The rate of inconclusive elections in Nigeria is increasing. Some writers have thus taken it as a duty to slam the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over this development. An article on page 14 of the Daily Sun of August 8, 2016, entitled “INEC, violence and Rivers re-run,” authored by one Gilberth Elechi captured my attention not only because of the striking headline but also my eagerness to learn more about political developments in Rivers State.
But, no sooner had I fully settled down to digest the piece to further enrich my knowledge of the burning issue of delayed re-run election in the state, than my dispassionate expectation was rudely shattered by the unimpressive diagnosis of the subject by the writer.
It was crystal clear that the writer was on a mud-slinging mission to mislead Nigerians that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deliberately delayed the re-run election to soothe some political interests while at the same time absolving the two major political parties in the state – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – of any blame for the postponement.
While I am not in any way holding brief for INEC or any political party, I think the like of Elechi need to be purged of their penchant for misinformation and selective amnesia by objectively drawing their attention to the events that culminated in the postponement of the re-run. According to Wolfgang Von Goethe, “the historian’s duty is to separate the true from the false, the certain from the uncertain, and the doubtful from that which cannot be accepted.”
Elechi, in the write-up, was quick to hit the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for delaying the rerun election in the self-acclaimed ‘peaceful’ Rivers State, but forgot so soon that the same insecurity symptoms and war rhetoric by politicians that were at play in the aborted March re-run election, that led to the loss of lives, including the death of a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Okonta Samuel, were openly manifested before INEC’s decision to postpone the July 30 rerun.
Should INEC have gone ahead with the election even when the ominous signs of violence were clearly written on the wall with the burning of INEC office in Bori and other political skirmishes across the state? Is the political ambition of any politician or power tussle of politicians worth the lives of Rivers people? While I wait for Elechi and his ilk to answer these questions, it is incumbent upon me to put the records straight that the conduct of elections is invariably a collective venture that involves not just INEC, but also a diverse range of stakeholders, notably security agencies, political parties and their candidates, voters, as well as interest groups.
To guarantee credible and transparent polls, there are things that are strictly the responsibility of INEC, but the issue of security, which has been the bane of the Rivers rerun, is outside its purview.
That was why the immediate past US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said that INEC is not to be blamed for the recurring inconclusive elections in some states. Entwistle made the declaration at a roundtable held in his honour. Expounding how politicians’ activities force INEC to declare some elections inconclusive, he said, “Politicians often fail to adhere to the principle of non-violence, which leads to disruption of the electoral process.”
He said politicians, rather than INEC, are to be blamed for the recurring impasse in election results in states such as Kogi, Bayelsa and others.
INEC has come under severe attacks for declaring elections held in some states inconclusive, especially in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
Nobody is saying that America or Americans are infallible in their views about democracy in general or its application in Nigeria. Politics is a dirty game anywhere in the world, including Uncle Sam’s country. But, the difference here in Nigeria is that it is worse than that: Politics is the devil’s game. That’s why our politicians will not hesitate to spill the blood of the people they seek to govern if it will guarantee their success at the polls. They even sometime do so just to undo their opponents.
Though Elechi admitted that the issue of inconclusive elections first crept into the nation’s electoral system in 2011 through the supplementary election that led to the emergence of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, he however misfired when he said that Yakubu’s headship of INEC has eminently entrenched them. The reason we have more cases of inconclusive elections under the current INEC chairman is the desire of the electoral body to ensure that elections in the country are more credible and reflect the wishes of the electorate.
In other words, INEC’s new system has made it impossible for election riggers to have their way through mere allocations of votes or the use of brute force to declare results that negate the wish of the electorate. That personifies integrity, which Yakubu has always stood for.
While I share in the well-founded paranoia of the Rivers people who are now suffering from lack of adequate representation at both the National and State Assemblies, is high time people like Elechi advised politicians in the state to do away with the dangerous win-at-all costs mentality for the re-run election to hold peacefully instead of passing the blame to INEC.
nUkoha, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja