Election is a decision making process whereby citizens elect those they think are competent and capable of carrying their expectations and demand to the Promised Land. Historically, Nigerians engaged in formal and non-formal election before independence with the sole aims of avoiding leadership crisis. I wish space could be allotted to me to document the historical antecedent of politics and politicians in this country but because of space, it is better to dwell directly into the subject matter.
Presidential election has come and gone but leaving governorship and state house assemblies with a lot of controversies ranging from electoral violence to the high number of vote cancellation. One of the major issue is how the election recorded high inconclusive status to six states; Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Plateau and Adamawa. Though, inconclusive election is not a new thing to our infant democracy. Records from the newspapers showed that between 2011 and 2019 alone, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared 32 elections inconclusive. But this time around the number is high and thus becomes a bone of contention to all Nigerians with dollar questions like what makes the election inconclusive? Why the figures of inconclusive election escalating?
Based on the reaction and what I have read so far in, inconclusive election can be attributed to where challenged ballots are not sufficient to affect the outcome of the election or when the margin between two is less than the total of the cancelled vote. Therefore, an election can be declared inconclusive based on the following condition provided by the electoral law. As encapsulates in Paragraph 41 (e) of the Election Manual 2019, a gubernatorial election can only be declared inconclusive where “the margin of lead between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the Polling Unit(s) where election was cancelled or not held in line with Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, the returning officer shall decline to make a return until polls have taken place in the affected Polling Unit(s) and the results incorporated into new form EC 8D and subsequently recorded into form EC 8E for Declaration and Return.
While inconclusive election is not new in Nigerian democratic journey, many Nigerians are conversant with the old way of computing elections results where election officers will sit on their comfort hotel room in the cohort with the ruling party and write result. Inconclusive election is a sign of deepening democratic culture many do not want it because it appear a strange to them due to the level of their political awareness
However, the desperation of our politicians to win election is another factor that led to inconclusive elections in some states. This desperation leads to massive irregularities, electoral violence and cancellation of election results. Such incidents were witnessed and recorded in most of the states, also over voting is another challenge that permeate inconclusive election. To make matters worse, some of these desperate politicians including the electorate do not have full knowledge of the electoral law. Thus, their interpretation may differ, which may further create violence, causing unnecessary killing and destruction of property. Therefore, INEC needs to educate voters and party supporters ahead of the forth coming rerun elections in the affected states.
But do Nigerians need inconclusive poll? The answer is simple, Nigerians deserved election at once. This will enable us cut a lot of expenses, stresses, and curb voter apathy. This can be realistic if we able to amend our electoral law and adopt simple majority system just like in senate and house or representative elections. Also, militarization of the process should be avoided because it enable the desperate politicians temper with the integrity of the process which may lead to high vote’s cancellations, ballot box snatching and over voting.
INEC should also be given the power to disqualify any candidate or political party that cause electoral violence from participating in such elections. For the forth coming rerun election, observers, media and even the security agencies should critically observe the election in the affected polling units in order to enhance the integrity and credibility of the election.
Idris Mohammed is a Program Officer with YIAGA Afriaca Abuja.