Saturday, 18 July 2015

How INEC Could Improve on 2015 Polls Through KOGI, BAYELSA Guber




As Bayelsa and Kogi States Governorship elections draw nearer, he Independent National Electoral Commission has been urged to make the polls holding in the last quarter of the year an improvement over the last general elections, news48hrs.com reports.

Indeed, all eyes will be on the electoral umpire as it preoccupied with the preparation and the conduct of the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states having fixed November 21 for the Kogi State governorship poll and December 5 for that of Bayelsa State.

Governorship polls did not hold on April 11 in the last general elections in both states because the tenures of their governors did not terminate on May 29 unlike their counterparts in other states of the federation. However, political parties and aspirants for the November 21 and December 5 elections have been preparing for the exercises which the Chairman, Justice and Equity Organisation, Mr. Tunde Bafunso, said should be an improvement over the last general elections.
“There is tremendous room for improvement. Getting our elections right is still work in progress,” he said.
Despite the fact that Nigerians were hailed for their peaceful conduct during the last general elections by local and international observers, pockets of violence still dotted the polls across the country. Many people, including few security agents, were killed and valuable property worth several billions of Naira were destroyed by angry political parties’ supporters.
The electoral commission was also accused of bias by all the major political parties that fielded candidates for elective offices in the last elections. Some supporters of the political parties alleged that the commission connived with the police and other security agencies to rob their candidates of victory. Even the innovations, such as the permanent voter card and the smart card reader introduced by INEC to ensure the credibility of the polls became subjects of controversy by the political parties’ supporters. While some welcomed the innovations and described them as novel, others said they were deliberately adopted to deny the electorate their rights to vote.
But the next Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections, interestingly, are going to serve as another litmus test for the integrity of INEC. The polls will also be the first major electoral exercises that the commission will be overseeing under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari whose election on March 28 was said to be free and fair by local and international observers, though marred with some hitches such as violent attacks and other malpractices across the country.
As the commission is preparing for the polls, however, public affairs commentators are asking those who will have one role or the other to play in the next governorship polls, especially INEC and security agents, to prevent any action that could threaten the integrity of the exercises. They particularly want them to put in place practical initiatives that would prevent blood letting and other related criminal activities in both states.
They recalled that families who lost their loved ones and property in the violence that characterised the last elections in some parts of the country have yet to recover from the trauma.
Bafunso, who was one of the local observers accredited by INEC for the last general elections, asked INEC to realise that getting the next governorship elections right is a responsibility that it must not fail to accomplish.
He said despite all the encomiums which trailed the last general elections; they were by no means perfect.
Bafunso therefore canvassed the need to re-adopt and improve upon the initiatives that contributed to the success of the last general elections for the conduct of the Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship polls.
He believes that such initiatives, including the peace agreement signed by all the stakeholders involved in the elections, ensured the relative success recorded then.
Bafunso also asked the electoral body to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders, including traditional chiefs even before, during and after the elections to ensure credible and peaceful polls.
Apart from that, he asked INEC to train and retrain, if the need be, all the electoral officers and other individuals who might have roles to play in the elections.
Bafunso said, “It is my conviction that INEC would not want to perform below the relative success it recorded in the last elections. So, it is necessary for the commission to strengthen partnership with every relevant stakeholder to prove to Nigerians that it is truly independent of any political party or the government.
“Secondly, INEC should not forget that comprehensive voter education and coordinated engagement of security agencies are necessary. The out-of-the station allowance should be paid in advance to security personnel that may be deployed for the polls.”
He, however, pointed out the need for the Federal Government to make INEC truly independent and adequately fund the commission.
A rights activist and founder, Centre for Rehabilitation of Exceptional Persons, Mr. Kunle Oyegoke, called on INEC to build upon the legacy left behind by the immediate past chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who he said laid the foundation for credible election in the country. According to him, the last general elections have shown that votes of people are beginning to count irrespective of the leader that emerges and that the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states will not accept anything less than that.
Oyegoke said, “INEC started a good job in Nigeria with the conduct of the last general elections. I know that it is a development that we need to build upon to be able to get credible results in the coming elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. Much more than that, I think the people are getting aware of the fact that credible elections are possible in Nigeria.
“I am sure Nigeria would want to key into that. So, we are hoping that the next elections in both states would be free and fair because anyone appointed as substantive INEC chairman to conduct the elections would not want to go below the standard Jega has set.”
The activist, however, urged the President and stakeholders in the two states to ensure that the votes of the people count because of the sensitive nature of both states.
The activist said, “Nobody should be denied his or her rights to vote. In fact, there should be no reason for the electorate to be denied their rights to vote because Nigerians would want the outcome to be better than that of the last general elections.
“It is therefore necessary for INEC and others involved in the conduct of the elections to start working on the initiatives that will make the polls acceptable to all.
Oyegoke also extended his advice to youths in both states. According to him, the youths will benefit more if they resist attempts to lure them into violence.
He said, “We cannot have peaceful society when the people attempt to vote by violence. No doubt, the announcement of the dates for the elections will heighten political activities in the two states, but let everyone be aware that we cannot have a better and economically prosperous society through violence.”
An information technology and communications expert, Mr. Alaba Fasua, drew the attention of the electoral body to the use of card reader while conducting the polls.
Fasua asked INEC to prevent the device from being sabotaged since there is no technology that cannot be disrupted because it is operated by the people.
He said, “It is what the people want technology to do that it does. So, card reader is a technology that can be used to prevent malpractices, if it is properly deployed.”
Fasua, however, reminded the commission that a particular network used to transmit data through the card reader in the last elections did not function properly, hence the need to make use of available networks to enhance seamless transmission of data in Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship poll.
The United States-trained criminologist, Mr. Pedro Ayandokun, emphasised the security aspect of the polls. He urged INEC and the Federal Government to endeavour to prevent what might cause violence in both states because of their peculiar nature.
He said Kogi State, for example, has a Peoples Democratic Party governor and many All Progressives Congress House of Assembly members who would naturally want their parties to win the November 21 poll.
Ayandokun asked the electoral body to be impartial and collaborate with security agencies to prevent malpractices that could trigger off violence.
He said, “INEC and the police have much work to do as both the PDP and the APC will not want to lose Kogi State. That is the reason the police should be on top of security activities in the state.”
The criminologist added that the electoral body should expect violence in Bayelsa State because “some hardened individuals in the state might not want to lose their grip on power no matter what happens.”
Ayandokun, however, said that the likely violence could be averted if the commission was transparent and impartial.

ormer President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday said the South-South geopolitical zone would reflect the performance of the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the area.
Obasanjo stated this while fielding questions from members of the audience shortly after delivering a lecture at the 11th convocation of the Benson Idahosa University, Benin, Edo State.
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He explained that the 2011 presidential election had presented the South-South an opportunity to produce the number one citizen of the country, as a minority zone, and would bear the consequences of his decisions as President for six years.
He also said what the former President did while in office was entirely his.
When asked whether he did not share any responsibility in the performance of Jonathan as an elder statesman and former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Obasanjo said, “I have also said that you can help anybody to get a job, but you cannot help him to do it. Let us get it clear, there is nobody who has got into any position who has not been helped by one person or more than one person.
“To become Nigeria’s head of state, it was first of all my performance in the war front. Now, if General Yakubu Gowon had not sent me to the war front, you won’t know whether I can perform or cannot perform.
“Now he sent me to the war front, I thank him for it. And because I performed, we shared the credit. If I have failed, Gowon would not have shared the credit; he would not have shared the condemnation with me. I will be alone.
“Yes as I have said, I believe that opportunity that afforded itself in 2010 to somebody from the minority tribe to become the President of Nigeria; he should never lose the opportunity.
“And don’t forget what he did or did not do with it will reflect for a long time on that part of the country and don’t take that lightly.
“What he did or did not do with it will reflect for a long time on that part of the country. But nobody will be there who will not be helped, but you voted for him, I was not the only one among 18 million voters who voted for him.”
On the leadership crisis rocking the 8th National Assembly, the former President said that the Assembly was experiencing “growing up hiccups” which he said was normal in a democratic system.
He said, “You know normally when you are growing up, you have what they call growing up hiccups. And that is nothing to worry about.
“It is part of growing up in our democracy.”
The former President, however, expressed concern over the high rate of youth unemployment in the country.
He said the challenge could leave Nigeria sitting on a keg of gunpowder if left unchecked.
Obasanjo said, “Whichever way you look at it, we have a large proportion of our youths who are unemployed. It doesn’t matter the statistics you use; at one time, they say it was 50 per cent. At another time, they say they rebased; we are never tired of rebasing in this country.
“They rebased and say it is 25 per cent. Even if it is 25 per cent, that will be about 25 million (unemployed) people.
“If we do not do something about it, we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder because the youths that are unemployed will be angry and restless and any spark will set them off.”


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