INEC a big disappointment to Nigeria, Africa, world
The Independent National Electoral Commission spent four years preparing for the elections in 2023, but regrettably, on Saturday, February 25, INEC fell far short of expectations. The electorate’s enthusiasm was dampened by INEC’s performance; they had anticipated taking part in a historic election that would establish Nigeria as a nation of note as an exemplary democracy.
It took concrete actions from INEC and constitutional amendments to the electoral act to rekindle the interest of a people who had lost much faith in the power of the ballot. The first was the extremely transparent way in which the off-season elections in Edo, Anambra, and Osun were conducted. The constitutional amendments, which stipulated that only voters whose biometrics had been collected during accreditation and only results transmitted electronically from the polling places to INEC servers would be admitted, were the other factor. The possibility of tampering with the results was effectively eliminated by the introduction of technology.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and his commissioners kept the public updated frequently, assuring them that the election this year would go smoothly and be free from fraud. Even after the issue of internet accessibility was brought up as a potential barrier to the election, INEC reassured the country that results could be uploaded to the result viewing portal regardless of whether a location had internet access or not. Once the network has been repaired or made available, such results will show up on the server.
The INEC insisted that it had backups and replacements for everything that was lost to such acts of arson and vandalism when people expressed concerns that the numerous attacks by arsonists on INEC facilities may have affected the chances of the commission to conduct elections in such areas. Again, with the redesign of the naira and the shortage that followed it in the weeks leading up to the election, INEC’s only issue was the lack of funds for paying those who would handle some logistics. The Central Bank of Nigeria responded to that right away.
On Election Day, reports, however, started to come in from various parts of Nigeria that INEC officials had not arrived in many polling places by noon or later for an election that was scheduled to start at 8.30 am. It’s interesting to note that these included places that were close to major cities and accessible by car. There have been rumors that some election officials delivering voting materials visited various polling places in search of their centre while voting had already started. That was a sign that INEC representatives did not go to their designated centres days before D-Day.
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Numerous INEC officials were seen arriving at polling places in rickety commercial vehicles, which are prone to breakdowns due to poor maintenance, as seen on television. Many people arrived at their duty stations without basic supplies like a thumbprint ink pad. To ensure that there was no delay, some electorate members offered such.
Voter intimidation and violence occurred in some states, including Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, and Edo. The list of states predicted to be flashpoints was made public by some agencies prior to the election. The federal government sent out the military and the police ahead of the election. The nation was given the assurance that there would be sufficient security for the election. Thugs continued to surround various polling places, attack voters, and destroy ballots and other electoral materials in spite of this. This cannot be attributed to INEC, but in some instances, INEC officials have been accused of conspiring with election tampering or manipulators.
The inability to upload the results from the voting units to the INEC server, however, was the one that saddened the public the most out of all these problems. As promised by INEC, the results could not be uploaded online or offline in some regions of the country more than six hours after the election was over. The fact that the results for the Senate and House of Representatives could be uploaded to the server but the results for the presidential elections could not is another puzzling aspect of this mystery, which was confirmed by Olu Phillips, a reporter with Channels TV who covered the election in Lagos.
After leaving early on February 25 to cast their ballots, voters waited at various polling places all night long for the results of the election. One cannot predict what will occur when the voters disperse without the results being uploaded immediately before them. Senator Shehu Sani, a human rights activist, stated in a tweet on February 26 that “In elections, there is magic when there is a delay.”
Even worse, throughout Election Day, INEC failed to provide any justification for this significant anomaly. Despite the INEC chairman periodically briefing the media about the election, the people were kept in the dark. With this issue, people decided that the cause of the difficulty uploading the results was to give room for manipulation.
Even when results first started to be uploaded, the majority of them on the INEC portal are so blurry that they cannot be read. Viewers will be unable to compare the uploaded result sheets to those they have in their possession in this manner. That further appeared to be an effort to undermine the election’s transparency by opening doors for fraud.
This INEC shoddiness became apparent during the voter registration process. The INEC was unable to register millions of people who wanted to vote. They repeatedly visited INEC registration locations and began the process online, but INEC was unable to register them until the deadline had passed. Many people who visited the centres during the time when the permanent voter cards were distributed could not locate theirs until the deadline had passed. Curiously, there were reports of PVCs dumped in the gutter, bush, etc.
In the belief that INEC would put its affairs in order on election day, all of this was overlooked. However, it was not to be.
The risk of INEC conducting the 2023 presidential elections poorly is that it may deter people who made the decision to vote for the first time this year. Millions of people needed to be made aware of the importance of voting, particularly the youth. Votes don’t matter, a common conclusion among many people.
It is risky to instill distrust in Nigerians’ ability to cast ballots given how the country has been teetering on the brink for years. They will only turn to self-help in such a situation.
Africa had also looked to Nigeria to conduct a clean election that was comparable to those in Western nations. Nigeria is tarnished by having an election marred by violence and shoddy behavior. The idea has spread throughout the world that African elections resemble war. Such ideas contribute to the global perception of Nigeria and Africa as irrelevant, disorganized people.
It is also regrettable that the National Accord for Peace’s efforts to persuade political parties and their candidates to promise a peaceful election was in vain. It is shameful that opposition attacks continue to plague elections in 2023.
Justice, it is said, should not only be done but also be seen to have been done. Transparency would be that. Transparency, organization, impartiality, logistics, and time management were all areas where INEC fell short. Despite all the funding given to INEC and the fact that the chairman was serving his second term, INEC not only let down Nigerians, but also all of Africa.
INEC a big disappointment to Nigeria, Africa, world