To say the conduct of the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election in Nigeria left much to be desired is to state the very obvious. As at the time of this editorial, results were still being reeled out but the gaffes by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, just about torpedoed confidence in the body.
The major complaint by two of the three main parties, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP; and the Labour Party, LP, was the failure of INEC to immediately upload results of polling unit elections into their server. This provision was made in the first place to douse suspicion and gain the confidence of parties and the electorate.
But this did not happen despite earlier repeated assurances by INEC that such would be the case. Worse still, the initial uploads into the server were said to have disappeared at a time, leaving parties and the electorate confused.
Also the presidential election was marred by threats and violence despite the presence of security agents. There were also reports of the involvement of security personnel in ballot box snatching, especially in states like Lagos, Rivers and Edo.
In many cases policemen were seen standing aloof while some people issued threats to others, snatched ballot boxes or burnt them; including cases of voters being beaten up. In Rivers State some policemen were arrested for ballot-box-snatching. Yet, assurances had been given that adequate security would be provided in the vicinity of voting centres.
But by far worse were stories of vote manipulations that included vote deductions and padding. Agents of parties complained about seeing different figures announced from the ones they had taken from polling booths. Yet, INEC failed to give appropriate responses to these problems.
Some of the cases were comical. In a northern state, a police commissioner was asked about his view on the preponderance of under-age voting. He replied that those suspected of that could have had growth issues and that it was also difficult to determine anyone’s real age. This was even when kids of not more than five years were seen to have been registered to vote.
Indeed, the last presidential election was anything but how elections should be. It was very apparent that some people were bent on subverting the will of the Nigerian people as though they owned the country.
INEC’s refusal to follow the dictates of the Electoral Act and failure to keep its promise on the uploading of results to its server are quite shameful and could go a long way in dampening the morale of Nigerians who are expecting something new. Equally shameful is that the conduct of this latest election is worse than those of previous ones, rather than being an improvement. Very tragic.