By Bilyamin Abdulmumin
Nigerians yearning to return to the path of democracy saw the light of day in 1999 when the military head of state, the late Sani Abacha, succumbed to the pressure to plan the Democratic transition. The Independent National Electoral Commission was therefore (established in 1998) and tasked to oversee the election process of the young democracy.
In its maiden election, INEC adopted a secret ballot system. This was a departure from the 1993 election: an open ballot system where voters lined up behind the poster of their candidate of choice. Although this system of voting was seen as the fairest, safest, and cheapest but on other hand, it was dubbed as a violation of voter’s choice privacy.
Other developments brought by INEC in the 1999 election were improved voter cards, transparent ballot boxes, and invitations from foreign observers. Despite irregularities in some areas, the reports said the 1999 election was free and fair. This is evidenced by the relative spread of victory across political parties in the election.
But, things began to go wild in the next election. Again, the incumbents would hold tight. They would fight tooth and nail to ensure their re-election. To make matters worse, the 2003 election (like 1999) was fragile and vulnerable, courtesy of the manual process, from voter registration to accreditation and collation.
The quality of the election process went further down the hill in 2007. When this time around, the incumbent swore to anoint their successors. And transparency and information were not in the public domain compared to the current election process.
But the election process improvements began to take off after 2007. When the winning presidential candidate Umar Musa Yar’adua not only conceded the irregularities in the election that brought him but pledged to improve the election process. He would be committed to his promise and set up a Justice Muhammad Uwais committee.
Although Umar Yar’adua’s determination threatened to hit a glass ceiling with his untimely death but his successor, Good Luck Ebele Jonathan, continued with the electoral reform. As a result, Prof. Attahiru Jega, a widely respected technocrat with an unassailable good track record, took charge of the umpire. From 2010 to 2015, when he led the commission, he brought game-changing policies such as electronic accreditation, the academics for results collation, security features on form EC 8A series as well as ballot papers, provision of clusters (for timely movement of polling team to polling units), and creating voting points to decongest Polling Units.
Like the 1999 election, national and international observers praised the outcome of the results. The 2015 General Election brought back hope to many Nigerian electorates. For the first time in the history of the Nigerian election, the incumbent President would be removed from office by the opposition. The then president Jonathan conceding to the defeat was equally remarkable and unprecedented.
The 2019 and 2023 General elections saw the electoral process in Nigeria blossom. However, professor Mahmoud Yakub will raise the bar even higher. Thanks to the electoral act 2022, Yakub would not consolidate Prof. Jega’s gains only but add other innovative developments: online voter registration, BVAS, IREV, e-school, and chatbot (for public education and effective training on the election process), provision of PVC collected in the margin of lead principle (to reduce the prevalence of “rerun”), finance tracking (to checkmate politicians excessive spending). And that is not all. He converted voting points to polling units, widening the ad-hoc number (collation officers and SPOs). In short, the election process went digital, from registration and accreditation to collation.
The progressive timeline success of INEC was made possible due to the continuity of development from one chairman to another, the dedication and perseverance of the entire INEC staff (both ad hoc and permanent), and the public unreserved scrutiny. With this steady improvement in the election process, the most touted electronic and even voting ahead of election time are not far-fetched.
Bilyamin Abdulmumin can be contacted via email@example.com.
Leave a Reply