In less than twenty four hours, the people of Edo state would hopefully go to the polls to elect the candidate that they believe would best steer the ship of the state as governor for the next four years. Both the Edo people and the rest of Nigeria are on edge and almost waiting with bated breath for this election that was postponed for two weeks as the security agencies narrated the security challenges that necessitated the postponement.
Sadly though, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the umpire for Nigeria’s elections would have several torch lights pointed at it by all Nigerians for so many intriguing reasons. Since the 2015 general elections, the commission has performed abysmally in the conduct of elections from Rivers to Bayelsa, Kogi to Plateau, Imo to Taraba and many other states and with most of the elections declared inconclusive or out rightly flawed. The people seem to have lost confidence in the commission and its ability to play its role in a democracy.
The Edo election comes amidst extra sense of scepticism about the capacity of the commission given the fact that it seemed to have appeared very confused and indecisive about the election. Some analysts alleged it was unduly being influenced to take decisions after too much back and forth. Given the cancellation of the earlier date for the election, the political parties each came up with different conspiracy theories about the alleged reasons for the postponement.
The two most viable political parties, the APC and the PDP, have all been accusing each other of planning to rig the election which by the way is very weird and bizarre (one would have expected that rigging should be alleged with concrete evidences post elections) but in politics, nothing works in any set ways.
The Edo elections are not just a regular election. So many egos are at stake as the two frontline candidates, Mr Godwin Obaseki of the APC and Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the PDP seem to be two beans from the same pod. Both candidates have been part of the present government of the APC.
In a country where records, intelligence reports/analysis and statistics are not taken seriously, INEC ought, as a matter of acute necessity, to have been expected to work extra hard to conduct a successful election in Edo state. The state is almost busting at the seams because it does seem that the political ‘big men’ (wouldn’t want to call them godfathers) are preparing for some royal rumble to prove their political superiority.
INEC must not play the Ostrich and behave as though politicians are the ones to set the barricade. This is precisely why their image is at an all time low around the country owing to the amazing number of inconclusive elections since new people took over at the commission. It would be very preposterous for INEC to prepare for this Edo election as though it is a regular election because it is not. Make no mistake about it, no one expects INEC to do the work of security agencies; but they are expected to be at the top of their duties by setting the barricades beyond which neither politicians nor the voters/supporters would be allowed to operate.
The APC and PDP candidates and their supporters have been pretty very immodest in their campaigns and this has raised the tension in the state as it looks more like a preparation for war than an election. In the normal Nigerian political style, candidates are already posturing as winners even before the election. One of the candidates even declared in a Channels Television interview two days ago that his party would win with about sixty eight per cent of the votes, and that they would challenge the outcome if it turns out otherwise. The question is, what statistics was he relying on and why would he readily say that they would challenge any different outcome?
In a country with a preponderance of politically naïve and mainly illiterate and coerced political follower-ship, why would a candidate make such invalid assertion without evaluating the potential political tension he is raising in his own state. With the plethora of allegations and conspiracy theories that trailed the cancellation of the former date of the election, INEC ought to realise that the bar of possibilities has been raised and that they must be well armed to curtail all excesses by political parties and their candidates. This would have made their work much easier and clipped the wings of those that are in positions to make their work more difficult than usual.
In a country where most public officials are not held accountable for dereliction of duties, INEC has seemingly been aiding unscrupulous politicians to thwart the wills of the people, or even in some cases deny them any form of representation both at the state or federal assemblies. For real functional democracy to thrive, the electoral umpire must, like Caesar’s wife, be above reproach in the discharge of their duties. If most states and constituencies that have felt short-changed by the commission are to take legal routes to seek redress, there would be more chaos in the system than necessary.
Understandably, there are systemic hurdles that INEC inevitably have to deal with; but the bottom-line is that more effort and commitment to our democratic project is required from the present commission so that the people who are the mandate givers get value for their roles in participatory democracy. While Nigerians hope that the security agencies have got a handle on the security situation in Edo state as they proposed for the two week postponement, INEC on their part must not drop the baton. Tomorrow’s election must be used by INEC to redeem their somewhat battered image and regain the confidence of the people. There would not be room for any form of excuses as the people go to elect their next governor.
By Ogaziechi Nnedi