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INEC And The Dark Sides Of Our Democracy
Published Mar 06, 2023 IN Editorial,
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IT has increasingly become self evident that why nations all over the world and particularly the continent are gently and unrestrictedly reaping the benefits of democracy, in addition to enjoying the peaceful and satisfactory transition of government, Nigeria is still battling to build on the democratic foundation it began to lay in 1999; 24 years ago.

It remains a painful irony that the outcome of the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections underscores our stand that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral umpire expected to deliver and satisfy the yearnings of the people, is yet to get it right, despite the support of Nigerians who trooped out massively hoping that the results to be declared will be a reflection of the expressed will of the people in line with democratic best practices. Pre and post election indicators point to the fact that INEC was fully compromised and corrupt practices, which literarily ignited fire that created lack of confidence in the electoral body, reigned in the process. Apart from the 2014 feat achieved by the body, Nigerians had expected that the 2023 elections will deliver and justify their belief that Nigeria has attained greater democratic stance.

That is why the build-up to the 2023 elections elicited co-operation from the people and a significant reliance on the electoral umpire, following its insistence that the elections will be transparent, free and fair. However, the outcome has diminished whatever confidence the people, hitherto, expressed on the INEC, headed by Mr. Mahmood Yakubu, as the Biometric Voters Assisted Scheme (BVAS), relied upon to change the corrupted electoral system, was not effectively deployed.

Since after the election, politicians, civil society groups, Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), activists and vocal Nigerians have called for the INEC chairman to right the monumental wrong and misscarriage of justice, accusing the commission of being influenced to favour the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Their call is not far-fetched. This is because the presidential and National Assembly elections witnessed a serious deviation from the early attitude or disposition and response of Nigerians to the electoral process.

Devastated Nigerians have reasons to criticise INEC for taking them back to the dark days of electoral shoddiness. First, they braced all odds to ensure unprecedented turnout as voters. Secondly, the introduction of electronic voting and digital process elicited confidence, which the electoral body betrayed. Also, the Federal Government ensured that all that was necessary to guarantee free and fair elections were delivered, while various political parties fielded qualified candidates that would ensure their victory at the polls. Yet INEC performed abysmally to the disappointment of stakeholders.

Incidentally, the outcome of the election is now a matter of adjudication by a court of law, owing to disagreement and alleged discrepancies, lack of confidence and purported display of acts that discredited and dented past elections conducted by INEC. The BVAS expected to bring about necessary changes in the electoral process turned out to be an instrument of aborted hope.

Recall that before this time, Nigeria had witnessed some dark days in election decisions that portrayed the nation as democratically premature. Such incidents as thuggery, ballot box snatching, compromise, violence, killings, under-age voting, vote-buying, and currently, BVAS snatching, have dented our democratic system.

But as 2023 elections were approaching, citizens were resolute as they expected all stakeholders to play according to the rules. The outcome, however, was embarrassing and disappointing, not only to Nigerians, but the international community.

Despite the prevailing situation, there is hope for a better future, which must begin now. The next elections come March 11 should be a platform for INEC to redeem its image and restore confidence of Nigerians on the electoral body.

INEC must play according to the rules and avoid toying with the future of the country and our youths. It will do this by appraising the inadequacies, like the BVAS hitches, that characterized the February 25 elections, make adjustments and give Nigerians what they want. The electoral body should also be ready to discipline officials found culpable in distorting the outcome of the elections.

While the blame is heaped on INEC’s sparse performance, we charge the youths and other Nigerians of voting age not to be discouraged but to remain determined in promoting democracy through participation in all ramifications. They must sustain their interest in the elections as the future belongs to all of them.

Like was the case in recent elections, security agents should also be prepared to offer their constitutional services of protection of citizens and maintenance of law and order.

Nigerians are expectant of fledging democratic process and INEC must not betray the people by playing or gambling with their future.

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