INEC Should Dispel Suspicion, Says Nsirimovu
The Convener, Doing Democracy Movement and a member of the Transition Monitoring Group, Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, told KELVIN EBIRI in Port Harcourt that INEC should dispel suspicion by being simply transparent.
INEC had reportedly contracted the printing of the ballot papers to a third party. Won’t this affect the integrity of the election?
I don’t know the internal workings of INEC but they have assured us that they have put in place a watertight process. But let me say this, there are lot of information making the rounds that INEC might be blackmailed because of the distribution of the PVC. I think Nigerians should investigate this so that nobody uses this to blackmail INEC. If there is corruption within the system, the question should be put to INEC now on how was this procurement done. Who got this job and how did the person get the job? If these things are politicized and are not in the open, it will create problems in people’s minds.
What we don’t need in Nigeria at the moment is for INEC to be blackmailed or for people to raise some level of suspicion on INEC. One can say that Professor Jega is straightforward but there are lots of political minded individuals in INEC, so we have to be very careful. What I have heard from Jega one on one is that they have done everything right, they want to deliver a credible election.
Even the issue of hacking into the commission that the security agents are alluding to, INEC said that is impossible because the database is not even online because they have secured it. A lot of issues are being raised here and there and politicians being who they are, will want to scuttle certain things. But my own take based on what had happened in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States, the process is being transformed. Things are not going to be perfect now but there is room for improvement.
I think that Nigerians need to work with INEC against these political interests, otherwise, politicians might scuttle the process.
Are there indications from your perspective that INEC is prepared to conduct the 2015 general elections?
We have worked very closely as civil society with Professor Attahiru Jega’s led INEC and he has come out openly to say that he is ready to organize this election and that it will hold. So, for me, since he is the chairman of electoral body, I have no reason to doubt him. But of course we have seen some negatives in the fields as regards the issue of the permanent voter’s card (PVC). And it is making a lot of people wonder whether the election will hold. INEC has issued a statement that about 68 million Nigerians have collected their PVC.
Should the election be shifted because millions of Nigerians are yet to get their voter’s card?
Now, we have to take into account that there is no way you can get 100 percent of people voting on election day, whether they collect their PVC or not. And those who are pushing for alternative for people to use their old temporary voter’s card to vote, I think also have some ulterior motives, because the mixture of the two will lead to massive rigging and desecration of this election due to the fact that INEC has planned the election to be watertight.
Immediately you give room for people to use the old card to vote, it will create corruption of the process. In most places, the cards are available but people are not collecting them. We have to find a way on how people can go and collect their cards. The question is, since the cards are available, why are people not collecting their cards? And why did INEC not start the distribution of the cards on time? And this is now creating rooms for people to now say shift the election and this idea for an interim government for six month so that people collect their PVC.
don’t think is the right thing to do. This country requires stability at the moment and if you move this election, it will create a lot of instability. INEC should embark on more public enlightenment for people to go and collect their PVC. I have my own suspicion.
What is this suspicion?
My suspicion is that they (INEC) needed resources to get these cards produced on time, they didn’t get it. Even right now as we speak, there is also issue of resources to deploy people for the distribution of the cards. In some States when people go to the wards to collect their PVC, they could barely find INEC staff there. Those are issues of resources and deployment. The election has been fixed and must not be postponed. Let the people, who have collected their cards, go and vote. A lot of people who don’t have cards are those who did multiple registration. INEC had to remove about 4 million names from their list. You have people who moved from one place to another and did not follow up with the process of transferring their names to their new residential areas.
If INEC says it is ready, then we are ready to go. Unfortunately, a lot of people will be disenfranchised, but for whatever reason, let this election not be shifted.
Do you agree with some political parties that have argued that recent redeployment of Resident Commissioners is another pointer that INEC is not ready for election?
That act is a decision of the INEC. People will always raise eyebrows in situations like this, but I think that people should look at the role of electoral commissioner in a state.
The electoral commissioner cannot rig vote except the people allow him or her. What makes the manipulation of election result possible is, if for instance in Rivers State, people want the resident electoral commissioner to rig election in the State, he or she will rig election. But, if we don’t want it, there is absolutely no power conferred on them to rig election. Their powers are limited. If we say there is not going to be any rigging, then it is not going to happen. And that is why civil society is insisting that people must defend their votes.
People will try to rig but if the people resist, that won’t happen. In Osun State, there were certain things that were going to be done, but political journalists insisted that they be given the results and that forestall whatever they wanted to do. With the new result sheets, it will be extremely difficult for anybody to rig the election. Unless the resident commissioner who will have the custody of the materials, will give people these materials in advance. Even at that, it will leak.
If you succeed in rigging at the State level, you may not succeed at the national level because there are election monitoring groups that are also going to come up with results and information as the election is happening. Those of us who will be in the election monitoring room will be working with INEC monitoring room, which will be live on election day and transmitting information and sharing information on what is happening in every unit across the country.
There is also the social media factor. Don’t be surprised that before INEC will announce results, social media will have given out result per ward. What we allow a resident electoral commissioner to do is what she or he will do. The commissioner is just an appointee but who might have criminal tendencies which will be deployed during election only if we allow it. I don’t have any fear that any residential commissioner can rig election at this time. What we need to do is to educate people on the role of electoral officers and when you see anyone exceeding that role, make noise about it and I think that is the way to go.
The opposition parties are getting stronger, so there will be a limit to what an individual can do. The worst people in any State during elections are the electoral officers, not even the resident commissioner. The electoral officers are the people the politicians see and give huge amount of money, but today , their influences are being whittled down by the way INEC has tighten the process.
Today, no electoral officer can say, I ‘will carry a photocopy of result sheet to a polling unit and then take the original to one palour to fill.’ People are getting wiser. There are security seals on most of these things today, it is not 100 percent proof that people will not cheat; they will try to, but it is not going to be as it used to be.