As Nigerians prepare to perform their civic duty by casting their ballot for their preferred presidential and National Assembly candidates on 28 March, and candidates for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections on 11 April, the conflicting orders from Professor Attahiru Jega , the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Suleiman Abba, the Inspector General of Police, may confuse the electorate on election day. While Jega says voters could wait at the polling stations after casting their ballots to monitor the election, the police boss gave a counter order that once the electorate cast their votes, they should go home.
The need to vote and wait to see how the entire process unfolds is to ensure that the election is not rigged right from the polling station as had been the case in the past. Waiting behind is to ensure that everybody’s vote counts. Many have viewed Suleiman Abba’s order with suspicion because it is when voters don’t stay back at polling units to monitor the election that rigging takes place.
Jega wants the voters to stay back at the polling units but to maintain a reasonable distance from where counting of ballots takes place so as not to interfer with the counting process. The ability of the voters to monitor the process is to give the exercise the credibility everyone yearns for. Although party agents are statutorily assigned to monitor election for their parties, some of them could be compromised or induced with huge cash to allow rigging to take place at the expense of their parties. It is to avoid any form of manipulating the electoral process that the electorate are expected to be vigilant to ensure that their votes are not stolen.
We have witnessed in the past where ballot boxes were stuffed and some even snatched by hired thugs with the active connivance of security personnel. So it would not be out of place for voters to monitor the entire exercise from a reasonable distance. We are in an environment where desperate politicians can go to any length to manipulate the electoral process to win an election, including inducing electoral officers and even security personnel. So, for Abba to ask voters to go home after casting their ballots may give room for the process to be truncated by compromised officials and thugs.
Most Nigerians do not even trust Abba. They see the police boss as someone who is partisan and always ready to do the bidding of the Peoples Democratic party, PDP-led Federal Government as was the case when he sent his men to barricade the National Assembly last year to prevent the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and other lawmakers from entering the premises. Abba also unlawfully withdrew Tambuwal’s security details after he defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC. These conducts of the police boss and his men have portrayed them as the armed wing of the PDP.
Abba is known to be quick at usurping the role of the judiciary by interpreting the law to suit the PDP. He did it in the Tambuwal case and got away with it. Now he is trying to usurp the role of INEC. Because he is seen to be a partisan police boss, any of his pronouncements on electoral issue should be viewed with utmost suspicion. Professor Jega should immediately lay the issue of staying back at polling units to rest by making further clarifications before the polls on Saturday.
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