INEC has further reformed ahead of 2015 – Jega
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has put a number of measures in place to ensure sterling performance in the forth-coming 2015 general election, Attahiru Jega, the Commission’s chairman, said in Lagos.
Jega, who made the disclosure in his keynote address at a public lecture organised by the National Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Lagos Chapter, also pledged that INEC would provide a level-playing field for all the political parties to reduce frustrations that could snowball into violence.
Speaking on ‘Curbing Electoral Violence in Nigeria: The Public Relations Dynamics’, Jega, represented by Adekunle Ogunmola, resident electoral commissioner, Lagos State, said: “The principle underlining our preparations for the 2015 general elections is to consolidate the gains of the 2011 general elections and to prevent the recurrence of the weakness.”
Enumerating some of the reforms, the Commission’s boss said: “A strategic plan (2012-2016), with detailed strategic programme of action has been formulated and is being implemented; a detailed election project plan is being implemented to ensure seamless execution of specific tasks leading to the 2015 general election; a comprehensive reorganisation and restructuring of the commission has been completed, drawing from recommendations of a highly rated consulting firm; the consolidation and de-duplication of the biometric register of voters has been completed, as a result of which the register of voters now has tremendous integrity- much better than the one with which the 2011 elections were conducted; we have rolled out phased programme of continuous voter registration (CVR) nationwide. The second phase commenced on the 21st August and ended on the 25th August 2014.”
Jega, who traced the history of electoral violence in Nigeria, observed that “violence in election is not new in Nigeria. In fact, the nation’s political history is replete with instances of violence. Since Nigeria became independent in October 1960, the electoral history of the nation has been written in violence. It is in many ways akin to war. It appears that Nigerians seem to have acquired the culture of electoral violence as six of the seven general elections conducted since 1960 were violence-ridden, namely 1064/1965, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003, and 2007. Even the 2011 general election which received so much accolades and adjudged locally and internationally among the best elections in Nigeria ever, had its own share of electoral violence.”
Causes of electoral violence
The electoral umpire, who emphasized the need to stamp out the menace, listed the causes of electoral violence to include: “Citizens’ poor knowledge and ignorance of civic education; lack of internal democracy in political parties’ affairs; failure of the political class to honour their electoral promises; do or die attitude of politicians to political leadership positions; use of thugs to achieve political victory; inflammatory, indecent and hate comments by politicians; unwillingness of the politicians to accept the outcome of the elections and electoral process; extreme monetization of the process by politicians; attempts by the political class to compromise election officials and voters, and poorly conducted elections.”
INEC’s efforts to curb electoral violence
The former university don said INEC has not been sleeping on guard in this respect, but had taken steps to nip the menace in the bud.
“The Fourth Republic in 1999, no doubt, brought some stability to the polity. In its bid to eliminate violence in the political system, the new Commission in 2010 acted on the findings of the study of the political atmosphere in Nigeria and established some measures,” Jega said.
According to him, some of the measures include: “compilation of an authentic voter’s register with the voter’s biometrics; transparency in the policies and engagements of the Commission aimed to eliminate citizens’ suspicions, speculations and tension that may lead to electoral violence; massive voter education programme to increase citizens’ awareness of the electoral process; inauguration of national inter-agency advisory committee on voter education and publicity which has been replicated at the state, and local government levels; improvement of security through partnership with security agencies at all levels; introduction of the re-modified open ballot system (REMOBS) in the elections to further enhance transparency in voting aimed to remove doubts in the minds of the electorate, and introduction of alternative dispute-resolution with the view to reducing rancor amongst the political class.”
Expected roles of public relations
While admitting that the Commission cannot go it all alone, Jega said there was need for collaboration with other stakeholders.
“In many democracies across the world, the management of elections is increasingly becoming less of a technical affair to be left exclusively to the election management body and other statutory bodies. It is becoming a terrain of broad civic engagement, involving volunteer poll workers, election observers, civil society organisations, the media and opinion moulders…The National Institute of Public Relations, as a major stakeholder in the electoral process, has crucial roles to play in curbing electoral violence in the country. The NIPR therefore is expected to work with the Commission to give good public image of the commission, with the view to building citizens’ confidence in the electoral body,” he said.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Joseph Okonmah, chairman, NIPR Lagos State chapter, urged politicians to play by the rule of the game.
“One of the enduring imperatives of democracy is free and fair election in an atmosphere where there is peace and security of lives and property of Nigerian voters. We want to use this channel to implore all stakeholders to conduct themselves and the interests they represent in a peaceful and orderly manner devoid of intimidation, threat and violence,” Okonmah said.
In his remarks, Fassy Yusuf, chairman of the occasion, pointed out that for Public Relations to make the desired contribution in “curbing, preventing and or mitigating electoral violence,” there’s the need to involve the practitioners in the “analysis of the micro and macro environment; research (qualitative and quantitative; communication methodology; media channels to be used/recommended actions and timeline; budgeting/financing; implementation; monitoring & evaluation, and sustainability.”
According to him, for PR dynamics to be effective in this regard, there must be “a proper definition and practice of federalism; adherence to the constitution, elimination or curtailment of corruption; institutionalising egalitarianism; strengthening of legal and judicial system for better responsiveness and relevance; accountability, probity, equity and rule of law to be guaranteed, and a move from presidential to parliamentary system.”
Ralph Akinfeleye, a professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos, who was a discussant, said that electoral violence would be a thing of the past when all stakeholders in the political process begin to respect the rule of law.
“I suggest that the political leaders, lawmakers, traditional rulers, grassroots people should respect the rule of law,” he said.
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