The release of time table for the 2019 Presidential/National Assembly elections and Governorship/State Houses of Assembly election across the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has generated comments within the polity across the country from various political parties with argument that the development might prioritise politics at the expense of good governance by political gladiators across parties. HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM examines the situation in Kwara.
Last week, precisely Thursday, 9, 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came up with development that has generated much rubble across the country regarding the 2019 elections and the possible impact it is likely to have on governance.
According to the electoral commission, in a statement posted on its website, the announcement was coming well ahead of time in order to ensure certainty in dates for elections and to allow for proper planning by INEC, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all other stakeholders.
INEC noted that our democracy is maturing and believes that there should be certainty with regard to the timetable for elections. While giving an overview of election date in some other African and overseas countries, including the US, the commission said “In the United States, general elections always hold on the second PRESS Tuesday of November in the election year. In Ghana, it’s the 7th of December of the election year, while in other places like Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Costa Rica and Switzerland, the dates are also known in advance.
“In Nigeria, the constitution provides for elections to hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure. In order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections”, it added, “and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders, the Commission has decided to fix the date for the National Elections for the third Saturday in February of the election year, followed by State elections two weeks later. To that extent, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019”.
Explaining further on the matter, the INEC’s Director of Voters Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said the issue would guide against the question of the election clashing with examination dates just like it happened in the Edo governorship election among other things, adding this has been the same template used for the 2015 general elections that brought in the incumbent administration.
But since that pronouncement, political parties in Kwara State have expressed divergent views on the matter and even graduated the argument to the realm of the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWASIEC) on whether the local commission should adopt same template for the conduct of the local government election.
According to the APC National spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, while speaking during the 18th monthly media parliament of the Kwara state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Ilorin, the APC is very much in support of the decision, describing it as a timely development. Expatiating on the support, Abdullahi said “the release of election timetable two years earlier before the time is a signal that the commission is up to the task ahead.
“The development is a good innovation, INEC is an independent body and was at liberty to choose when to hold election in line with the nation’s constitution. Nothing is wrong with what INEC has done, the reasons why many of us are a bit apprehensive is because we are not yet use to that kind of arrangement. How many of us know that Donald Trump has already filled his papers for a second term? We as a party are absolutely in support of it and don’t forget that INEC is absolutely independent”, he added.
Speaking in the same vein, a faction of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state led by Iyiola Oyedepo also supported the commission on the issue, adding that there is nothing wrong with the development. According to Oyedepo while speaking with Pilot Politics yesterday, “We are totally in support of the action and do not see anything bad in realising the election schedule on time.
On the argument that the action will place politics above good governance in the polity, Oyedepo noted that “such argument is not relevant because who is to make the judgment in the final analysis, is it not the electorates? If the elected are now playing politics at the expense of good governance, then the electorates they are purported to be saving will judge them at the end of the day (by voting them again or rejecting them). That is not an issue”.
He added “that is exactly what the state INEC should also do rather than keeping us in the dark about the date of the election. If they are good and sincere, they have to give us the timetable of what they are up to”.
But the state chapter of the Labour Party said in light of the aftermath of the action of the commission following the announcement, the cart was put before the horse, which should not have been.
According to the secretary of the party in the state, Comrade AbdulMumini Onagun, during a telephone chat with Pilot Politics yesterday on the issue, the commission should have conveyed a stakeholders meeting of all political party before the release and not after the release as it has done.
“INEC would have involved all the stakeholders before the pronouncement since we are working for a purpose. We have the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), which is a conference of all political parties and it was not involved in the whole issue. The meeting that came up over the week on the issue by INEC should have been convened before making the pronouncement.
“The good thing is that the time table as it is now will actually gear up parties and politicians and it will make everybody work. Those who want to cross or take certain political decisions can do so on time now. Two years is quite a long time”.
On the debate of it affecting good governance, Onagun said “I know this would be the views of many Nigerians but any party worth its salt will not deviate from its manifesto.
“Parties should work to deliver and prioritise the welfare of the people and their security. Party should actually adhere to their manifestoes than engaging in politics. This is why they are voted. But above all, every elected official, irrespective of parties, should remember that one day, we will stand before the Almighty God, alone, to give account of our stewardship. That is very important”, he submitted.
On its part, the state chapter of the APC, faulted the argument of extending the issue to KWASIEC, adding that such calls for the release of the election schedule for the local government election was ‘baseless’.
According to the party’s Publicity Secretary, Sulyman Buhari, the time to notify the public of the election modalities was not yet ripe, adding that action of INEC does not conform to the modalities of KWASIEC.
“The time to release the timetable for the poll is not ripe, the Peoples Democratic Party (and others) who are calling for it are not the one controlling the state, they’re calling for it because of their own personal interest, not that of the masses.
They can’t form opinion for Kwarans, KWASIEC knows when best to address the electorate over the issue, they could be mum over it now because time to talk is not now, their persistent demand for the timetable is baseless”.
In the same vein, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state, Alhaji Haruna Tambiri maintained that the timetable fixed for the 2019 general elections is tentative and can be altered if necessary.
“INEC knows best why the timetable is coming out now but I think election is still very far away. Be that as it may, that can’t determine our date here (for LG polls). We will announce it at the right time because we have our own way of doing things.” He stressed.
Tambiri similarly faulted INEC for not having consulted stakeholders before making the timetable public consumption.
“I believe INEC did not consult the stakeholders before announcing the date, this is quite unusual. But that cannot determine how we should do things here, there are principles and guidelines that governs all independent assemblies and this could differ from each other”, he added.
While the debate over the issue continue to rage, there is no doubt that politicians, even before the green light by INEC, have long started politicking for 2019 and have even started flying things in the media. But what is important is for the electorate to do their “siddon look” stance and use the powerful franchise they have to vote out those that did little or nothing to positively impact their constituencies come 2019 since it is impossible for everybody to face the same direction in our sleep.