Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Human Rights activist Femi Falana has described the 2019 general elections as “a useless enterprise” and “expensive joke”. He complained that “the country spent over 250 billion from the public purse, apart from what each of the Governors and political parties spent which is more than N250 billion”. Undeniably despite the highest ever budget the elections were marred by the usual logistical failures, violence, vote-buying, ballot-box snatching, reckless killings, and voter intimidation. What is even worse is that after all the killing and destruction of property the nation is set to waste more money on Tribunals, Courts and supplementary elections for inconclusive results. While it’s true that elections have been declared inconclusive in the past, under the current leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) they are becoming routine.
The fact that no one can really fathom the rationale behind declaring elections to be inconclusive is a major threat to our democracy. According to Mr Olarinde Yesuf a legal expert writing in the Nation Newspaper “Elections are meant to be concluded. Having just one inconclusive election is disturbing enough, let alone six inconclusive elections. There must be something fundamentally wrong, outrageously awkward and indefensible in a system that would return six inconclusive elections in one fell swoop! It simply defines a mischief or gross incompetence on the part of the electoral body charged with the responsibility of conducting such elections…”
Regrettably as he observed every major election conducted by the current INEC leadership has been plagued by inconclusiveness. Never before in the history of Nigeria have things been so bad. By enforcing its self-made unconstitutional rule concerning “margin of Votes” INEC is virtually stating that as far as its concerned elections in Nigeria can never be won by a margin of a single vote. Truthfully, until the current leadership dispensation of Prof Yakubu’s INEC, the margin of votes has never constituted an impediment to electoral victory. The totally arbitrary and whimsical nature of this principle can be seen from the case of Bauchi State where the governorship election was first declared inconclusive and then later INEC reversed itself and resumed the collation of results! It’s no surprise that INEC have been accused of insincerity and inconsistency in declaring certain elections inconclusive.
Section 179(2) of the Constitution specifies only two conditions to be met for a candidate to be declared winner in Governorship elections. Firstly, the candidate must have; “the highest number of votes cast at the election” and secondly the candidate must have “not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the state”. The Constitution doesn’t grant INEC the powers to impose additional requirements on the winner. As Olarinde points out “there is something monstrous, oppressive, incongruous, fraudulent, whimsical and undemocratic in allowing INEC to deviate from constitutional provisions and proceed to “legislate” by imposing additional conditions on winners at elections”. It makes no sense for INEC guidelines to be allowed to supersede the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is little doubt that the 2019 elections will give rise to a record number of litigations. This time round both the ruling party and the main opposition party are gearing up to take INEC to Court and overturn results. As the conduct of voting and declaration of results become more and more unacceptable serious thought must be given to the sort of person to be appointed INEC Chairman after Prof Yakubu.
INEC appears firmly stuck in the past and it’s quite clear that they require a new and dynamic leader. Apart from the problems with ballot papers and voting, result declaration was shambolic. The sight of University Vice-Chancellors being reduced to incompetents while struggling to carry out the simple task of reading out results from oversized sheets of paper was disgraceful considering modern developments in data processing! Proper recruitment and selection processes start with a job description and personal specification. It’s difficult to understand how an INEC Chairman is selected. It’s self-evident that in order to improve the organization’s performance an INEC chairman must have a working knowledge of systems analysis, data processing, statistics, and physical distribution management.
However this is never the case. INEC Chairmen tend to be those who arrogantly defend the system while supervising financially wasteful elections which only produce unacceptable results. INEC was set up in 1998. Before that the electoral body was called Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). Eleven people have headed the body since inception and without exception none of them has been relevantly qualified. Since 2005 the nation seems to be obsessed with appointing Professors to run INEC despite the fact that none of them is a Professor in a relevant field. The only way in which the bloodbath of elections, unacceptability of results and floundering of INEC will end is by putting round pegs in round holes.