. It must also play the role of a disinterested party in the election. Similarly, the security agents must maintain peace during the exercise and also ensure the safety of the candidates, their supporters and the electorate.
It is, therefore, the duty of the security agents to ensure that there is a peaceful atmosphere for the people to cast their votes. No security officer should be seen to align with any political group. Any security officer or INEC official caught being partisan during the exercise must be arrested, prosecuted and be seriously dealt with according to the laws of the land. Therefore, the success or otherwise of next year’s election will show how far we have imbibed the democratic culture since 1999 when this political dispensation started.
The outcome of any election largely depends on the role of the electoral umpire, the security agencies and to some extent the roles of the electorate. There is the need for INEC to be fair to all the parties in the conduct of the election. Anything outside this will cast doubt on the integrity of the poll. Perhaps, it is this fear that the INEC boss and the security chiefs must allay before the commencement of the poll. Nigerians should be assured that the election will not be rigged.
We advise that the electoral umpire, the police and other security agencies must not play into the hands of some politicians and thereby compromise the integrity of the election. All eyes are, therefore, on INEC, the police and other security agencies to see how they will conduct the poll. INEC should resist any pressure or meddlesomeness from any quarters in the conduct of the election. It must insist in ensuring that the exercise is credible. This is the only way the outcome will be acceptable to all the parties, Nigerians and the international community. We say this bearing in mind that a flawed poll will send wrong signals to the outside world about our democracy.
A muddled exercise will be disastrous to our nascent democracy and the future of the nation. The sanctity of the ballots must be assured. The votes of the electorate must be made to count. The choice of the electorate must be respected. The beauty of democracy is that it allows the people the freedom to choose their leaders. Nothing should vitiate this constitutional duty. Therefore, the police and other security agencies must, as a matter of national importance, be professional in their roles during the poll.
We enjoin all politicians and their supporters to refrain from acts capable of marring the poll. They should shun thuggery, ballot snatching and electoral violence. Let all stakeholders put the nation first and ensure that the 2019 election is credible.