“We will continue to push for reforms even though political parties are hard to deal with in emerging democracy.” – INEC Boss, Professor Yakubu
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, June 9, issued a stern warning to politicians ahead of the governorship elections in Ondo and Edo States.
Professor Yakubu while speaking at a virtual event on Democracy and Elections in West Africa, organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) said INEC is committed is ensuring free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The event sought to bring to the limelight, the future of democracy in the West African region.
Nigeria has governorship elections scheduled to take place in Ondo and Edo States on October 20, 2020, and September 19, 2020, respectively.
Continuing, the INEC Chairman said where an election is disrupted, the commission will not make a declaration on the outcome due to lack of adherence to guiding rules of the election.
Professor Yakubu said: “Where the election is disrupted and the commission cannot vouch for the integrity of the process, we will not go ahead to make any declaration.”
Noting that political parties have been duly noted on this, Professor Yakubu said: “You (political parties, politicians and voters) either behave for the elections to be concluded in a free and fair manner or we do what the law says.”
Professor Yakubu said there will be no point making a declaration in such situation because the commission will not endorse fraud or function outside the minimum standard set for the conduct of credible elections anywhere.
“While elections are disrupted, we should look far beyond the electoral commission. I think you put your fingers on the problem, on the political class and the security challenges. And that is why we have been engaging with them,” Professor Yakubu said.
“Yesterday, I had a meeting with the national security adviser, we are meeting with all the security agencies. But what pro-active measure is the commission going to take to ensure that if there is a replay of what happened in Bayelsa and Kogi, we will protect the integrity of the process,” he added.
Addressing challenges the commission might face in conducting an election in a Coronavirus pandemic period, Yakubu, said Nigeria with 10 bye-elections and over 6.2 million voters is determined to ensure democracy is not truncated.
“Our electoral & democratic process can’t be suspended on account of the COVID19 pandemic, ” Professor Yakubu said.
He said proper measures have been put in place to contain the possible spread of COVID-19 among voters and officials.
Listing some of the measures, the INEC Chairman said, machines used for voter authentication will be disinfected, the use of face masks and a two-meter (6 feet) physical distance between voters will be enforced while infrared thermometers will be provided in voting and collation areas.
Professor Yakubu said adequate security during the process will be put in place while officials participating in the conduct of the election will be properly trained in line with advisories and guideline listed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
According to him, INEC will continue to relate with political parties across the country to ensure a free, credible and fair respective of the pandemic
“Nigeria is one of the most litigated against public institutions in the country. In the last one and the half years over the conduct of the general elections and party primaries, we have been dragged to court over 2000 times and it is counting, ” Professor Yakubu.
Also, on gender representation in politics, the INEC chairman said there is a zero turnout of female candidates for the scheduled elections.
“I was looking at the number and names of candidates for the election and I didn’t see a single female, ” he said.
He further assured that the commission will continue to engage with political parties on the importance of gender balance and the conduct of primaries by these parties.
“We will continue to push for reforms even though political parties are hard to deal with in emerging democracy.” – Professor Yakubu added.
In her address, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, called for sanctions against political parties and individuals who make efforts to jeopardize electoral systems in African countries.
Hassan said unruly behaviour by politicians and their supporters cannot be condoned.
Further addressing challenges the nation might experience in conducting these elections amid the Coronavirus pandemic which has ravaged the globe, Hassan said efforts must be made to ensure the process is free, fair and credible.
Also noting that these are important and already contentious elections for Nigeria and Africa as a whole, Hassan said while the Independent National Electoral Commission is doing its best within available resources, the Nigerian civil society and international partners should support the commission.
She suggests that support for INEC can be made in crisis management, combatting misinformation and dissuading bad behaviour.
“The international community must support INEC in the procurement process to reduce cost, civic education must be delivered on adherence to the guidelines by voters and political party members,” Hassan said.
Continuing CDD’s Director said: “Punishing bad behaviour will be very very key, not just visa ban for them (politicians) and their children but making strong statements to prevent any form of violence during these elections.”
Henry Prempeh, the Executive Director of CDD Ghana said the COVID-19 pandemic has compressed election in the country.
Prempeh said the disease pandemic has created legitimacy issues for Ghana as electoral problems are rushed through the adjudication process.
“We were faced with the controversy over whether or not to have a new voter register even before COVID-19 came to play in Ghana,” Prempeh said.
He added that the new proposed rule for Ghana voter registration will only accept a valid Ghanaian passport, a national identity card – which is still a work in progress.
“And in the absence of any of that you will have to get someone who is already a registered voter to guarantee for you,” he said.
He also explained that a registered voter can guarantee for 10 people who don’t have a Ghanaian passport or national identity card.
Also, Beatty Riedl, Director at the Einaudi Centre; John S. Knight said Nigeria should enhance and support media coverage while allowing direct access to all candidates throughout the election process.
She explained that Benin has pushed ahead with elections despite the African Court of Human Rights recommending a delay.
She also highlighted the need for citizens participation without risking public health of the country, having a common playing ground and a legitimate process which would lead to total acceptance of results from the election.