The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) said, on Friday, that there was a remarkable improvement in the efficiency of the Independent National Electoral Commission with regard to the conduct of the just concluded off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States despite multifarious challenges.
The frontline Anti-Corruption and Democracy Civil Society Organisation said Nigeria would, in no time get elections right, if the serious efforts put into conducting the off-season polls continued to be replicated in subsequent elections.
CACOL, which made these observations in a “General Overview of the Off-cycle Elections in Three States”, signed by its Chairman, Debo Adeniran, and made available to the media, noted that “in the final analysis, the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States scored higher marks in terms of organisation, voter turnout, peaceful election except for isolated incidents.”
“All said and done, we observed that, despite pre-election apprehension, the conduct and outcome of the off-season election, especially in Kogi State, was highly credible,” it added.
The Centre, however, urged independent and official election observers not to misinform the public on the conduct of elections due to political learnings, saying this would utlimately not be in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy.
“Independent and official observers must also shun deliberate misinformation about election conduct as a result of political leaning for objective analyses in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy,” CACOL said.
It also scored security agencies high, saying that in Imo State, where they had significant challenges, they were able to surmount them.
In the review, CACOL said, “It is not difficult to see some considerable improvements in the efficiency of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to superintend free, fair and credible polls. At least, we could see deliberate efforts by the Commission to get things done the right way and we could see how they struggle with multifarious challenges of local political hostilities, the usual politicians’ shenanigans with a view to corrupting the process, dangers to their personnel, sensitive and non- sensitive materials and the ever present logistics nightmares.
“In the midst of all these challenges, INEC seemed to have performed with visible evidence of improvements in the management of those elections. If the serious efforts put into conducting the last off-cycle elections continue to be replicated in subsequent elections, it won’t take long before we ultimately get it right.
“This should not be mistaken for saying everything went perfectly right, because that wasn’t the case. For instance, we unequivocally condemn incidents of voter suppression, among other challenges, particularly in Imo State.
“We recommend that in subsequent elections, better security arrangements be made for INEC officials and materials. More importantly, the Commission should find the means to collaborate with non- politicians in local communities for support and peaceful polls.
“For instance, we saw in Kogi State how some patriotic voters assisted some INEC officials whose vehicles had issues with carrying non-sensitive materials on their heads to the Polling Units and arranging chairs and tables for them. This showed passion for a free and credible election and a realization that election duties belong to all citizens and not just INEC and security agencies alone.
“INEC should henceforth stop elections wherever there are reports of voter intimidation or general violence before such escalates beyond control. It is better to stop an election whenever necessary than canceling it after all the rigorous processes of casting the votes have been concluded.
“Experience has shown that re-runs and fresh elections where the polls had been canceled oftentimes fell far below expectations in terms of voter turnout and security. People are often reluctant to go through the process a second time.
“The security agencies performed creditably in their election assignments in the three states even though they still have large rooms for improvement. In Bayelsa and Kogi states in particular, they did very well but they seemed to confront huge pressures in Imo State. Even in Imo state, if they hadn’t been as firm as they were, things would have gone really bad.”