For any democracy to succeed, free and fair elections must be guaranteed. To ensure free and fair elections, our Constitution established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). An independent electoral commission must be insulated from political pressures and executive influence. The commission must be free from external pressures from the party in power or executive of the day – the president.
One of the most important features of democracy is elections at regular intervals. Elections reflect the attitudes, values, and beliefs of the people in a democracy. Elections is the only method by which we select and control leaders. Elections make it possible for people to choose and elect a government and confers constitutional right on the government to govern those who elect it. Elections prove the sovereignty of the people and provide legitimacy to the authority of the government.
It is the responsibility of the electoral commission to organize, supervise, and conduct free and fair elections into the various legislative bodies in the country. In addition, the electoral commission issues a model code of conduct for political parties and candidates to conduct elections. For 2019, INEC will spend N242 billion to conduct the general elections.
Few months to the 2015 presidential elections, the then President Goodluck Jonathan requested $1 billion to fight Boko Haram terrorists. Rather than use the money to fight Boko Haram, Jonathan PDP administration deployed the money into vote buying to rig the election. Not long ago, President Buhari asked for $1 billion to fight Boko Haram the same Boko Haram Buhari claimed has been “technically defeated.” Given the open market selling/buying of votes that accompanied Edo, Anambra, Ekiti, and most recently Osun elections, it is fair to conclude that APC and Buhari will use the Boko Haram budget for vote buying to ensure President Buhari is re-elected.
We all know the INEC is anything but independent. It is not independent of the executive arm of government. It does not maintain a non-partisan stand. In fact, INEC has proven to be an extension of Aso Rock. It is not transparent in its dealings. It is not impartial in the discharge of its functions. It is not accountable to the Nigerian people. Indeed, INEC is nothing but Independent National Electoral Criminals. We have seen instances where state governors had purchased INEC wholesale by bribing the officials who are in their states to supervise elections with accommodation, cars for transportation, and cash. In many instances, INEC had failed to arrest and prosecute vote sellers and vote buyers.
Sometimes ago, at a Channels TV interview, INEC director of publicity and voter education, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi confessed that though it was the responsibility of the commission to prosecute those who infringed on electoral laws, including those involved in the act of inducement during elections, the commission does not have the power to arrest. “Inducing people is a criminal offence,” says Osaze-Uzzi, “but when it happens around an election hall, then it falls under the provision of the electoral laws and other criminal provisions. When it is under the electoral law, the commission has the duty and responsibility to prosecute,” says Osaze-Uzzi.
The free for all open market vote selling and vote buying by both APC and PDP during the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States have salient implications for 2019. It means INEC is not a credible, trustworthy, impartial umpire. It means rigging has been incorporated into the statute of INEC. If APC had won Osun election in the first round, INEC would not have called for re-run. It means APC cannot win state wide elections without rigging.
The fact that APC with all the power of incumbency, limitless resources of cash and control of the military and police failed to win Osun State without manufacturing a re-run and without rigging the re-run, means Nigerians are dissatisfied and disenchanted with Buhari and APC. It means Buhari will loose gallantly in 2019. PDP will not fare better. The federal government is the king pin of election rigging, the law breaker as opposed to law enforcer.
How can we entrust our political destiny in 2019 in the hands of Independent National Electoral Criminals? Well, I have news for both APC and PDP for any attempted rigging in 2019 presidential elections: It is never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass – it is the ones you don't expect at all. That's the fire next time... Let's go there!