JUST BEFORE NIGERIA DECIDES
Written by City Radio on February 24, 2023
In few hours, over ninety-three million registered Nigerian voters are expected to go out and vote their choice in the presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, all the eighteen political parties fielded candidates and running mates for the presidential election, while one thousand, one hundred and one candidates are vying for one hundred and nine senatorial seats and three thousand, one hundred and twenty-two candidates are contesting for three hundred and sixty federal constituencies making it a total of four thousand, two hundred and twenty-three candidates vying for four hundred and sixty-nine federal legislative positions.
The staggering number of candidates contesting the elections is a pointer that the nation’s democracy is advancing on healthy kneels as it has generated zeal, interest and spirit of competition, which offer the electorate multiple options to choose from.
According to INEC, over one million two hundred and sixty-five thousand electoral personnel and five hundred and thirty thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight security agents will be deployed across the country for the elections, while one hundred and forty-four observer groups have been accredited by the commission to monitor the conduct of the elections comprising of one hundred and sixteen domestic and twenty-eight international observer groups.
The commission has also assured that adequate election materials and logistics for all polling centres and voting points will be distributed while materials destroyed during attacks on some of their offices across the country will be replaced.
According to the provisions of Section Forty-seven, sub-section two of the Electoral Act 2022, use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS for voter verification and authentication is mandatory and every voter must undergo the process of accreditation.
INEC equally assured that it would upload polling units results and the accreditation data to its result viewing portal in line with the mandatory provisions of section fifty, sixty and sixty-four of the Electoral Act 2022.
These water tight arrangements have received a lot of commendations from stakeholders and uplifted the spirit of Nigerians and the international community. However, as the saying goes the taste of the pudding is in the eating. What happens on Saturday will confirm the honesty, sincerity and commitment of INEC, security agencies and other relevant authorities in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
For any election to be credible, all stakeholders should respect the rules governing the process. The role of the Electoral Commission in every country is most crucial in ensuring free, fair and credible elections. Therefore, there is need for INEC to remain independent and neutral in the conduct of the elections and should demonstrate transparency in all stages of the voting process as well as provide prompt and accurate information of its activities relating to the process to the public and put effective measures in place to respond to emergencies.
The Commission should entrench a model that meet international standards by avoiding acts that could cast doubt in the outcome of the elections, which may encourage post election protests that could result in loss of life and property. Most importantly, INEC should ensure that the results reflect the will of the people to protect the integrity of the process.
Political parties and their candidates should adhere strictly to the various peace accords signed before the elections. They should ensure that party agents are responsible members of the parties and not thugs who will resort to violence with little or no provocation and put the future of entire Nigerians in danger.
On their part, security agencies should restrict themselves to their constitutional mandate of ensuring the safety of the electoral stakeholders, including the voters, candidates, poll workers, the media and election observers. They should avoid being partisan in any form in order not to threaten the credibility of the elections.
Governments at all levels should resist the temptations of interference in the electoral process or use of security apparatus to intimidate or suppress voters at the polling units.
Voters on their part should follow INEC regulations and guidelines in casting and protecting their votes. They should be bold and courageous to vote according to their conscience and shun all anti democratic tendencies. It is important to stress that impersonation, vote selling or buying are criminal offences with serious sanctions.