Despite the divergent opinions about the outcome of the 2023 general election, the overall outlook suggests that it is a fair reflection of Nigeria’s complex multi-party democracy, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has said.
Speaking at the Commission’s meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja today (4th July), Prof Yakubu asserted that the election produced the most diverse outcomes ever recorded since 1999, with five political parties producing State governors, seven parties winning Senatorial seats, eight represented in the House of Representatives and nine in State Houses of Assembly.
He said: “Clearly, the 10th National Assembly is certainly the most diverse in party representation since 1999. In some States around the country, different political parties controlled the legislative and executive arms of Government. What is clear from these records also is that the days of single party dominance of our national politics are probably gone. Furthermore, many prominent candidates lost in the constituencies they contested, and political parties lost in some of their presumed strongholds.”
The INEC Chairman also affirmed that the 2023 general election was one of the most meticulously planned in recent time, with the preparations activated immediately after the 2019 general election. The elections were held for 1,491 constituencies made up of one Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 Federal Constituencies and 993 State Assembly seats.
He noted that the election recorded several positive stories and some challenges.
His words: “Among the positive stories is that the security challenge which threatened to derail the elections did not materialise. Concerns that the polls will be disrupted by the perennial insecurity across the country fizzled out on Election Day as the elections were largely peaceful.
“Despite currency and fuel challenges and widespread attacks on our personnel and facilities nationwide, the Commission proceeded with the election as scheduled. The first set of elections, the Presidential and National Assembly, held as planned for the first time in the last four General Elections conducted in the country. Accreditation of voters using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has generally been scored very high by voters. Our records show that the success rate for BVAS accreditation stands at 98 percent compared to the Smart Card Reader’s 29.2 percent during the 2019 General Election.”
Prof Yakubu also acknowledged the diverse opinions expressed by political parties, candidate, observers, analysts, and the public on aspects of the elections that took place in February and March. According to him, such diverse opinions were expected “and the Commission welcomes all of them insofar as their purpose is to improve the future conduct of elections and to consolidate our democracy.”
He added: “The Commission has consciously not joined in these commentaries in the immediate aftermath of the election for several reasons. First, our preference is to listen more and draw lessons rather than join in the heated and often emotive public discussion on the election.
“Second, since we plan to conduct our own review of the election, we see no need to pre-empt the process. Third, the Commission would not want to be seen as defensive or justificatory in joining the ongoing discussions.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, several issues around the election are sub-judice and it is not the intention of the Commission to either undermine or promote the chances of litigants in the various election petition courts beyond what is required of us by the legal process. Indeed, practically anything coming from the Commission could be cited by litigants as either justifying their claims or an indication of bias against them.”
However, Prof. Yakubu admitted that the Commission also encountered some challenges which he described as “structural, infrastructural, and human in conducting the elections. He said that it was in the Commission’s bid to address the challenges as it prepares for future elections that it is commencing its post-election review engagements today.
The Adamawa REC Saga and Electoral Offenders
The INEC Chairman also revealed that Commission was looking at the all the evidence of infractions during the election and the prosecutions of offenders. “We are looking at the activities of all actors involved in the election, including some of our high-ranking officials,” he said. “I can confirm that the Nigeria Police concluded its investigation of the conduct of our Resident Electoral Commissioner in Adamawa State and submitted the case file to us. Appropriate action will be taken in a matter of days and Nigerians will be fully informed.”
Prof Yakubu also confirmed that the Commission had received 215 case files of electoral offenders from the Nigeria Police following their arrest and the conclusion of investigation into their offences arising from the 2023 general election.
“We are working with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to prosecute the alleged offenders,” he said. “Already, the NBA has submitted a list of 427 lawyers across the country who have volunteered to render pro bono services to the Commission. They are not charging legal fees but by mutual agreement, the Commission will provide a token amount to cover for filing fees/expenses. We are most grateful to NBA and its President, Yakubu Maikyau SAN, for this historic collaboration. Similarly, we are working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the prosecution of cases relating to vote buying and associated violations