Some of the most recent elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had ended inconclusively. To keen and dispassionate observers, the unfortunate development may have been necessitated by extraneous factors that were beyond the electoral umpire. In such situations where that painful halt in the exercise became inevitable, the explanation had been obvious such as when violence impedes the smooth conduct of the election.
We recall instances where INEC staff, youth corps members on election duty and, in one particular time, soldiers performing their lawful duties of maintaining law and order were killed. In such charged atmosphere, we think it would have been foolhardy on the part of the commission to insist on continuing with the election just to prove some weird point.
In a recent media appearance, the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, brought home this point when he remarked that the constitution of Nigeria provides conditions for making returns in an election based on certain pre-established threshold. Then he asked rhetorically, “if that threshold is not met, can INEC still make a declaration?” In our opinion, the issue he raised is constitutional in nature with deep legal implication.
In our opinion, in a situation where there was violence involving loss of lives and destruction of property, deliberately instigated by political jobbers to sway the outcome of a particular election one way or the other, caution demanded that the process be suspended to allow tempers to cool. In the past before the tenure of the present administration at the commission, the words used were cancelled, postponed or rescheduled. They all mean the same thing as inconclusive because the process had to be justifiedly delayed to enable those in charge review the machineries of operation in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
This matter is taking a prominent position in the public space now because the commission has an election to conduct, first, in Edo State in less than one month. Prof Yakubu may have thought of proactively warning against plans by anyone to incite upheavals that may pose serious challenges capable of causing hiccups during the exercise. The warning is coming from the benefit of hindsight in which orchestrated oddities by inordinately ambitious political players had marred an otherwise diligently planned electoral arrangement. The intention is to alert the nation that successful conduct of any election is not solely the responsibility of the electoral body. It involves a collective synergy of all stakeholders who are expected to play their assigned functions aimed at complementing whatever INEC is doing.
The warning by INEC acquires even more urgency in the light of the reportedly emerging heightened tension in Edo State as the election date gets underway. For obvious reasons, the state is strategic to the political calculations of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) just as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presents prospects it wants the electorate to consider. Those are in the nature of politics and the scramble for power and opportunity to govern. INEC, as an umpire, can only get involved in the event that the rules are infringed in a way that will jeopardise the outcome in a manner that will defeat the electorate’s expectation and turn the entire process into a sham.
However, in the present scenario, we note that the APC candidate, Godwin Obaseki, was the arrowhead of the economic team of the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole who, in our view, has recorded achievements that could only be imagined by the previous PDP administrations.
Whatever may be the case, our view is that the trepidations of Prof Yakubu are genuine. It is, indeed, a call to action on all to see the imperativeness of successful and hitch-free elections as the nation grapples with the challenges on her way to democratic development.