It is instructive to note that the recent Presidential election has been won and lost without being declared inconclusive by INEC unlike the gubernatorial elections where elections in a few states were declared inconclusive to the consternation of voters some of whom have become fatigued and disenchanted. The elections in some states were characterized by controversies ranging from electoral violence to the huge votes cancellation. One of the major concerns expressed by public affairs commentators is why should the elections be declared inconclusive in six states notably; Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Plateau and Adamawa, even though, the issue was not knew to our democracy. News reports indicate that between 2011 and 2019, INEC had declared 32 elections inconclusive. But this time around the number was high which led a lot of suspicion by concerned citizens.
The most commonly held suspicion was that such incidents happened only where the opposition was coasting to victory. But in my own opinion, the declaration of elections as inconclusive is meant to enhance the integrity and credibility of the electoral process. Therefore, the question agitating the minds of most Nigerians is, what makes an election inconclusive? What does the electoral law say on this?
Inconclusive elections could occur when the cast ballots are not sufficient to affect the outcome of the election or when the margin between two is less than the total of the cancelled vote. Therefore, an election can be declared inconclusive based on the following conditions as provided in the electoral law guiding the conduct of elections.
By and under Paragraph 41 (e) of the Election Manual 2019, a gubernatorial election can only be declared inconclusive where “the margin of lead between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the Polling Unit(s) where election was cancelled or not held in line with Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, the returning officer shall decline to make a return until polls have taken place in the affected Polling Unit(s) and the results incorporated into new form EC 8D and subsequently recorded into form EC 8E for Declaration and Return.
The propensity by desperate politicians to win elections at all cost is probably what sets the ground for the invocation of inconclusive elections by the electoral umpire. This desperation which usually leads to massive irregularities and electoral violence more often than not negatively affects the fidelity of such elections that INEC has no choice but to annul it. Such incidents were recorded by election observers in most of the affected states where the high incidence of over voting and underage voting caused election to be inconclusive.
In spite of the provision of the electoral law, so many people suspect foul play and may decide not to vote in future elections because of the belief that, their vote did not count, thereby losing confidence in the electoral system. If care is not taken, it will lead to serious voter apathy.
To make it worst, some of these desperate politicians and even some of the electorate do not know or fully understand the provisions of the electoral law, rather they may see it as INEC playing to the gallery which may cause violence leading to unnecessary killings and destruction of property. Therefore, INEC needs to show extreme neutrality as an unbiased umpire and also needs to educate voters and party supporters ahead of the forth coming rerun elections in the affected states.
To avoid future occurrence, the electoral law should be amended so that INEC should stop using total number of registered voters as a basis to declare election inconclusive and also disqualify any candidate or political party that cause electoral violence from participating in such elections.
For the forthcoming rerun elections, election observers, the civil society, media and the security agencies should critically observe and monitor the election in the affected polling units in order to enhance the integrity and credibility of the election.
Idris Mohammed Funtua email@example.com