Since the advent of the current administration at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it has conducted about 137 elections, 70 of which are end of tenure elections, whilst 11 are bye-elections. However, more than 13 of these elections are inconclusive.
Before November 2015, ‘’Inconclusive Elections’’ was strange to our election lexicon. This demon gained prominence in the aftermath of theKogi State Gubernatorial Election of November 21, 2015. Since then, almost every other election conducted by the commission has been bedevilled with inconclusiveness.
This has in no small way eroded the confidence of the electorate in the electioneering system. This leaves one to wonder what happened to electioneering process especially since the 2015 general elections were declared nationally and internationally as a free, fair and credible. The elections not only entrenched the nation’s democracy,it reinforced the international community’s faith in Nigeria and in her democracy.
And now, to worsen the confidence of the electorate in the ability of the commission to deliver the nation from the pangs of inconclusive elections, INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubuwas reportedin some newspapers onAugust 20as saying that it is very doubtful that the commission would be able to guarantee conclusive elections in 2019.
Before the 2015 General Elections, the Western World had prophesied the disintegration of Nigeria by 2015. As it turned out, theelectionwas smooth and the outcome fostered peace and unity in Nigeria contrary to the pessimistic predictions of the West. Nigeria thus became an example and indeed a legacy for all emerging economies, especially that the Presidential Electionresulted in a change of government(change of political party), without violence and without election litigation. Going by the statement by the INEC boss, this achievement might be short-lived if the emerging trend of inconclusive elections is not reversed. In fact it might mean that in 2015, Nigeria merely postponed the evil day till 2019. It might mean that in 2019, the nation will enact the evil prophecy of its disintegration caused by inconclusive elections and attendantreactions of violence, anarchy and civil unrest.
The above underscores the danger posed by the release of the demon of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. It must be arrested and completely annihilated from our election jurisprudence before 2019 and desirably before the forthcoming elections in Edo and Ondo states.
Since the KogiState gubernatorial election opened the floodgates to the demon of inconclusive election, it is important that we lend our voice on the illegality of the declaration by the commission that the said election was inconclusive (this is notwithstanding the fact that the matter is currently in court, the essence of this communication is to advise and guide the commission for future exercises). It is important to state at the outset that the laws of Nigeria empowers the commission to make subsidiary legislations through guidelines, but such guidelines are never intended to supersede the constitution. The commission conducted election in Kogi State on November 21 and APC scored 240,867 votes, whilst PDP came second with 199,514 votes, making a difference of 41,353 votes. APC had won in 16 Local Government Areas in the state and whilst PDP won in the remaining five. Election was declared inconclusive nonetheless because the total number of registered voters in 91 Polling Units in 18 Local Government Areas was 49,953 voters.
The commission relied on Page 22-23 paragraph 4, M of its Guideline 2015, which states that where the margin of votes between two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling unit where the elections were cancelled or not held, decline to make a return until another poll has taken place and the result incorporated into a new form EC8D and record into FORM EC8D for declaration and Return. It was after INEC Returning Officer (RO) declared the election inconclusive that the announcement of Prince Abubakar Audu’s unfortunate demise was announced. Both the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999as Amended and the Electoral Act 2010 as Amended talks about death after election but before swearing in and death after nomination but before election. No provision for death after conclusion of election but before declaration of winner. In determining who has been validly returned in an election, INEC must consider Section 179 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Section 26,47,68,69 and 70 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. Unfortunately, despite the circumstance, the commission invoked its Guideline despite the above provisions especially 179 Constitution which APC and Prince Abubakar Audu had fulfilled.
It is common knowledge that when voting takes place in an election, it does so on the basis of the accredited potential voters, Not all registered voters have Permanent Voters Cards, not all Voters with Permanent Voters Card will show up on the day of election for accreditation or voting, not all of them will accredit, not all of them will even vote after accreditation. Elections are won based on number of accredited voters who ended up voting, thus the number of registered voters is too far from the number of persons who actually vote. The basis of determining whether election should be declared inconclusive would have at best been the total number of accredited voters in the affected areas, since accreditation had already taken place. With due respect to the INEC chairman, declaring the election inconclusive because of 49,953 registered voters(majority of whom had no intention of voting) is a numerical pretext, this is because out of the 1,379,971 registered voters in Kogi State, only 511,648 voters accredited. Which means only a minute fraction of the 49,953 registered voters (far less than the number of difference between APC and PDP) would have voted and in any case, all of them cannot even vote for a particular candidate. Thus, if the commission had considered the margin between the two leading candidates in relationto number of accredited voters and not registered voters in the affected areas, it would have had no difficulty in declaring APC/Audu winner of the election in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Section 181 Constitution.
In the circumstance, the draconian Guideline of INEC is thirsty for a review for the sake of the peace and unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The total number of accredited voters or number of voters with PVC is the appropriate basis for invoking the said provision.
Furthermore, Supplementary Election in the circumstance in Kogi State is alien to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. This is because, Supplementary Election can only be ordered by a Tribunal or Court after a partial nullification of election result. The Nigerian Law envisages only four kinds of elections: (i) General Election; (ii) Bye Election;(iii) Fresh or Rerun Election;(iv) Run-off Election;(Second Ballot or third Ballot). In FAYEMI V ONI (2009) 7 NWLR (PT. 1140) 223 @ 292-293, supplementary election was defined as a complementary election ordered by Court upon voiding of a portion or part of the whole or total result of an election. In ordering the election, the portion of the election not voided is saved and validated and an election is ordered in that part. For the commission to declare the Kogi gubernatorial polls of November 21, 2015 inconclusive and for it to declare a supplementary election unilaterally despite Section 179 CFRN 1999,AND 26,47,68,69 AND 70 Electoral Act is an unconscionable electoral illicitness. Section 26 of the Electoral Act does not even envisage a postponement of the election indefinitely as done by INEC in recent times.
The commission must not only be an unbiased umpire, but must be seen and perceived by the vast majority to be an unbiased one. As INEC prepares for the Edo and Ondo elections, we implore the commission to reverse the trend of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. Inconclusive elections are imminent threats to democracy.
- MessrsIbrahim &Nwosu are of Vanguard for Sustainable Democracy and Good Governance, Abuja.