POST 2015 ELECTIONS: ASSESSMENT OF ELECTIONS CONDUCTED BY INEC

POST 2015 ELECTIONS: ASSESSMENT OF ELECTIONS CONDUCTED BY INEC

The 2015 general elections conducted by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) resulted in the election of Gen. Muhannadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressive Congress as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His administration was inaugurated on May 29, 2015. Since after the inauguration, many elections such as governorship and re-run elections into National and State Assemblies had been conducted by INEC under the Chairmanship of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

INEC, in its January 7, 2016 daily bulletin, stated that it would conduct 78 re-run elections in 16 states in 2016. Rerun elections were scheduled to hold in Gombe on January 27; Adamawa, February 13; Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba and Imo States on February 20; Abia, Anambra, and Bayelsa States on March 5; Akwa Ibom State on March 12; while that of Rivers and Cross River States were to hold on March 19, 2016. Most of these reruns were said to be based on the Court of Appeal verdicts given in November and December 2015. A breakdown of these 78 re-runs shows that the commission would conduct 10 senatorial, 12 state constituency, 37 state assembly elections, 17 federal constituency and 2 governorship re-run, subject to the verdict of the Supreme Court. The Nation online, February 2, 2016 also published the report. These excluded the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States held on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively.

The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at a parley with media executives, stated that about 50 elections had been conducted after the 2015 general elections. These included: the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States which were conducted on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively. Others were, Abia State re-run on March 5, 2016; Akwa Ibom re-run on March 12, 2016; Cross River and Rivers re-run on March 19, 2016; Adamawa rerun for Federal Constituency on February 13, 2016; Ife Central, Osun state on April 9, 2016; FCT Area Councils Chairmanship election on April 9, 2016; among others.

SELECTED NEWSPAPERS AND PERIOD OF COVERAGE

The newspapers reviewed for this analysis are Daily Sun, The Punch, The Nation, The Guardian and Daily Trust. The period of study was based on the dates for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections as well as INEC time table for the expected various 78 re-run elections in 16 states between January 27 and April 9, 2016.

KOGI STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION

The Kogi State governorship election was conducted on Saturday, November 21, 2015. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) were the two major parties that contested the election in the state. A former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu was the APC’s candidate, while the incumbent governor, Captain Idris Wada re-contested under the umbrella of PDP. While the collations of the results were going on in the 21 Local Government areas of the state and members of the APC were jubilating over the early lead, INEC declared the election inconclusive

According to the results declared by the Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, Vice Chancellor, University of Markurdi, Prince Abubakar Audu of the APC scored 240, 867 votes, while Capt. Idris Wada of the PDP scored 199,514 votes. Prof. Kucha said that the margin of votes between the two candidates was 41,353 and therefore declared the election inconclusive because the number of registered voter in 91 polling units in 18 local government areas where election was cancelled was 49,953. The figure according to him was higher than the 41,353 votes with which Prince Audu was ahead of Capt. Wada. He noted that no return could be made for the election until a supplementary election was held in the areas where election was cancelled. He based his decision on INEC guideline and not the Constitution of the country.

It is of note here that the flag bearer, Prince Abubakar Audu died before the final results of the elections could be announced.

Following the death of Prince Audu, there were questions as to who replaces Prince Audu and whether a fresh election would be conducted or not.

GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN BAYELSA STATE

The governorship election in Bayelsa State was conducted on Saturday, December 5, 2015. The election was keenly contested like that of Kogi. The incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson contested on the platform of the PDP while the former Governor, Timipre Sylva contested under the umbrella of APC.

At the close of the exercise, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Baritor Kpagih announced the cancellation of the poll in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area because of violence, excess voting, ballot-snatching and hostage-taking of the INEC officials. Daily Trust, in its edition of December 8, 2015, page 4, Mr. Kpagi was reported to have said that the exercise fell short of internationally accepted standards, hence the cancellation.

Before the cancellation of the election, the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson was reported to be leading  in six local government areas with 105,748 votes, while Timipre Sylva won in one local government with 72, 594 votes.

Aside the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, some other elections conducted by INEC after the 2015 general elections included: state assembly election in Akwa Ibom State, held on Saturday, March 12, 2016; National Assembly rerun election in Rivers, March 19, 2016; Abia North Senatorial rerun election, March 5; Ife Central State Constituency (Osun State) By-Election held on April 9, 2016; FCT Area Councils Election held on April 9, 2016; among others.

As expected, the media, especially the print, made good meals of issues relating to the conduct of these elections through the publication of divergent views expressed by individuals, electorate, Civil Liberty Organisations, government officials, Politicians and other relevant stakeholders.

The essence of this exercise is to chart the lapses in the elections as observed in the newspapers’ reviewed and to offer suggestions for improvement in the future elections.

Views expressed by various bodies, individuals, observers and analysts over what characterised the conduct of the elections as reported by and monitored in the newspapers are as follows:

  1. Questions raised by the death of Prince Abubakar Audu in Kogi State

With the death of Prince Audu, many questions were raised. One of such was, what would become of the Kogi State governorship election which was declared inconclusive by the INEC? Will INEC order for a fresh election or will Prince Audu’s running mate, Mr. James Faleke become governor when the election is finally concluded? These questions and many more were raised by some political analysts as reported in most of the newspapers.

INEC was widely criticised for its decision that the APC should choose a replacement for late Audu in the re-run. Analysts believed INEC should have continued the election with Hon. James Faleke as APC candidate as he was the late Audu’s running mate during the initial election.

Daily Sun, pages 1 and 12 under a headline “Audu: sad end, what the law says’’ published varied opinions on what the law says about the instance of what happened in Kogi election. Some analysts as reported in the story referred to section 181 of the 1999 constitution. It states “if a person duly elected as governor dies before taking and subscribing to the oath of Allegiance and oath of office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, the person elected with him as deputy governor shall be sworn in as governor and he shall nominate a new deputy governor who shall be appointed by the governor with the approval of a simple majority of the House of Assembly of the state”

section 181 (2) on its part states “where the persons duly elected as governor and deputy governor of a state die or are for any reason unable to assume office before the inauguration of the House of Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall immediately conduct an election for a governor of the state”.

Section 33(2) of the Electoral Act 2014 (as amended) states “If the candidate whose name was submitted to the Commission dies or withdraws from the election, the political party, which nominated the candidate, shall forward to the Commission the name of the aspirant, who scored the second highest number of votes at the primaries as the substitute candidate”.

Arising from this scenario, the analysts were of the view that the death of Prince Audu had created a lacuna as no provision was made for such incident both in existing constitution and Electoral act. This lacuna has created many electoral problems in the state and these problems are yet to be resolved even after the swearing in of Alhaji Yahaya Bello of APC as other aggrieved parties like the PDP candidate and the running mate to Late Audu are challenging INEC decisions in the court.

Though Alhaji Yahaya Bello, an APC candidate had been sworn in as the Governor of Kogi State, legal luminaries could not agree on the way out as they examined the scenario from different perspectives. Many are waiting for what would be the court decision on the scenario. The sudden death of Prince Audu was believed by analysts to have opened a new vista in the nation’s electoral law as well as in the Constitution of the country.

  1. Inconclusive elections

As major elections conducted by INEC across the country under the chairmanship of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu after the 2015 general elections have been declared inconclusive, political analysts and observers have expressed displeasure over the development.

Apart from the Kogi governorship election, other elections declared inconclusive by INEC included: Bayelsa State governorship election; Rivers State rerun elections into the National Assembly and State House of Assembly; Kuje and Abuja Municipal Area Councils (FCT) chairmanship election and Ife Central Constituency (Osun State).

The Punch, Monday, November 23, 2015, page 2, in a story with the headline “APC candidate, Audu, dies as INEC declares poll inconclusive” reported how the Returning Officer of the Kogi State governorship election, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha on Sunday, November 22, 2015 declared Kogi State governorship election inconclusive few hours before the death of APC candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu. He based the reason for declaring the election inconclusive on the INEC’s approved guidelines and regulations for the conduct of the 2015 general elections, paragraph 4, section M, which states “where the margin of win between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling units where elections were cancelled or not held, decline to make a return until another poll has taken place and the result incorporated into a new form.’’

The Returning Officer, according to the report was quoted to have stated that “Applying the provisions of the above guidelines, therefore, the total number of registered voters of the polling units where elections were cancelled or not held is in excess of the margin of win between the two leading candidates.

“Consequently, this election is, therefore, inconclusive and I hereby so declare. So the election is inconclusive, and as the returning officer, I so declare”

Other reason why elections were declared inconclusive, according to INEC was as a result of violence which erupted in most polling units and local governments The rerun election in Rivers State was said to have been suspended by INEC of the local government areas during the conduct of the election because of violence which erupted in most part of the state.

Commenting on economic implications of an inconclusive election, analysts in their views as expressed in the newspapers were of the opinion that each time an election is declared inconclusive, it costs the nation huge sums of money for a rerun or fresh election. They also opined that such inconclusiveness imposes financial burdens on electoral candidates and their political parties, thereby heightening the stakes for corruption when such individuals get into public office. They further observed that such cancellation can heighten tension which can lead to destruction of lives and properties.

Reacting to the criticisms that had trailed the declaration of most of the recent election inconclusive, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu while explaining reasons for inconclusive elections at a parley with media executives in Lagos on May 5, 2016, was reported to have attributed this to the do or die mentality of politicians. He was further reported to have said that all instances of inconclusive elections were in areas where political players unleashed violence and made the environment a danger zone for the commission’s staff and innocent voters. He also identified the introduction of the technology of card reader which the citizens were yet to grip with its use as another big challenge.

In his submission, Prof. Yakubu described by-elections and re-elections as tougher and more difficult to handle compared to the general elections.

  1. Failed card readers

There were reports of failed card readers in all the elections as some card readers deployed by INEC failed to read the fingers of the electorate or developed other operational problems. This was considered a big challenge by the accredited local observers as many voters had to use ‘’Incident Form’’ to vote. Reports in the media indicated that the card reader in some polling units performed below expectation.

In a report titled “INEC shifts Bayelsa poll” in The Punch, December 6, 2015, page 2, the paper reported how card reader failed to recognise the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, his wife and mother in Sagbama Local government Area. Also on page 4, the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was reported to have decried how the card reader failed to recognise his finger and that of his family members. Sunday Sun, December 6, 2015, page 4 in a headline titled “Card reader fails to capture Jonathan”, reported the story.

Sunday Sun, November 22, 2015, page 6, in a report headlined “Failed Card readers, violence mar poll identified failure of smart card readers, threats from miscreants, apathy occasioned by far-distance citing of polling units from residential areas as some of the teething challenges that confronted the Kogi State governorship election.

  1. Violence

It was reported that there were threats from some political thugs who threatened the security agents deployed to poling units by INEC to leave their duty posts and allow them to take care of the election activities. This scenario was reported to have characterised most elections. The hoodlums were said to have carried dangerous weapons and engaged in physical fighting. The reported cases of violence, according to political analysts were said to have been perpetrated by the political class who displayed their inability to adhere to laws guiding electoral processes.

The killings were reported to have manifested more in Bayelsa Governorship and Rivers re-run elections. For instance, in a report headlined “Heavy shooting in Ijaw” on page 4 of the Sunday Sun, December 6, 2015, it was stated that there was heavy shooting in Oporoma, Southern Ijaw Local government Area of Bayelsa state where about four people were feared dead.

The paper, in another story on page 6 with the headline “Policeman, four others killed in Famgbe” also reported that a policeman and four others were killed in Famgbe, near Yenagoa during the Bayelsa governorship election by thugs.

The Nation, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, page 6, in a story with the headline “Rivers rerun: Youth corps member shot dead” reported how a National Youth Service (NYSC) member, Okonta Samuel Dumebi was shot dead during the March 19, 2016 Rivers Legislative election in Ahoada West Local Government while on duty as INEC adhoc staff.

Still on Sunday Sun, December 6, page 5 in a story headlined “Policeman, four others killed in Famgbe” reported how a policeman and four other persons were reportedly killed by thugs.

These killings were reported to have been carried out by thugs sponsored by politicians. There were however accusations and counter accusations by the PDP and APC over the killings and bloody violence recorded in the Bayelsa governorship and Rivers rerun. This was captured in a report headlined “APC, PDP trade blame over bloody Rivers rerun” on pages one and six of The Nation, Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

The rerun election in Rivers State was said to have been suspended by INEC as a result of violence which erupted in most part of the local government areas during the conduct of the election.

  1. VOTER’S APATHY

The turnout of voters in most polling centres during the governorship election in Kogi State and re-run elections in other states was reported to be un- impressive. For example, in the Kogi State governorship election results published in the newspapers, out of 1,379,971 registered voters, 511,648 were accredited for voting, a figure less than the number of registered voters. Also in the rerun elections held in the four state constituencies in Akwa Ibom on Saturday, March 12, 2016 was said to have witnessed low turnout of voters. According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report published in The Sun online, about 30 out of 400 registered voters were seen on the queue at the Methodist Secondary School to cast their vote at 9.30 am.  This scenario was witnessed at Obot/Akara Unit 6, Ward 2 where 40 out of 411 registered voters were on queue to cast their votes.

In the same vein, a report headlined ‘’Low turnout in Odo-Ape, Odo-Ape, Ayetoro-Kiri, Ayetoro-Gbede’’ published on page 6, Sunday sun, December 6, 2015 also stated that there was low turnout of voters in Odo-Ape, Odo-Ape, Ayetoro-Kiri, Ayetoro-Gbede during the governorship supplementary election in Kogi State on Saturday, December 5, 2015.most of the rerun election held during the period under review.

  1. Deployment of Security Agents

There were mixed reactions over the high number of security agents deployed to election venues for maintenance of law and order. For example, the report published on November 21 in the Daily Sun, about 15,000 police, 3 Commissioner of Polis (CPs), 6,000 Civil Defence corps were reportedly deployed to Kogi State during the governorship election.

The Punch, December 5, 2015, page 3, in a story headlined ‘’Deployment of Armoured Personnel Carriers” reported the deployment of three big armoured personnel carriers and police trucks loaded with security operatives to Yenagoa during the governorship election in Bayelsa State.

While some analysts believed that the heavy presence of security agents prevented bloody violence, others were of the view that the situation scared a number of voters, thereby making them to stay away from voting.

The Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson and PDP candidate for governorship election was reported to have demanded for immediate withdrawal of soldiers deployed to monitor the election, accusing them of colluding with the opposition party and INEC to rig election in Southern Ijaw Local government of the state.

  1. LOGISTICS AND LATE ARRIVAL OF ELECTION MATERIALS

There were reported cases of late arrival of INEC Ad-hoc officials and election materials to some polling units. This, according to reports was due to difficulty encountered by INEC officials to transport themselves to their duty posts.

CONCLUSION

Various elections were reported to have been conducted by INEC after the 2015 general elections. These included the Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections held on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively. Others were reruns in Adamawa on February 13; Benue Senatorial rerun and Kogi reruns elections for Senate, House of Representatives and state Assembly on February 20; Abia North Senatorial District on March 5; Parliamentary rerun in Rivers State on March 19, 2016; Ife Central Constituency (Osun State) on April 19; FCT chairmanship election on April 9, 2016; among others.

A review of newspapers on the conduct of these elections showed that some of them were characterised majorly by inconclusiveness, violence, failed card readers, voter’s apathy, large number of security agents and late arrival of election materials and INEC officials.

The inconclusive election was first witnessed in Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections held on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively. Also INEC was reported to have declared re-run elections in most of the 16 states where rerun elections were billed to take place. Even where and when elections were conducted as re-run, such were still marred by electoral malpractices, violence, challenges posed by the introduction of card reader technology which still make INEC declare them inconclusive.

However, there was one significant area where INEC was commended for improvement. This, according to the views expressed by voters in newspapers’ was the accreditation and voting at the same time. They had complained that the earlier method of going to polling unit for accreditation and later go for voting after some hour was cumbersome and discourage voters from turning out to vote.

Though, there were divergent views over the deployment of large number of security agents for maintenance of law and other during elections, majority of the opinions expressed in newspapers indicated that the security agents had helped in reducing the rate of bloody violence and killings that would have been recorded during the elections.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Having established some of the shortcomings that characterised most of the elections conducted by INEC after the 2015 general elections, it is the responsibility of the INEC and other stakeholders in the electoral process to find solutions to such challenges.

Since media has been identified as the nexus to the stake holders in the electoral system, there is need for series of sustainable capacity building programmes for the media professionals on how to educate and sensitise the electorate, the politicians and other concerned stakeholders on the major challenges identified as banes to successful and credible elections. Below are some of the identifiable areas:

  • The media can be used to inform the citizens on the economic effects of inconclusiveness in an election.

  • It can also be used to educate the voters more on the use of the card readers, a technology that posed serious challenge to INEC adhoc staff

  • The media can play great role through continuous sensitisation on the need for the politicians to be law abiding during electoral process.

  • The media can be used to educate the electorate on the importance of citizens’ participation in an election to encourage massive turn out during voting.

  • The media can help in improving the conduct of security agents by sensitising them on the essence of their neutrality and self-control in use of arms during elections.

  • There is need for the media to sustain and improve in its activities on general voters’ education bearing in mind the high level of reliability of the general public on them in this unique role.

By Lanre Mohammed with Contributions from Mbet Obon-Utong & Ifeoma Deca

Posted in ThePRESS