Osun electoral process
•While the voters and INEC deserve commendation for playing noble roles, the security men should be called to account before the 2015 elections
PRIOR to the recent governorship contests in Ekiti and Osun States, the citizens, civil society groups, the media and analysts always viewed approaching elections in the country with trepidation. Violence, hijack of ballot boxes and other barbaric electoral malpractices and inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to get materials and men to polling units on time have always marred polling. The same was expected to happen in the August 9 governorship election in the state.
However, the election showed that the commission made some progress in its preparations. Observers were unanimous that polling started on schedule as materials and officials got to site early enough. There was also evidence that the permanent and ad hoc staff had been given sufficient training and were quite professional in applying the rules.
One major drawback in previous elections was the credibility of the electoral register. It was not unusual to find such strange names as Mike Tyson and Bill Clinton on the typical election register in different parts of the country. Pictures and thumb marks of minors could also be seen on the roll. But, with the advanced features of the last registration, the roll had been cleaned up. The recent production of Permanent Voter Cards and INEC’s insistence that they could only be obtained in person sanitised the process.
Perhaps, in response, the people conducted themselves with utmost decorum. Displaying their knowledge of, and commitment to obeying the laws of the land, despite the tension that attended the process, the electorate ensured that there was peace throughout the state on Election Day. This is a good example to take to 2015.
It must however be observed that the deployment of national commissioners, resident electoral commissioners and other senior electoral officials from the national headquarters and other states could have contributed a lot to the supervision that ensured the professional conduct that attended the process. This has raised concerns about what could have been the outcome were the election left to the capacity of the Osun State electoral office. Next year, INEC may not enjoy the luxury of deploying such resources as it would be engaged in duty nationwide. This deserves the attention of the commission, lawmakers and other critical stakeholders.
However, it is unfortunate that the security men drafted for the process nearly invited chaos that would have marred the election. First, it is sad that in this age, anyone would believe that military men ought to be deployed to purely civil pursuits like elections. We fail to see the point in President Goodluck Jonathan’s justification of turning Osun State, just like Ekiti, into a state of occupation by the armed forces. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of State Security (DSS) and other known and unknown paramilitary organisations were called up for duty. It is not clear if it was a vote of no confidence on the police whose primary duty it is to provide security cover during elections. Whereas the reason given for bringing the military into the fray was lack of confidence in the regular police, the conduct of DSS operatives has shown that the service might equally have failed the test.
The reckless arrests by DSS operatives of leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gave the impression that the service was called up to take attention away from the police. The defence put up by spokeswoman of the department, Ms Marilyn Ogar, further gave the impression that the secret service had returned to the days in the Second Republic when its officials were described as fiction writers. She, without adducing evidence, accused one of the political parties of making attempts to compromise its officials. Yet, uncharacteristically, the party officials were neither named nor arrested.
It is yet early days and corrections could still be made. Nigerians do not deserve Red Alert to hold elections. The electoral commission should draw up its security needs and liaise with the appropriate organs of government to ensure that only those invited are called up and their operational details fully declared.
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