By Kevin Okunzuwa
Prior to the Edo governorship election on Sept. 19, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, at several fora, assured the Edo citizens and Nigerians of its readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
In one of such occassions in Benin, INEC National Chairman Mahmood Yakubu reiterated the commission’s commitment to delivering a flawless election.
He noted that the commission would deploy the use of new technologies that would eliminate electoral fraud that had characterised previous elections.
Yakubu said that the commission had been diligent in carrying out its scheduled tasks contained in the scheme of activities for the election.
According to the commission, Edo has 2,210,534 registered voters, collected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) stands at 1,735,910, and uncollected PVCs; 483,868.
The number of polling units are 2, 627, 192 political wards, 18 local government areas and three senatorial districts, while 14 political parties will participate in the exercise.
“Twelve of the political parties presented male candidates while two presented female governorship candidates,” he announced.
Yakubu noted that the commission was 95 per cent ready to dutifully deliver on its mandate.
He also said that the remaining five per cent element required for a successful election was dependent on other stakeholders.
He said the commission would be able to deliver a credible, free and fair Edo governorship election only if these stakeholders such as the security agencies, politicians and the electorate cooperated with it, otherwise, the dream of Nigerians expectations might just remain a mirage.
“The commission had introduced a harmonised Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement as a commitment to improve the quality of elections in Nigeria, including the provision of first-class protection for all electoral activities,” he said.
He explained that security operatives on election day would now “operate with a common standard of reference for their actions.”
Some of the innovation, according to Yakubu, is the commission’s development of a policy for conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The policy contains a lot of health and other advisories to ensure a seamless exercise and protect against spread of the virus.
“We held many meetings with political parties and their candidates. We had several engagements with the security agencies at national and state levels.
“We consulted with stakeholders, and have received the blessings of royal fathers and religious leaders.
“We have recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad hoc staff to be deployed to the field.
“We have delivered all non-sensitive materials for the election. voter education and sensitisation is ongoing.
“We have made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to all polling units on election day.
“The commission has taken every step and made every arrangement for the election.
“The commission is deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities to vote unaided,” he said.
Yakubu announced that INEC had built portals for the nomination of candidates by political parties as well as the accreditation of election observers and the media.
He noted the commission successfully used the portals seamlessly in preparing for the Edo governorship election.
He added that one of the innovation “is the Z-pad.
“This is an innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader.
Second, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV).
“This development would enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real time and this has a tendency of eliminating swapping or alteration of results as they are conveyed to the collation centres.
Yakubu said Nigerians could view uploaded results on the commission’s website (www.inecelectionresults.com).
Similarly, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu at a stakeholders’ meeting at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, Benin, few days to the election, announced the deployment of 31,000 police personnel for the election.
He assured the audience that security personnel would act with the utmost professionalism on election day.
Analysts, therefore, agree that with this arrangement, the Edo governoship election should not have recorded anything less than success.
After the election, incumbent Gov. Godwin Obaseki scored 307, 955 to defeat his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who pulled 223,619.
Observers note that the announcement of the results did not ignite violence because the will of the electorate, supported by good arrangement by INEC, prevailed.
They, therefore, recommend INEC approach to governoship election in Edo for other future elections.
Also, the international communities have commended the election as free, fair and credible.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari commende INEC for the smooth process that led to the emergence of Obaseki, irrespective of the party that presented him.
In a Tweet on Sunday, Buhari commended the people of Edo, the political parties, candidates and security agencies for conducting themselves responsibly.
“My commitment to free and fair elections is firm, because without free and fair elections, the foundation of our political and moral authority will be weak.
“I have consistently advocated for free and fair elections in the country because it is the bedrock of true democratic order.
“Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with,” Buhari said.
Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers, a chieftain of the PDP, was among the first Nigerians to commended INEC, and the Nigeria Police for their conduct during the Edo election.
Wike, who is the Chairman of PDP National Campaign Council, said that the conduct of INEC and the police showed that there was improvement in the conduct of elections.
According to him, the neutrality of the electoral body and security agencies means that the election in Edo was free and fair.
Similarly, YIAGA Africa, a civil society organisation, also commended INEC, saying its result in Edo was consistent with its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, a board member of the organisation, observed that the group deployed PVT to assess the credibility of the election.
Nwagwu said that because the official results fell within the estimated ranges of various observers, governorship contestants, parties, and voters had confidence in INEC official election results.
He observed that the counting process at polling units was transparent enough.
He also noted that YIAGA Africa PVT result showed that INEC official results for turnout and rejected ballots were consistent with its estimates.
While still basking in the euphoria of these accolades and commendations, Yakubu called on the commission’s personnel not to relent until same was replicated in Ondo State governoship election on Oct. 10.
On the few incidences of electoral infractions such as vote buying, he said “the commission partnered with the anti-corruption agencies in the review of electons.
“What we do in terms of the review is to find out what happened.
“When we visited Benin, we had meeting; when we do the review, there would be useful lessons to learn ahead of Ondo State assignment,” he said.
In whatever approach adopted, stakeholders note that there ought to be more efforts at building on the success of Edo governoship election to be used in future elections.(NANFeatures)