INEC and Lessons from Anambra Governorship Election – Moshood Isah
The highly talked about Governorship Election in Anambra state has come and gone. The Victories and losses have been celebrated and managed effectively and the good news is that, the election can be described as peaceful and relatively credible. All the same, there are always lessons to learn by various election stakeholders ranging from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Political parties, media and of course the electorates.
While congratulating INEC for conducting what stakeholders have described as credible election, there are still a lot to be desired in terms of logistics, preparation and voter education especially in the just concluded Anambra polls. Reports from various election observation group, most notably WatchingTheVote under the Youth Initiative and Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), showed that management of election logistics for the election was significantly poor especially in rural areas. Observation also showed that Registration Area Camps (RAC) were not activated in some Local Government Areas due to absence of security personnel or poor transportation arrangement by INEC. When compared to the 2013 Anambra governorship election data, it shows a trend of poor management of deployment of election materials.
Also, the perennial challenges of failure of the card reader to authenticate fingerprints of registered voters remains prevalent. Our data suggests that some voters were accredited to vote without fingerprint authentication. Approximately, one (1) in four (4) voters were accredited even though the card reader could not authenticate their fingerprints and only their PVC was authenticated by the card reader.
Similarly, the secrecy of the ballot remains a cardinal feature of democratic elections. Evidence is abound that the secrecy of the ballot in this election was undermined in some polling units. This created an opportunity for vote buying across some polling units observed. Cases of bribery of election officials were also reported. These illegal acts occurred in the presence of security officials who made no arrests or attempts to abate the illegality.
The problem of buying and selling of votes, which seem to be rampant in the just concluded Anambra gubernatorial election goes a long way in alluding to the fact that level of Voter education and sensitization has not been good enough to change what seems to be a norm in Nigerian elections. While INEC have a role to play in embarking on a vigorous voter education project, it is imperative to note that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have a more important role to play in educating electorates about the power of their Permanent Voters Card (PVC).
Even though there is more work to be done as regards the issues raised above, it is important to acknowledge the effort of CSOs including the likes of YIAGA, Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Situation Room and other bodies who followed the entire process thereby contributing to its credibility.
On their part, the media should not only wait for advertorials from CSOs and political parties to kickstart voter education campaign, as they have the social responsibility to educate the public on voter education and advocacy geared towards conducting transparent elections. Additionally, political parties should come to the realization that realize that in addition to canvassing for votes by placing advertisement in the media, they equally have the responsibility of educating voters on the need to guard their votes jealously. This will no doubt enhance the quality of the process, as it will also mean political parties must take a step further into carrying out issue-based campaigns rather than the political razzmatazz we see during elections.
The Nigerian Police and other security agencies also played a major role in virtually everything that played out on 18 November. Ranging from the security of electoral personnel and materials, to witnessing open financial inducement of voters. While it is laudable that the Anambra election was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere despite threats issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group to disrupt the process, however, the report that buying and selling of votes in some polling units was done right under the nose of security agents is rather perturbing. It is no gainsaying that all electoral stakeholders are aware that buying or selling of vote is an electoral offence and security agents have a duty to ensure law and order is enforced before, during and after elections as the case may be.
Finally, and most importantly, Voter turnout remains a serious problem that needs urgent attention from all election stakeholders. Citizens need to be sensitized and re-oriented over and over again on the importance of turning out on election day to determine who runs the affairs of the state and other public office as the case may be. A situation where just about 20% of registered voters turned out to vote on election day leaves a lot to be desired.