With about three weeks to the 2019 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised the alarm over fresh plans by politicians to rig the forthcoming elections. The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, claimed that the agency has credible intelligence report that politicians are planning to use food vendors around polling units with large voter populations as collection points for cash-for-votes and other forms of material inducement to voters during elections.
Prof. Yakubu, who disclosed this when he hosted the European Union (EU) Chief Observer, Ms. Maria Arena, and ECOWAS observers’ mission in Abuja on Monday, also denied the claim that the electoral body has outsourced recruitment of election duty staff to partisan actors. The INEC boss explained that the bulk of the ad hoc staff for election duty will be drawn from the poll of young Nigerians serving in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as well as students from tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfalls.
He also pointed out that Collation and Returning Officers are drawn from senior academic staff of Federal Universities led by the Vice Chancellors. Similarly, Yakubu revealed that the commission is currently battling some forces, who are planning to compromise the electoral process through the recruitment and deployment of Returning and Collation Officers across the country.
It is laudable that the electoral agency is aware of these clandestine moves by some unscrupulous politicians to subvert the integrity of the 2019 polls. While commending the commission for disclosing these evil plans to rig the elections, we urge it and security agencies, especially the police, to wade in and stop the plots to compromise the elections.
The alarm raised by Yakubu must be taken seriously by the security agents. Therefore, INEC must ensure that the electoral process is improved in such a way that will guarantee the sanctity of the ballot. The unscrupulous politicians should be prevented b the security agents from using food vendors and other people to rig the poll.
However, the electoral commission cannot do this alone. It needs the cooperation of all citizens as well as all stakeholders, including politicians and their supporters. The civil society organisations and other bodies should assist INEC to ensure that the election is not marred. It is also important that INEC must address quickly the disturbing issue of vote buying and vote selling in whatever form.
The vote buying culture witnessed in some governorship elections in some states recently should not be allowed I the forthcoming polls. Therefore, we support any move by the electoral umpire to curb vote buying. It is also heart-warming that INEC has modified the administration of polling units so that it will be difficult for voters to expose their marked ballot papers during elections.
We believe that the introduction of partial ban on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices by voters while in the voting cubicles can, to a large extent, curb vote buying. Since some prominent Nigerians have raised the alarm over plans to rig the election by some people and agencies, we call on the electoral umpire and the security agencies to do their best to ensure the sanctity of the ballot.
They must ensure that the votes of the electorate count. The wishes of the electorate must be respected. There is no doubt that the 2019 poll is very vital for the future of the country. Many Nigerians are aware of this fact. It is worth reminding the politicians that election is not a matter of life and death. They should see election as an avenue to choose those that will lead the country. We urge INEC and all institutions of government to ensure the election is peaceful and credible.
Good enough, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians and the international community that the 2019 elections will be free, fair and credible. In the same vein, the INEC boss has promised to conduct a credible election. We urge them to do what is right and good for the nation.