The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that the commission will soon reveal the time-table for Governorship elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa states. He made this known while defending the commission’s 2019 budget estimates before the joint National Assembly committee on INEC. The elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states are termed end-of-year elections. But first, we are glad to hear that INEC was fully funded in 2017 and 2018, under the open envelope system. Many Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government that have appeared before the National Assembly have had cause to complain about poor funding, that is- the failure of government to respect the terms and provisions of the Appropriation Act. INEC wants more money and expects to be fully funded again in the 2019 budget. I have no problems with that. The Chairman of the Senate Committee and his counter part in the House of Representatives more or less commended INEC for a job well done in the 2019 General election. I don’t know about that. I certainly have a different opinion. But it is good to see that INEC, despite all its tribulations, and loss of face, is moving on and thinking ahead. But while doing that, INEC and its Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmood may as well be reminded of a few points:
- Not many Nigerians are pleased with the conduct and management of the 2019 general election, and before it, the elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
- Most Nigerians are convinced that INEC as it is, is heavily compromised. They do not believe that it is an independent institution. The coming elections and the outcomes of the litigation over the 2019 elections provide INEC an opportunity to restore public faith and confidence
- We hope that INEC will take proper stock of the 2019 general election and learn and imbibe certain lessons and use its institutional framework to make appropriate amends.
- INEC should be seen to be supporting the amendment to the Electoral Bill as proposed to ensure greater transparency and credibility in the conduct of elections. The failure of card readers and the spectre of vote-buying made the recent Nigerian elections look more or less like a clever contrivance with pre-determined outcomes.
- Kogi and Bayelsa are very sensitive states, where the people have developed a high level of political consciousness. The only thing that INEC owes the people in those two states is to conduct free, fair and credible elections and refrain from “the scourge of in-conclusi-vity”.
- INEC’s reputation is at stake. Professor Mahmood should begin to worry about how history will remember him and his tenure. He should pay some attention to that and may be he should start by paying attention to public perception. All the persons before him who boasted “ I don’t care” ended up in the dustbin of history.
- There is the silence of the mortuary and anger in the land. INEC should not put fire to that anger. INEC is already looking ahead, the people are looking at the past and the present. All timelines may collide in the future, and all architects will be called to account.