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Monday, 29 July 2013

INEC is not a structured organisation – Fashakin

Rotimi Fashakin, National Publicity Secretary of congress for the Progressive Change (CPC), in this interaction with Evelyn Okakwu, speaks on several issues including the revised edition of the Code of Conducts for political parties released by the INEC chairman; expected roles of political parties in the conduct of free and fair elections in the country; the electoral prospects of the new merger All progressives Congress among other sundry issues.
rotimi_fashakinOn the revised code of conduct for parties Fashakin, who spoke on a sad note about the new code of conduct for political parties in the country said that although he read in the newspapers of the existence of a revised edition of INEC’s code of conduct, his party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was not represented at that even. He said “And even though one would have ordinarily expected that such an important document that pertains to the attitude and conduct ofparties before during and after elections would ordinarily be in the website of INEC, it was not. Therefore the CPC spokesman noted that his party has always said that INEC is not a structured organization because does not have the structured view about organizing elections for the country. In his words:” You will see a lot of volt- face, vacillations going back and forth. We are living in an electronic age where you put things at the reach of countless many where people can download and read. But, it’s really unfortunate. And besides when institutions and establishments refuse to leverage on the available technologies, then there is high tendency that they will run into problems. What does it take for INEC to have a computer scientist to help them upload that detail on the internet through their website?”
On 2015 general elections
Experience about elections in Nigeria especially those conducted under the leadership of INEC has not been very interesting and there is nothing really on ground to show that INEC has learnt anything yet. First of all, on April 2nd when the elections was to start, midway through the elections, we got announcement that the elections has been cancelled and that we will have to do it again the following week, that was on Aprill 9th 2011. While INEC had repeatedly publicized jingles that the electorates should wait after voting for their votes to be counted, the late NSA; that is National Security Adviser to the President then, the late General Andrew Azazi, came with a counter directive that electorates should vote and go home immediately after. It took the esilience, the doggedness of political parties in shooting down that order. INEC alone should have the final say as regards election. The effort to achieve a free and fair conduct within the Nigerian polity is like a mirage. If you go to Ghana, all the troops, the soldiers and all those that are to be used for elections are, as at the time of elections, under the command of the chairman of the election so that he determines what they do and where they go. And that to a great extent will determine the independence of those conducting the election, not that the President, being the Commander-In-Chief will be giving orders.
On INEC Independence and impartiality
They showcase themselves like an appendage of the presidency. But it should not be so. More so that the President is also normally a candidate in the elections or his party is also having candidates contesting in the elections. The chairman of the Commission should always ensure that the deployment of security agents to anywhere conforms to the structured plan of INEC. According to INEC there are 120,000 polling stations, although we later found out that there are 86,000 with verifiable addresses. The remaining 34,000 just existed on the computer, but did not exist in reality.
So when you have a situation like that, that even INEC’s process is also fraught with some inadequacies here and there then you know that there is a big problem. I think the problem is that because the INEC chairman was appointed by the President, he therefore sees himself as an appointee of Mr. President and must do the bidding of Mr. President. But it should not be so. People should be more interested in how posterity judges them. If you are removed by the president and your integrity is intact then so be it. Nobody should delude himself in understanding that if we don’t have people in authority that are derived directly from the ballot; those that come to authority through the votes of the people, we will have true democracy. That is a fetal lie instaed that will be the beginning of impunity. Because they know that it was not from the people that they got their authority from, which is contrary to section 14 of our constitution that sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people and from whom the people in government derive their authority and powers”.
On parties’ role in conduct of successful elections
First of all the party plays a dominant role in the area of education and sensitization. Before the General election in 2011 we sensitized supporters adequately like the situation I mentioned to you earlier that the NSA then gave a contrary directive to that of INEC. We brought out a press statement urging our supporters to discard that directive and follow on the directive of INEC via earlier jingles. We asserted our believe in the supremacy of INEC regarding election matters, also we were able to bring out the absurdity in the conduct of the election through the petition at the tribunal. We were able to show Nigerians that we have a multilayered electoral system, which in itself is something we must watch out for. Because when a Nation has succeeded in getting its electoral system well, that nation is more than 50 per cent on the path to development. Nigeria has not reached that. This country is really on the path of impunity. That is why anybody that becomes a president in this country becomes like ‘An Averter, a thin God’. So as a political party, like in the APC constitution now, we now have executive in the poling units so that if we have executive members in polling units and then INEC now turns out to say that in that polling unit that nobody voted for a candidate, then we should be able to challenge that. In APC constitution we now have ward executives local government executives, National executives, as well as poling unit executives. Those are the ways in which political parties can go about ensuring a reduction in election rigging.
Reason for the merger APC
Also political parties have seen that if you still remain as regional parties, you will not have a head way at all which is the problem of this country. We have only one dominant party while the other ones are regional parties, but with the emergence of APC, we now have another dominant party which is part of the ingenuity of political parties. For us to be able to say ‘let’s come together and give the Nigerian people real choice’. Some people really want to vote but they will just say;‘pleasedon’t let me throw away my vote please’ then they will just go and vote for PDP because they feel PDP is big’. But if they see another party that is seriously competing with PDP, they will say look I don’t like this PDP people let me go to APC. So that is another thing that political parties can do.
On voters turn out at 2015 elections
Well voters apathy is as a result of many factors. People may become paranoid for various reasons. For instance people may say;‘why should I vote when there is only one dominant party and INEC chairman is an appointee of the President, hence INEC is ever ready to support the president’. But if we are able to make people know that there is a viable dominant party other than PDP and security is well checked to ensure the safety of these electorates; if the electorates believe that their votes will count, they will vote”.
On the activities of political thugs during elections
You see, when you have a very irresponsible political class, who are ready to bread Monsters all in a bid to grab political power; you will have this kind of problem. Ask yourself what is to problem that is stopping us from having electronic voting? Those at the top echelon of political authority know that the only thing that can sustain them in that office is rigging. Look at our old electoral system, you have 120,000 polling units, over 8000 ward collation centers, 774 local government collation centers, 37 state collation centers and finally the Abuja central office which is the final collation center.
As an Engineer, I know that one of the things you can do to help yourself in your design is to reduce control points, because control points are potential failure points. In advanced countries that have brought fidelity to their electoral process, they have from the polling units an electronic system straight up to their central office. All that will happen for rigging to accrue is that you post soldiers to this control points, to prevent agents from having access to the hall which was what happened in 2011 when we told the electorates that they should not follow the directive by NSA to the president”.
On appointment of the INEC chairman
Ideally the INEC chairman should be a judicial officer appointed by the NJC that is the National Judicial Commission. It is very immoral that the man to conduct the election, that the president will participate in, is appointed by the President”.

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