New Nigeria’s Not upto seven months to the 2023 General elections, a massive people momentum is gathering for active electoral participation. Attention is gradually shifting towards the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, in their renewed enthusiasm to be part of the epoch making general elections, Nigerians are apprehensive. Those who remember what transpired in the 1993 Presidential election that would have thrown up the Abiola Presidency are worried that INEC may constitute itself into another source for the possible annulment of hope.
Amid the buying and selling that trailed the primaries of some political parties, stakeholders insist that INEC should rise to the occasion and inspire confidence in the people about the credibility, fidelity and feasibility of the forthcoming general election.
Indications that the 2023 poll would be a very tough nut for INEC to crack emerged recently with the emergence of what some commentators have called WAZOBIA presidential candidates on the platforms of All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP).
Given the contentious issue of zoning that preceded the straw polls, as well as the individual electoral strategies of the parties, stakeholders believe that the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi as standard bearers of APC, PDP and LP respectively presents a huge stress on INEC’s integrity as an impartial electoral umpire to give us New Nigeria’s.
The commission came under heavy public criticism after it extended the June 3, deadline for the conclusion of party primaries following APC’s decision to postpone its special convention from May 29/30 to June 6-8.
Stakeholders, especially rights groups, accused INEC of being beholden of the ruling party, even as they urged the commission to equally extend the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to accommodate the army of new voters.
Although INEC’s performance in some off cycle elections, particularly those of Edo, Ondo and Anambra State earned it some plaudits, the fear that the commission was working hand in gloves with the ruling party remains.
That fact became apparent during the Electoral Act amendment, when the issue was whether to include direct primary as a mandatory legislation on political parties as method of nominating their candidates for election.
INEC was said to have officially indicated that it was indifferent to whatever mode parties chose to select their candidates. But, the fact that President Muhammad Buhari indicated the inherent huge cost of monitoring party primaries as part of his reasons for withholding assent threw a halo of doubts on the commission’s sincerity that indeed New Nigeria’s is attain.
It was against that background that, no sooner than INEC shifted the deadline for the conclusion of party primaries for the 2023 poll, some notable civil society groups attacked the commission.
The commission had, through its chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, declared that it planned to suspend the nationwide CVR online pre-registration on May 30 2022, even as he explained that the online pre-registration and physical registration would continue until the CVR is suspended on June 30, 2022.
It would be recalled that the commission had opened the registration portal in January 2022, while online pre-registration was to be accessed on its portal. Prof. Yakubu explained that the suspension was to afford those who registered online time to complete their registration physically, as well as enable the commission to clean up the registration data.
But, dismissing the INEC chairman’s rationale for suspending the exercise, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), threatened legal actions against the commission if it fails to extend the deadline for voter registration.
Reacting to INEC’s decision to extend the deadline for political parties to conduct their primary elections by one week, SERAP pounced on the commission. In a statement on its verified Twitter handle, the group directed INEC to equally accommodate a shift in voters’ registration exercise so as to allow eligible citizens to register for their PVCs (Permanent Voter Cards).
“We call on the body to immediately extend voters’ registration exercise to also give more time for New Nigeria’s to exercise their rights. We’ll sue INEC if voters’ registration is not immediately extended,” the tweet added.
Original Source: Guardian