INEC AND 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA: A PROGNOSTICATION
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The INEC, as an instrument of processing democratic ideals and structures, is hopefully, expected to be a truly independent body that personifies the ideals of transparency, impartiality, accountability and responsiveness. This worldwide trend known as democratization has made the issue of election a crucial political imperative. Nigeria’s experience with electoral politics has over the years been characterized by high incidence of electoral malaise manifesting in the prevalence of electoral rigging, violence and other forms of malpractices which tend to erode established electoral standards and defy the prospects of free, fair and credible elections in the country. The methodology and procedures used for this research is basically in description of the study areas, types and sources of data used in gathering information on the subject matter, techniques or instruments of data collection, sampling procedures as well as method of data analysis. The findings, of this research agreed with assumptions upon which this study was premised that INEC and some political office holders in Nigeria engender circumstances which make the realization of free, and fair elections problematic, the character of people in government in Nigeria’s electoral politics detracts from democratic essence and merit as well as political office holders impacted negatively to predict whether INEC will conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019. Lastly, the study was conducted to predict whether INEC will conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019 with reference to the outcome of two elections which took place this 2018 in in Ekiti and Osun state. On the basis of the findings of this research, the following recommendations are proposed which will help to address some of the issues raised in the course of the research undertaking. Politicians in Nigeria should imbibe genuine democratic culture and learn to relegate their personal interests to supreme national interest which is peace, political stability and economic development by allowing popular expression to decide who should be in control of political leadership during conduct of elections.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is the institutionalized governmental body established, through the instrumentality of law, to manage the nation’s electoral process. The INEC, as an instrument of processing democratic ideals and structures, is hopefully, expected to be a truly independent body that personifies the ideals of transparency, impartiality, accountability and responsiveness (Udu, 2015). This perhaps, informed the popular perception that the body is insulated from partisan politics, and that, it is fully empowered to discharge its avowed duties devoid of any influence whatsoever (Nkwede et al., 2014).
Violence in elections, which is a major bane of politics in Nigeria, has become a basis for arriving at inconclusive results. Election-related casualties and communal violence in northern part of Nigeria sequel to the April 2011 presidential elections resulted in over 800 deaths according to the Human Rights Watch even when the poll was adjudged as one of the freest and fairest in the country. Soon after the presidential election, supposed supporters of president Mohammadu Buhari the then presidential candidate in the election, began demonstrations in most part of the north.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an institution empowered by the 1999 constitution to conduct election in Nigeria and as an umpire, the institution is supposed to be truly independent in other to conduct a free and fair election. However, the commission over the years has shown to the public that is not capable of conducting a free and fair election and this is manifested in the series of election held in the forth republic. INEC has always jilted the electorates by playing the script of its employer. The commission cannot hold a credible election in the present circumstance if the mode of appointments and their funding is not changed.
Most of the problems we have with INEC is that, these people are members of the ruling party and their mandate is for them to protect the interest of their political party according to their party constitution and on the other hand to build confidence of loyalty to those who appointed them as members of the commission, nothing good can come out of a corrupt mind and as it were, a spade is always a spade.
The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria will be the country’s sixth since 1999, when it shifted to democracy after a long period of military rule. Most of these elections have been tarnished by acts of violence – including attacks on politicians – and vote rigging that often influences the results.
In Nigeria, the issue of election has been a problematic endeavor over the years. Ironically, election in Nigeria has been bereft of democratic ideals, much as it has been characterized by untoward circumstances. According to Ibeanu, (2007:3);
The Electoral process as currently constituted in Nigeria is psychologically alienating for the vast majority of the people who are largely outsiders and are only periodically inserted in the process when they cast votes. At the same time this alienation is underscored by the fact that even when these vote casters have completed the ritual of voting, the outcome bears little semblance to what they chose in their ballots.
Besides, there have been problems of electoral violence and fraud, bulk of which may arise from the excesses of the politicians in their desperate bid to consolidate, capture or control state power. In the face of this therefore, electoral experiences in Nigeria so far have left much to be desired. It is against the above that this research work is focusing on the INEC and the 2019 Presidential elections.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
Nigeria went to the polls in 2019 with the Electoral Act (2010) as the legal and institutional platform. After the election, however, it became obvious that the much desired free, fair and credible elections were not fully achieved going by the number of problems that dotted the electoral process. Firstly, despite Constitutional amendments to give INEC financial autonomy structural problems continue to confront it thereby hampering is ability to conduct free, free and credible elections. Thus it is over stressed due to multi task that both the Constitution and the Electoral Act have assigned to it.
Interlocutory appeal shall not operate as a stay of proceedings e.t.c. However, the most obvious lapses were in the area of Electoral fraud.
Secondly, the issue of electoral fraud and the lack of credibility of the electoral process have been with the Nigerian people for some time. It has more or less become a feature of Nigerian elections. It is rooted in the do or die‖ politics practiced by some Nigerian politicians and political parties. Unfortunately, as a large number of those that engage in electoral fraud and irregularities get away with it, it becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Despite the creation of these offences by the law and the sanctions provided for them, few offenders are apprehended and prosecuted by the various security agencies in Nigeria. The consequence is that the offences remain in the statute books as mere offences while candidates engage in competitive rigging. Consequently, the candidate who out-rigs the other is declared the winner while the opponent is forced to proceed to the election tribunal as the underdog to struggle with the person with the power of incumbency.
Although the law prescribes the processes and procedures for the legitimacy of elections, the same law also recognizes that things may not always go as prescribed. In which case, candidates and political parties that participated in an election nay question the legitimacy and legality of such elections before the election tribunals set up for that purpose. The law also recognizes the fact that some individuals and groups may attempt to subvert the electoral process and attempt to come to power through illegal means. It is on the basis of this that the law has created electoral offences and prescribed punishment for those that offend the rules of conduct.
The INEC which is the umpire of electioneering in Nigeria is being the discussed in this work with particular reference to the 2019 elections.
1.3 Objective of the Research
- To examine whether INEC, as constituted legally been able to manage the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria.
- To appraise the Electoral Act, 2010 in order to determine the adequacy or otherwise of sanctions for electoral offences and fraud as provided in the Electoral Act 2010 during the 2019 presidential elections.
- To chart the way forward and future prospects of Nigerian elections.
- RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- Is INEC, as constituted legally been able to manage the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria?
- What is the way forward and future prospects of Nigerian elections.
1.5 Justification of the Study
The justification for this study is premised on three grounds
Firstly, the need to examine the desirability to further strengthen INEC by further amendments to Electoral Act in order to enhance its capacity, efficiency and efficacy to deliver free, fair and credible elections.
Secondly; INEC on electoral fraud are not effective in dealing with Electoral fraud in the 2019 presidential election.
The need to identify areas to improve the efficacy of the law with responds to reducing Electoral fraud provides justification for this work.
Thirdly, the need to consider enfranchising the Nigerian Diaspora in Elections (they did not participate in 2019 presidential elections) considering their contribution to the Gross Domestic product of Nigeria (GDP).
1.6 Scope of the Research
The scope of this work is focused mainly on INEC , as it relates to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections devoid of electoral fraud by a truly independent body. This is as it affects the conduct of the2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. The scope has been limited to INEC and the presidential Elections of 2019.
It did not cover election to local councils even though provided for in the Electoral Act 2010. It is also limited to the legal aspects of the elections as provided for in the CFRN 1999 and the Act. Thus historical or political issues though have bearing on the discourse on democracy and election would not be in direct focus.
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