FOUR months to the February 2023 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has little or no time for trial and error. The electoral umpire is bound to be in charge of its game at every turn and must be seen doing so by the electorate. In doing so, INEC will justify not only enormous confidence reposed on it by Nigerians but also add value to resources already committed to its cause from national treasury.
SO FAR, no development has called the umpire’s preparedness to question in this regard more than its recent removal of 2.7 million names from the voter register.
ALTHOUGH Chairman of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, had noted that there were ‘culprits’ of double registrations during the last Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise, his reason ranks below par when interfaced with some unintended upshots the removal of names has triggered. There are many of such ripostes including, for instance, a seeming admission of wrongdoing by INEC when the body said it did it . This is so because if the names were removed for double registration, INEC should explain where it was when such fraudulent registration was going on right under its nose. Was it looking the other way only to start crying wolf at critical juncture?
SOMEBODY would conclude that INEC is as guilty as those it deleted their names since it may have participated in whatever was their offence or that even if the commission was innocent of complicity, it may have played into mischief makers’ hands, by failing to upgrade its voter enlightenment campaign to forestall a number of intending voters as high as 2.7million getting caught, flawed in one fell swoop – if the offenders’ action was down to ignorance.
THIS is why INEC should not only mark up nationwide voter enlightenment but liase with political parties and other interest groups in the public education mission. Parties should also play their part in such exercise beyond just showing their members how or where to vote during campaign rallies.
ALSO, in performance of its roles as sole regulatory agency in Nigeria’s electoral process, INEC, given its enormous powers should be firm, forthright and prompt in tackling matters of impunity in political parties. Such INEC’s powers must not only be exercised judicially but also judiciously, especially when they border on discretions. We say so because apart from its duty of displaying the voter register to enable those that registered cross-check their names against wrong spellings and allied matters, INEC ought to furnish Nigerians with relevant provisions of Electoral Act 2022 expressly conferring it with latitudes to ‘weed’ potential voters’ names from register.
THE electoral umpire should not rest on its oars by stating the wrongdoings or faults of those deleted from the voter registrar. It must go ahead to tell Nigerians if and when the corrected voter lists are out, so that people will know who or whose names were removed, as well as their geographical spread. For in doing so, INEC would escape from blames like the ones that has followed such sensitive exercise as ‘tampering’ with the voter register at a critical time as now.
ABOVE all, INEC should state the fate of those affected, especially as regards how they could participate in the 2023 elections and vote for their preferred candidates. We say this because, though INEC may not know, smoking gun actions like that exercise lay dry gun powder under its feet in at least two ways.
ONE, nothing stops people whose names were removed from instituting class action against INEC in courts to enforce their right to franchise. And woe betides the nation should an injunction restraining it from doing anything in connection with the elections pending determination of outcome of the suit granted. Two, politicians, being what they are in these shores, there’s no guarantee that there are no political party or its agents already laying ambush in order to ‘strike’ INEC at a ‘bad’ junction. In doing so, any party seeking to exploit that massive removal of names may claim that voters whose names were removed, or at least majority of them, were all from its traditional strongholds.
THE party may advance such illogic further by describing deleting such names as a political calculation by INEC to disenfranchise its core base in order to favour its opponents. We believe it’s too late in the day for INEC to give room for such occurrence. This is why it should use every means within its reach to forestall such occurrence.