Two weeks since the people of this country went to the polls and elected the President and members of the National Assembly on February 23, 2019, 84 million registered voters return to the polls all over the country tomorrow. They will be electing governors in 29 states and state assembly members in 36 states. In addition, voters in the Federal Capital Territory [FCT], Abuja will be electing chairmen and councillors in the six area councils.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmood Yakubu has assured Nigerians that the commission is prepared to conduct the elections as scheduled. While the presidential and National Assembly elections of two weeks ago were adjudged by local and foreign observers to be successful, we still urge the electoral umpire to guard against some of the pitfalls observed in the earlier polls.
In some parts of the country, for example, the presidential elections witnessed problems due to late delivery of sensitive materials, malfunctioning of card readers and late arrival of INEC and ad hoc staff to polling units. These lapses should be properly addressed in order to make tomorrow’s election even better than the one of two weeks ago.
Security agencies have a crucial role to play in ensuring that tomorrow’s elections are conducted in an atmosphere devoid of violence and intimidation. In some parts of the country, thugs interfered with the election and attempted to snatch ballot boxes, which resulted in shootings in some places. In the last election, there were reports that security operatives collaborated with mischievous politicians to intimidate opponents. Security agents were also accused of looking the other way while thugs loyal to some political parties and politicians attacked polling units and carted away or destroyed ballot boxes. In addition to curbing the activities of thugs and miscreants, security agents must demonstrate complete neutrality in tomorrow’s election.
Also, in order to reduce incidents of impersonation of security personnel, it has become important to call on security operatives to wear their name tags when they are on election duty. There were reports that criminals in military or police uniforms were used by desperate politicians to wreak havoc and truncate the will of the people during the presidential and National Assembly elections. Ensuring that security agents on election duty wear their proper identifications would go a long way to reduce such incidents.
We call on Nigerians to troop out tomorrow to vote for the governors and lawmakers of their choice. Tomorrow’s elections are very important because the officials to be elected are closer to the people and their activities impact on the people more than the activities of the national officials. Over the years, Nigerians had allowed politicians who lacked a clear understanding of leadership and its responsibilities to be elected into the exalted office of governors. As a result, the economies of many states are under-developed, infrastructural facilities are either lacking or poorly maintained, the quality of primary and secondary education remains poor, and public hospitals are in a poor state.
Over the years, Nigerian’s experience has been that many elected members of the Houses of Assembly are lackeys of governors. They do not assert their independence and do not hold governors accountable for their actions or lack of them. In many states, budgets are made but are never implemented; impunity reigns while accountability and transparency are lacking in many states’ affairs.
Voters have a chance tomorrow to ameliorate some of these lapses in governance by ensuring that only governorship candidates who have clear socio-economic and developmental agenda are elected. We should elect only lawmakers who realise the enormity of the powers the constitution has vested upon them and are ready to exercise those powers in order to curb abuses and ensure the common good is served.
Tomorrow’s elections are every bit as important as the ones held two weeks ago. We urge voters to approach them with the same seriousness and sense of purpose.