2023 Elections: How Far Will Insecurity Allow INEC?

2023 Elections: How Far Will Insecurity Allow INEC?

With a rising wave of insecurity across the country; there is uncertainty in the land with an elder statesman and legal luminary calling for the setting up of an interim regime instead of election, but the Independent National Election Commission has affirmed its readiness to conduct the 2023 general elections. The question is: How far

With a rising wave of insecurity across the country; there is uncertainty in the land with an elder statesman and legal luminary calling for the setting up of an interim regime instead of election, but the Independent National Election Commission has affirmed its readiness to conduct the 2023 general elections. The question is: How far will insecurity allow the Commission to go?

There is apprehension in the country on the wave of insecurity across Nigeria; from Boko Haram terrorism in the North East to banditry and abductions in the North West, to farmers and herders crisis in the North Central; to the self-determination agitations and bombings in the South East, to militancy and massive oil theft in the South South while the South West is plagued by kidnappings and untoward acts of ritualists. Nigeria seems to be under siege and there is no safe haven anywhere.

There have been strident calls by religious leaders for government to tackle insecurity in the land. The Imam of Apo legislative quarters Mosque, Nuru Khalid in Abuja was fired for his caustic tongue against the government over insecurity, while the revered Bishop Kukah recently added his voice for the Buhari-led government to save Nigeria from insecurity. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle Olasupo, warned that the much talked about 2023 general elections might not hold as planned due to rising insecurity across the country.

His co-chairman of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), Alhaji Kunle Sanni, who corroborated the position of the CAN President, further raised questions about the effect of huge money expended on arms procurement in response to the insecurity across the country.They spoke in Abuja at the Inclusive Security Dialogue Meeting, jointly organised by Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa, towards social cohesion, sustainable peace and security in Nigeria.

Yet, there is the euphoria of another general election though shaded by arguments on rotation and zoning of power between the north and the south. Before 2023, however, there are two election test cases in two off cycle governorship elections; one in Ekiti state in the month of June and the other in the Osun state in the month of July 2023.

Legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola wants Nigeria to suspend plans for the 2023 general elections and opt for a stop-gap interim government. His fears were that using the current Constitution to conduct another election in Nigeria would only reproduce the faulty leadership and system being experienced in the country.

Despite all the growing concerns over insecurity in the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is determined to go ahead and conduct the 2023 general election while intensifying its engagement with security agencies to secure the electoral space for the conduct of elections.

Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, gave the assurance at a ceremony organised to publicly present the Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) 2022 -2026 and Election Project Plan for the 2023 general election, held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja on Thursday (21stApril, 2022).

Not oblivious of the concerns the INEC boss said “we are aware of the security challenges and their impact on the electoral process. We will continue to engage early and intensely with the security agencies to ensure the safety of our personnel and materials, accredited observers and the media and, above all, the voters. Clearly, these are challenging times but we are determined that election must hold in 2023”.

Just recently, the Commission lost a staff to death through acts perpetrated by yet to be identified gun men in Imo state. The hoodlums who invaded a Continuous voters’ registration centre and terrorized the people saying there will be no election in 2023.

But, INEC wants to fulfill its constitutional responsibility and not dettered by acts of intimidation. The Commission’s boss Prof Yakubu said reiterated that the dates for all activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election are firm and fixed and all stakeholders are advised to take this into consideration in planning their activities”.

He expressed delight that planning for the election has been finalised ten months ahead of election, explaining that “the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and the 2023 Election Project Plan drew lessons from, and thoroughly reviewed, the level of implementation of the last plans.”

He added: “they build on the successes of the preceding plans, especially in the planning and conduct of the 2019 General Election as well as off-cycle and bye-elections”.

Prof. Yakubu said the 2023 general election, which would be governed by the new Electoral Act 2022, will be conducted in 1,491 constituencies nationwide, made up of 1 presidential constituency, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 28 governorship elections and 993 state constituencies”.

“The election will involve an estimated one million electoral officials (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas across the country, ” he added.

The INEC Chairman explained further that the two documents were developed “against the backdrop of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current security situation in the country. They had to prioritise the institutionalisation of the Commission’s processes for the effective delivery of its mandate by focusing on capacity-building, the promotion of professionalism, encouraging greater synergy among departments, improving efficient utilisation of resources, increased deployment of technology as well as greater sensitivity to threats to the electoral process as well as election personnel and infrastructure”.

He continued: “These concerns are reflected in the Plan’s five strategic objectives, each of which identified several key actions, key activities and key outcomes that constitute a broad guide to the vision of the Commission to provide electoral operations, systems, and infrastructure to support the delivery of free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections. The Plan also forms the basis for the Election Project Plan which focuses on five key objectives identified by the Commission as critical for the successful conduct of the 2023 General Election”.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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