Is NEC Testing the Patience of Nigerians?

Within the week Nigerians woke up to the news that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had applied to the Court of Appeal to prevent the Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party from accessing the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, in order for INEC to reconfigure the BVAS ahead of the governorship and House of Assembly polls.

INEC also argued that not reconfiguring the BVAS could jeopardize the conduct of the next round of elections. The request by INEC was seen by many Nigerians as a ploy to erase all remaining traces of evidence of their rigging of the presidential election. These Nigerians also believed that once the INEC request was granted it would be goodbye to any hopes of the major opposition candidates getting justice.

on Wednesday the Court of Appeal granted INEC leave to reconfigure the BVAS,  a development that may have alarmed many Nigerians who fear the manipulation of the BVAS although the lawyer representing Obi downplayed such fears. He said the court had directed INEC to save the data on its back end server before the reconfiguration, and to that end, the Obi camp had nothing to fear.

But the  the circumstances leading to the declaration of Tinubu as winner had left many in no doubt that the election was compromised. From the refusal of INEC to upload polling unit results immediately to its server to the announcement of results different from what the various party agents had, as well as acts of voter intimidation by thugs and even security agents, it was clear that the election had lost its credibility.

Even during the collation of state results in Abuja by INEC, when the anomalies were pointed out to the chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, he went ahead to declare a winner after promising to look into the complaints of other parties after the collation and before the announcement of a winner.

Yet, despite protestations by parties, election observers (both local and foreign), including churches and prominent individuals, about the suspicious role of INEC, the body returned to apply for reconfiguration of BVAS in a manner that suggested that no amount of complaints by Nigerians or any group mattered to it.

One would have ordinarily expected the INEC to on its own postpone the guber and state assembly elections until all controversial and thorny issues were trashed out, especially since the integrity of INEC was at stake. But for it to further seek to toy with the emotions of aggrieved Nigerians by asking to be allowed to reconfigure the BVAS was almost an insult to Nigerians calling for a free and fair electoral contest. Had INEC succeeded in being allowed to reconfigure the BVAS, only God knows what the reaction of Nigerians would have been.

While we thank Nigerians for not taking the law into their hands in the face of obvious provocation by INEC, and while we commend the to major parties on their civilized conduct and recourse to the courts, we call on INEC to henceforth cease taking incendiary actions that could torpedo the peace still being enjoyed in the country.

INEC should see itself as an unbiased umpire whom everyone looks up to for doing the right things, rather than being a tool in the hands of manipulative politicians. So far, INEC has woefully failed in the discharge of its duties and any further attempt to thwart the popular mandate of Nigerians may lead to something no one would like.

As the two major parties go to court, we implore the judiciary to live up to its tag as the last hope of the common man. At no time are they expected to live up to this as now.