Edo State voters saved the day

IF voters were not determined to have a peaceful election, the frustrations the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, placed on their way would have been enough to ensure that Edo State was on fire.

Hours after accreditation of voters should have commenced, voting materials were unavailable. Things were so bad that some polling stations, minutes from the INEC headquarters did not have the materials.

The recurring unwillingness of INEC to effect changes in its logistics was one of the major sore points of the election. INEC has learnt nothing. Since 2010, INEC has managed seven stand-alone governorship elections in Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Kogi, and Sokoto. In each election, INEC mismanaged the voters’ register, and delivered voting materials in manners that created doubts about fairness. In Edo State, INEC again failed to enhance free and fair election. This should be of concern to Nigerians.

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Evidence of the failure that led to denying hundreds of thousands of voters the right to exercise their choices reflected in the turn-out, which many ironically rate high.

Doubtlessly, voters’ enthusiasm was high. Only 667,993 voters out of the 1.6 million on INEC’s roll were accredited for the July 14 governorship poll. Does the 41.74 percent turn-out indicate the Edo State voters’ register is inflated or people returned home after waiting for INEC?

Was it possible that fears of violence kept others at home? INEC is becoming rather wasteful in its conduct of elections, yet it does not achieve results that conform to expectations of organisation from lessons of breaches in earlier elections. What were all its resident electoral commissioners doing in Edo State, when the simple matter of logistics for electoral materials was neglected?

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If there had been confusion in Edo State, INEC would have blamed it on the politicians. After all, before the polls,it had built a picture of politicians bent on causing trouble. The peoples’ tenacity exposed INEC’s inadequacies. In 2011, INEC blamed the short time it had to plan for its shoddy performance. What was the challenge in Edo State? Was INEC again short on time?

Some of the plaudits awarded the conduct of the Edo election attest to the marginal standards people have set for INEC. Those standards are unacceptable and would be disastrous in a general election. INEC must start serious re-assessment of the biometrics of registered voters. It could establish a nexus between it and the logistics it requires.

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Does INEC need all the documents it moves around when its computers have biometrics of voters? Where are the benefits of the billions of Naira spent on electronic registration last year? Edo election is raising these questions again.

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