The recent release of guidelines for the 2019 election across the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised concerns within the polity across the country from political parties with argument that the development might prioritise politics at the expense of good governance. HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM examines the situation in Kwara.
Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came up with development that has generated much ado across the country regarding the 2019 elections and the possible impact it is likely to have on governance.
According to the 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 the country’s democracy is maturing and believes that there should be certainty with regard to timetable for elections. While giving an overview of election date in some fellow African and overseas countries including the US, the commission said “In the United States, general elections always hold on the second 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. Towards that end, 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 Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi,, said the issue would guard against the question of the election clashing with examination dates just like it happened in the Edo governorship election among other things, adding this was 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 been speaking differently on the matter.
According to the All Progressive Congress (APC) National spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi at a recent function in Ilorin, the party is very much in support of the decision describing it as a timely improvement. 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 is 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 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 former factional chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Iyiola Oyedepo also supported the commission on the issue, adding that there is nothing wrong with the development. Oyedepo while speaking with Pilot Politics recently noted that, “We are totally in support of the action and do not see anything bad in realising the election schedule on time.”
He said the action will not place politics above good governance in the polity because the electorate will pass judgement in the final analysis. “If the elected are now playing politics at the expense of good governance, then the electorate who they are purported to be representing will judge them at the end of the day (by voting for them again or reject them).
But the state chapter of the Labour Party said by the action, the commission has put 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 who is also the chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) which is a conference of all political parties, during a telephone chat with Pilot Politics on the issue, said the commission should have conveyed a stakeholders meeting of all political parties before the release and not after the release as it was done.
“INEC should have involved all the stakeholders before the pronouncement since we are working for a purpose. IPAC which is a conference of all political parties was not involved in the whole issue. The meeting that was held by the commission after the announcements 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 that it could affect 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 were voted. But above all, every elected official irrespective of party, 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, said there is nothing wrong in the action once it is not infringing on the law of the commission of the 1999 constitution as amended.
According to the party’s Chairman, Hon Ishola Balogun-Fulani, such will allow for preparation from political parties and guard against uncertainly. There is nothing wrong with it so far as it was not running foul of the laws of the land.
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.
Tambiri similarly faulted INEC for not stakeholders before making the timetable public consumption.
“I believe INEC did not consult the stakeholders before announcing the date, this is quite unusual.
While the debate over the issue continued 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 painstakingly do their research and use the powerful franchise they have to vote out those that did little or nothing to positively impact their constituencies come 2019.