The National Chairman of the Action Democratic Party, who also doubles as the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Engineer Yabagi Sani, has advised the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to use the forthcoming off-season governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states as an opportunity to address the confidence deficit in the electoral process.
The Chairman of the Forum of the political parties in the country offered the electoral umpire the admonition on Tuesday at a meeting between the Commission and the parties.
Engineer Sani, who maintained that the management of the last general elections has created disdain for the electoral process in the minds of the electorate, declared that stakeholders must do more to inspire confidence in the management of elections
He said, “As we gather here in preparation for the off-season elections in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa States scheduled for November 11, 2023, I would like to, on behalf of all political parties in Nigeria, request INEC to seize the opportunity of these elections to deal with the issue of confidence deficit among the citizenry following the outcome of the 2023 national elections.
“The 2023 national elections presented us with numerous challenges and controversies, leading to enormous challenges in our electoral processes. It is essential for INEC, as the custodian of our democracy, to address this issue comprehensively.
To reaffirm citizens’ confidence, INEC must continue to demonstrate impartiality, transparency, and a commitment to conducting free, fair, and credible elections. This is not only a moral imperative but a necessary step towards preserving the integrity of our democratic system.
“There is no doubt that INEC is showing its best efforts in its preparations in spite of obvious encumbrances. However, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that elections in Nigeria are hitch-free, credible, and substantially comply with the provisions of the controversial 2022 electoral act.”
The IPAC national chairman also called on INEC to continue to appeal to security agencies deployed for elections to insulate themselves from the process and avoid temptations of financial inducements from politicians.
Furthermore, I challenge INEC to work diligently in persuading our security agencies to play by the rules of engagement and resist the temptation of being used by desperate politicians. The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process, when it becomes unavailable, must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defence of our democracy rather than partisan interests.
“The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured. The present precarious state of insecurity in the country, and in particular in the three states where the November 11, 2023, off-season elections will be taking place, poses a real threat to the full participation of the citizens in the exercise.
“It is also of paramount importance that INEC ensures the timely and secure delivery of both sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials to the States. Delays or mishandling of these materials can lead to suspicion and undermine the credibility of the entire election. We must work collaboratively to guarantee that these materials reach their destinations without any hitches.
As we prepare for the upcoming off-season elections, let us recommit ourselves to the principles of democracy, fairness, and transparency. The challenges we face are not insurmountable, but they require a collective effort from all stakeholders involved in the electoral process. We must uphold the tenets of our democracy and work towards ensuring that the voice of the people is heard and respected through the ballot box.
“I implore all political parties, civil society organisations, and all citizens to play their part in creating an environment that fosters trust and confidence in our electoral processes. Together, we can ensure that the people’s will prevails and that our democracy continues to grow stronger.”
Earlier in his remarks, the INEC Chairman, who again assured the political parties that his commission was on top of the logistics towards ensuring a seamless electoral process in the three states, also pleaded with the leadership of the political parties to rein in their members whose activities could instigate violence and ultimately mar the peaceful conduct of the offseason elections.
“As electioneering campaigns continue to intensify, the Commission reiterates its concern about the spate of violence in the three states involving parties and candidates. I wish to remind you, as party leaders, that free and fair elections are only possible in an atmosphere of peace. After all, an election is a process involving human beings such as voters, election officials, observers, and the media, whose safety is of paramount concern to us.
While we will continue to work with the security agencies in this regard, political parties acting individually or collectively through the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) also have an obligation to impress on their members, candidates, and supporters to maintain peace during the campaign rallies and procession. I urge you to also appeal to them to maintain the same disposition on Election Day and beyond.”
He also assured the gathering of the leadership of the political parties that his commission would continue to defer to court pronouncements on the eligibility of candidates for the November elections based on litigation arising from primaries conducted by the political parties.
“On the issue of candidature, the Commission is concerned about the spate of recent judgements and orders of the court in respect of the nomination, substitution, or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials have been printed.
The reprinting of the materials in compliance with court orders within a short period of time is not only expensive, but the management of the process is also very challenging. Although the Commission has already published the final list of candidates for the three states, four recent court orders have compelled us to review the list.
These changes have been reflected in the updated list of parties and candidates on our website. However, this decision is without prejudice to any pending appeal by the affected candidates or their political parties.”