The Presidential and National Assembly Elections are over. Results have been declared and at least one of them allegedly “under duress”. Still, we thank God that we held an election and the country did not go up in flames. Some people are celebrating and some are mourning. But that is a fact in every contest. What is worrying, however, is the way and manner the election was conducted in many places including Imo State – the attendant violence, bloodshed, intimidation and others.
The problem was not the outcome of the election, because winners and losers are expected in every election. Those who won today may lose tomorrow and vice versa. What hurt many people is the unnecessary violence and deaths that occurred in several places, as well as the voter intimidations, rigging, security lapses and logistics problems which INEC ought to have corrected from previous elections. Whether the problem is negligence or incompetence, is left for the commission to decide. But it is sad that old mistakes were repeated and recycled as though nobody has learnt anything from the past.
We must pause to reflect on what transpired on that day, the different forms of election malpractices but, more especially, the fact that innocent Nigerians lost their lives. It is not enough to say that the election was generally peacefully conducted in many places. Every loss of life is a shame on the nation and an affront on our Democracy.
News reports showed the world the shootings, killings, maiming, ballot burning and snatching that occurred. They told the world that election materials arrived late, some at 2pm for an election scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. In some cases, the materials did not even arrive and there was no voting. Further reports would show INEC officers and others fleeing for their lives in the face of sporadic shootings.
Given our history of election violence, however minimal, one of the things INEC would not have compromised on was security. Although some of us criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for recommending that ballot box snatchers be shot, it was pathetic, looking at a lone policeman watching helplessly as thugs who invaded a polling unit in Lagos, carried the ballot boxes and burnt them.
INEC assured us they had taken care of logistics. But sadly, there were no voting in some places because election materials were not there. Transportation was also a problem, so was the Card Readers which some of INEC staff either did not know how to operate or did not charge prior to use. One wonders if the staff, adhoc or otherwise, received any serious training and if they did, for how long?
Election is an important national assignment and should so be treated. How long will Nigerians continue to do things the same old way and expect to get a different result? We hope and pray that INEC would put its best foot forward, next Saturday, by correcting past errors and minimising mistakes.