2019: Is INEC Already Failing Even Before Elections Start?
***Underage Voting Is An Albatross***
Another general elections in Nigeria is a matter of months away. As expected, those with keen interest in the usually tasky contest have started their respective game plans.
The constitutionally recognized umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has rolled out its plan for a hitch-free exercise come 2019.
What is however disturbing is the information (both in hard and soft copies) flying around about a purported underage voting pattern in some quarters in the north. Not just that, the statement credited to INEC that it has no power to guide against underage voting is nothing but an admittance of failure even before the exercise begins proper.
How can INEC truly detach itself from this unfortunate situation?
The experience shared by a former national commissioner of INEC, Prof. Lai Olurode, as heart-rending as it was, has lend credence to this maladministration by INEC. He said he was almost strangled to death for refusing to allow underage voters to vote some years ago. This is a shame on past leaders – same to the occupiers of various offices especially where the said sabotage took place. How can they say the election that brought them to power was truly free and fair with this latest revelation?
The issue bothering on underage voting and multiple registration should as a matter of fact and urgency, be given the necessary attention it deserves, far more than the re-ordering of the sequence of elections both chambers of the national assembly are currently sweating to effect. Of course, the latter is definitely a means to an end. Who cares about the beneficiaries/losers? What is most important here is – every loopholes should be blocked, so as not to give undue advantage to any section of the country – as is usually the case.
Olurode, who was INEC Commissioner between 2010 and 2015 said, “I had to run for my life at one of the election centres in a part of the country because these people said children must vote or there would be no election at all. It is that bad. The Kano example is a bad signal and a warning that we really have a lot to do and the voter register is key. The register must be clean, it must not have ghost names or underage voters.”
As a response to the widely acclaimed Attahiru Jega’s perceived success as INEC chairman, it has once again put another question mark on the 2015 general elections. If underage voting could be carried out successfully by community leaders even after complaints were lodged, and yet it was not stopped, the outcome of such exercise cannot be said to truly reflect the voting intentions of the entire populace. Sure, the process has been raped, abused and impregnated wrongly – the end product is thus a bastard.
Interestingly, but sadly, the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje only recently promised to deliver 5 million votes for President Buhari in 2019. The governor said this while swearing in 44 new local government council Chairmen, and 484 councillors – the same set of people we gathered were purportedly brought into power by underage voters – this is as the viral video has revealed.
What happened in Kano during local government elections, if left unchecked, definitely it can safely be said that the local elections were organized to test-run a grand plan that is already in place for the 2019 elections. The outcome was heart-warming – at least, as Ganduje could not hide his feelings which was why he made the promise to deliver 5 million votes in 2019. Can the governor sincerely come out and tell us who and who make up his 5 million votes prediction – with their respective birth certificates thoroughly verified?
The viral video has successfully made it a litmus test for INEC to justify itself as truly an unbiased umpire.
Actually following on the heels of the recently concluded local government elections in Kano State, videos and photos of children, some of them as young as seven queueing in long lines to vote have sparked outrage in the social media. And Nigerian laws prescribe that a person must be 18 or above to be eligible to vote. Under this scenario, allowing minors to participate in elections is, therefore, a grave violation of our electoral laws and the corruption of our electoral process by people who deliberately hide under certain age-long ethnic bias to perpetrate this brazen corruption.
These morally bankrupt community leaders and their collaborators at the top usually capitalized on certain indices such as illiteracy, poverty, poverty-of-the-mind to co-opt these minors – people who mostly cannot differentiate between their right and left to perpetrate the evil. That is why they willingly support illiteracy, poverty, almajiris to thrive so that they can use them for their selfish interests.
In truth, child voting, which is rampant in the Northern parts of the country, has been with us for a long time. The reluctance and or unwillingness of stakeholders in our electoral process to eradicate it is baffling. The phenomenon is widely condoned. These children freely participate in the voter registration process and the officials who are aware that it is illegal surprisingly register them and allow them to vote.
The law enforcement agents sent to provide security and ensure law and order allow this illegality to proceed as if it is normal. Some officials sometimes claim that the children are allowed to vote because their parents insist they are up to 18. Sometimes they also claim that they allow children to vote because any attempt to stop them could lead to violence in these usually “volatile” parts. These arguments do not hold water.
The law enforcement agencies are sent to ensure that all elections are conducted within the provisions of the constitution and the electoral laws. Allowing ineligible children to register and vote is a total abdication of responsibility both by the electoral officials and the law enforcement agents. It also amounts to giving unfair advantages to contestants whose strong support bases are in areas where child voters are prevalent, especially during nationwide or presidential elections.
This without mincing words, portends grave danger. It has no doubt, cast serious doubt on the 2019 elections, long before the elections get underway. If Jega, with all the accolades home and abroad, could still not fight and discourage underage voters during 2015 elections, what is the possibility that INEC as presently constituted will deliver in 2019 – a supposed independent agency which has already said it has no power over this unfortunate development – a rape on our democratic system?
Meanwhile, the INEC said it has raised a committee to probe the alleged underage voting in Kano. The commission said recently that an investigative panel to probe the recent cases of possible underage voting in Kano State has been put in place, it remains to be seen what is going to be the outcome of such investigation.