The proposal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for future elections in the country to hold same day, is a welcome development and deserves to be given a try and support. We believe that the plan, if adequately thought through and properly implemented, could give little room for election manipulations as well reduce drastically cost and other logistics inadequacies associated with the present staggered election format. Moreover, the bandwagon effect that often mars the credibility of elections in the country may be a thing of the past.Our democracy will be the better for it.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, while unveiling the plan, said the proposal would take effect after 2015.The experience of the commission, Jega noted, shows that staggered elections are not “cost effective and cost efficient.” Besides, the initiative, the INEC boss said, is in line with global best practices. We believe that this proposal beyond the expected gains is part of the vision of the current INEC leadership to improve on its past performance and indeed, and bring about positive changes in our democratic process.
This plan should be seen as an integral path of our evolving democratization experiment. It, however, should not be seen as an end in itself. If our quest for a free and credible elections will be a reality, it makes sense to support ideas put forward by the electoral umpire. In that respect, holding all elections same day is possible, provided the major players in election contests, the politicians, their supporters, the electorate and the electoral umpire are committed to a free and transparent polls.
INEC should, between now and 2015,embark on a massive education and enlightenment campaigns that will target voters and the political leadership on the desirability of this proposal. At present, we do not have a well-informed and discerning electorate. Since some politicians see politics as the means for the allocation of resources for private gains. INEC needs a lot of spade work to do to convince one and all that the plan is practicable and will be in the best interest of the country.
There is no doubt that elections in the country often take up to four weeks at the minimum. Within this period, the country is completely shut down, all borders, including seaports and airports are closed and restriction of intra and inter-city vehicular movements imposed.The resultant effect in both man-hour and financial losses to the economy have always been huge. All of this make staggered elections rather too expensive and for many of our politicians a “do or die affair”.
All the same, INEC should see the task towards actualizing this plan as enormous. It requires clarity of purpose and discipline on the part of the leadership of the commission and its staff. Efficiency and credibility of elections should not by sacrificed on the altar of saving cost. The success of all elections in one day will depend to a large extent, on the integrity of the election personnel that will handle the sensitive election materials.
Good idea, as the INEC proposal seems, it remains a theory until it is tested on the field. That is why the proposal needs to be given a chance. Nigerians desire that our present democratic experiment succeeds, and that election outcome conforms to best practices. We therefore urge the National Assembly to support the proposal. The implementation is necessary in order to bring about the desired results.