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INEC, 2015 and credible elections

Sola Ogunmosunle

All eyes are now on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), as the 2015 general elections loom. There have been lots of apprehensions among many stakeholders on the ability of the electoral body to deliver credible and acceptable polls come February this year.  As a matter of fact, many people have already jumped to the conclusion that INEC has already bungled the general elections with its shoddy arrangements for registration, production, distribution and collection of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs. This is particularly worse in Lagos State, for instance, where well over a million names have disappeared from the voters list. The Governor of the State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, had pointed out that according to INEC, “the number of registered voters in Lagos is now 4,800,000 (four million, eight hundred thousand).”
The Governor described the deletion as strange and surprising because “at the conclusion of voters’ registration exercise before the 2011 elections, the number of registered voters in Lagos as announced by INEC itself was 6,247,845 (six million, two hundred and forty-seven thousand, eight hundred and forty).” He had challenged INEC to explain how 1,447,845 (one million, four hundred and forty-seven thousand, eight hundred and forty five) voters disappeared.
Although the commission explained that the reduction observed from the initial 1.6 million registered voters in Lagos from the 2011 records, emanated when the data was subjected to the Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) software where 82,892 multiple registrations were eliminated. Even with the INEC’s explanation, many people whose names are missing on the voters list insist that they never register more than once. Some who are fortunate enough to find their names are unable to collect their PVCs. This is almost the same story across many states in the federation.
Anger and frustration have continued to greet this development, which observers describe as unfortunate and portends danger for the coming elections as many are likely to be disenfranchised.  With few weeks to the 2015 general elections, INEC has only been able to issue 54.3million and distribute 38.77 out of the expected 70.3 million PVCs. This ratio is unacceptable as it is becoming obvious that over twenty million Nigerians are likely to be disenfranchised by INEC’s ineptitude.
The intolerable high degree of apathy and low level of participation in the electoral process in the country as decried by the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega himself may therefore be a direct consequence of INEC’s inability to always at all times, whether in parts or in whole, deliver a faultless electoral course. Figures coming from INEC put the current total number of registered voters in Nigeria at 70,383,427, of which Lagos with 5,426,391 has the highest number of registered voters in the country and according to statistics emanating from INEC, only about 35% of the over 70million registered voters participated in the 2011 general elections.
The inference of these figures is that over 65% of registered voters did not partake in the process that produced the present crop of our leaders in the country. The data above appropriately captures the subsisting drift in voters’ apathy in the country and this portends danger for our fledgling democracy.
Despite the fact that a lot of stakeholders in the Nigerian political process perceive INEC’s ineptitude as a calculated attempt to connive with the ruling party to compromise the general election, the reality of the matter is that INEC’s bedevilled preparation for the election is a manifestation of its poor logistics management culture. INEC seems an unbiased umpire whose actions and inactions has cast an air of suspicions around it and according to logistics experts, poor logistics management aids malpractices in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
A critical analysis of the INEC’s statutory responsibility of organizing a credible election will reveal that the processes are majorly that of logistics management. According to American online encyclopedia, Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet some requirements, of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics can include physical items, such as food, materials, animals, equipment and liquids, as well as abstract items, such as time, information, particles, and energy. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, material handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security.
From the above description of what logistics entail, the numerous challenges such as shortage and late arrival of polling materials, inadequate polling booths etc occur due to this poor logistic management. Logistics can also be a major challenge in a country where basic infrastructure is deficient, it should always be remembered that it is the same bad roads and dangerous waterways, inadequate water transportation facilities, airlines that run late, erratic power supply, among others that are used in the preparation for and during elections.
If INEC intends to deliver a flawless 2015 general election, it is therefore pertinent that the body reviews its logistics preparation. If possible, it can engage a third party logistic company to assist in the area of accommodation, transportation, distribution of election materials and provision of polling booths and so on. The issue of time is also very important. INEC must ensure that its personnel and voting materials arrive at the voting centres ahead of scheduled time. The late arrival of personnel and voting materials often leads to agitation, frustration and apathy among the electorate. There is also the need for INEC to identify and close the gaps in its overall voters education programme and develop one that is not reactive but pro-active in its approach, responsive in its deployment and effective and sustainable.
We as a people must also resolve to be of good conduct in discharging our civic responsibilities most especially on the Election Day. The political class, in particular, must shun violence and desist from acts that can compromise or mar the election because without the cooperation of all of us Nigerians, INEC will never be able to deliver a credible and acceptable election come February 2015.  So, every Nigerian is a major stakeholder in the ability or inability of INEC to conduct a credible election this year. Hence, we must all desist from acts that can compromise, mar or discredit the process.

•Ogunmosunle writes from Alausa, Ikeja

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