By Chinwe Ogbuka, Assistant Director, Publicity
Officially, activities for the State Governorship election in Ekiti commenced on April 4, 2018 with the issuance of Notice of Election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) while that of Osun State is to commence on June 23. This is in compliance with Section 30 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which stipulates that notice be given not later than 90 days before the election.
According to the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the election issued by the Commission, public campaigns by political parties began on April 15 as provided by Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act. On its part, the Commission has started preparations for the conduct of the elections with series of activities including engagements with critical stakeholders to ensure successful election in the two states.
In its determination to ensure that the two governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States scheduled for July and September respective are better than previous elections conducted so far, The Electoral Institute (TEI), the training and Research arm of INEC, organized a Roundtable titled “Anambra Governorship Election: A Post-mortem and Lessons for Ekiti and Osun States Governorship Polls.”
The Roundtable, held on April 30 at the Institute, provided an opportunity for a comprehensive review of the conduct of the governorship election in Anambra on November 18, 2017, with the aim of identifying the challenges encountered in the process and how to address them.
As the Ag. Director-General of the Institute, Dr. Sa ‘ad Umar Idris puts it, the event seeks to contextually evaluate INEC’s performance at the November 2017 Governorship election in Anambra with a view to leveraging on the successes and failures as the Commission plans for Ekiti and Osun Governorship Elections in July and September, respectively.
Umar, while welcoming participants to the Roundtable said that with the support and contributions of other stakeholders, no efforts will be spared to ensure that INEC continues to improve its service delivery through 2019 and beyond. He said: “Ultimately, our goal is to entrench a vibrant electoral processes and procedures, establish strong institutions and systems that will support delivery of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.”
The Ag. Director-General noted that Lead Speaker, who was in the eye of the storm during the Anambra State Governorship Election, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji had rich and valuable experiences to share on the conduct of the election.
Other discussants at the event, who monitored the election in the state include Prof. Stella Okunna of Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr. Abiola Akiyode, Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Mr. Chris Azor, Coordinator and Chairman, Anambra State Civil Society Network, (ASCSN); Mr. Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA- Africa and Mr. Abiodun Ajijola, Executive Director, Election Monitor.
The National Commissioner and Chairman of the Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu in his opening remark, noted that the Commission is in election mood, hence the programme has to start on time, as time is of essence, saying, “We have to use the event to show how ready INEC is to stick to time as we have elections coming up.”
Prof. Ibeanu, who chaired the occasion explained that the roundtable was to debrief what happened in Anambra election, point out the pitfalls and underscore the successes.
It will be recalled that prior to the conduct of the Anambra election on November 18, 2017, the Institute organised a dialogue with the theme, “Anambra Government Elections: Critical Issues and What INEC Should do to Ensure Successful Polls.”
According to Prof. Ibeanu, that dialogue helped to put the Commission on the pedestal in order to ensure that the Anambra State elections were not only successful but also non-violent. The post-mortem of Anambra, therefore, was to further help the Commission not only to improve on the work-in-progress regarding the governorship elections and the 2019 general elections, but also add more spice to the innovations already in place.
The Chairman averred that “the idea of the Roundtable is to see how we can leverage on both successes and failures in the last major election in Anambra to improve our policies, procedures and processes in Ekiti State and Osun State elections and ultimately in the 2019 General Elections.”
The Roundtable was a follow up to an initial dialogue held by the Commission after the election, which has become a permanent feature in INEC. The shortcomings of the Anambra governorship election are the springboard on which the Commission is standing to conduct better elections in Ekiti, Osun, 2019 general elections and beyond.
The lead presenter, Dr. Nwanchukwu Orji, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Anambra State spoke extensively on the factors responsible for the successes recorded in Anambra and challenges encountered in the process.
For him the major success of the election was that it ended peacefully in spite of threats by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to disrupt it.
Notwithstanding the tensed atmosphere, the election was successful and this can be attributed to a number of factors enumerated by the Dr. Orji as follows:
The Commission made provision for rapid response in case of any emergency, which helped to overcome many challenges that occurred during the election. The team that conducted the election was new – the REC, Administrative Secretary and all the Heads of Departments.
However, there were few challenges encountered during the conduct of the election, which include transportation of materials from state headquarters to local government areas as the transport companies failed to turn up on time for deployment of personnel and materials. Besides, management of Ad hoc staff, mostly corps members, some whom were sourced from Enugu State, Collation Officers, Security personnel/ system, 2000 Policemen deployed to the state for the election was tasking.
Dr. Orji suggested areas to improve upon as the Commission prepares for Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections and the 2019 general elections. He advised against having too many activities (Activity over load) close to the election. He emphasised proper accreditation of party agents, because “most of them were found to be working for other political parties.”
He added: “It is also important to ensure that Smart Card Readers are in good working condition, ensure early identification of Registration Area Centres (RACs) and Super RACs, documentation of Ad hoc Staff to avoid a situation where some Ad hoc are recruited, trained only for different people to appear on election for deployment.”
No doubt, the lessons learnt in Anambra will go a long way in helping to achieve the same in feat in Ekiti and Osun governorship election as well as the general elections next year. Good a thing the REC of Ekiti and Osun were at the Roundtable.