The first set of Election Monitors, Observers Teams and sundry assessors of last Saturday poll have passed the election as well conducted. The ECOWAS Observation Mission headed by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former president of Liberia who led 200 observers, the Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD) Election Analysis Centre, the West African Network for Peacebuilding, (WANEP) and the Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development are all peaking in one language in their assessment of last Saturday poll. They released their initial rating between yesterday evening and midday Monday.
The ECOWAS Observation Mission’s preliminary conclusions consider the electoral process to have been largely peaceful and transparent as voters were able to cast their votes freely. For that, the Mission commends the general public and the voters for their patience and determination to exercise their civic responsibility.
Without ruling out disagreement with the final results, the Mission appeals to party leaders, candidates, their supporters and the press, to show tolerance and restraint leading up to, and after, the announcement of the results, asking such actors to accept the verdict of the polls in good faith, and in case of complaints, to seek redress by legal means solely in the spirit of the commitment made in the Peace Accord of February 13th, 2019.
But it is quickly calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and other stakeholders to approach the final phases of the process with fairness and transparency until the announcement of the final results. It particularly would like INEC to take steps to address the many shortcomings, including operational capacity and systems that were observed all through the process.
The CDD is particularly rating the voting related processes and management to have gone generally well despite hitches here and there. It is commending the determination of Nigerians to exercise their franchise despite the odds that militated against their ability to do so. Its hope is that the identified problems on Election Day will be addressed adequately and urgently. In anticipation of that, the think tank is urging all Nigerians to be calm, not to provoke and to be provoked as the world awaits the declaration of the final results by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
Divided into a section on what its field observers recorded across Nigeria and a second section on what the report classified as the issues, CDD’s ‘Final Election-Day Report’ on the ‘2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections 2019’ is the product of a team of 3500 field observers, an Election Analysis Centre (EAC) comprising of leading experts on elections and democracy as well as a fake news tracking and analysis centre.
The empirical problems encountered in the conduct of last Saturday’s election as observed by its field staffers includes logistics-related challenges such as missing materials and inadequate security deployment within or around the polling units such that voting did not take place in many areas before noon even as polling officials arrived as early as 7.am in some cases on election day and proceeded to make arrangements for voting to begin; specific logistics problems such as insufficient ballot papers or lack of other sensitive and non-sensitive materials – indelible ink, ballots, or result sheets even as conduct of the elections went on smoothly in most parts of the country; voting proceeding without use of the machines in a number of polling units where SCRs malfunctioned although most of the SCRs worked well generally as malfunctioning SCRs were promptly corrected by roving staff of INEC deployed to that effect and instances of disruption such as in Lagos and Imo states in particular where no security agent was either present or able to protect electoral officials and voters in spite of the adequacy of security personnel deployment in many polling units generally.
Others are violation of the secrecy of the ballot what with voters casting their votes in full public view as well as the dexterity of some voters taking their handsets into the booth as evidenced by pictures of thumb-printed ballot papers in circulation, meaning failure to cordon off polling booths or cubicles; vote buying in some polling units in Bayelsa, Enugu, Kano and Osun states, including situations in which party agents go around with voters’ register, hustle voters and negotiate for their votes, with the telephone handset serving as a valuable tool for negotiating the vote buying and selling transactions; open-ended extension of the voting period in some units consequent upon the late commencement of voting in such units but which continued too far for comfort into Sunday, February 24th, 2019 in states such as Benue, Jigawa, Plateau and Zamfara and, lastly, the bombing that took place in states such as Borno and Yobe on voting day, leading to relocation of affected voters as distinct from the dismaying ballot box snatching and voting disruption in Lagos, Ebonyi, Imo, Rivers, Osun, Oyo, Delta, Kogi and Akwa Ibom where it confirmed over twenty people killed on election day while still perplexed over the killing and abduction of election officials and the plausible cancellation or inconclusive elections? of the affected parts.
Its list of the issue areas stretches from slow response and poor communications by INEC; disruption of voting by Very Important Personalities, (VIPs); anti-democratic attitude of the political class; Fake News and ethno-religious bias in electoral mobilisation in the period leading up to and during the elections.
WANEP which is an implementing partner of ECOWAS in the operationalization of its regional early warning and response mechanism (ECOWARN) noted how generally were well conducted across the country were the elections in spite of late opening of polls in several centers due to the late arrival of officials and materials and the malfunction of card readers. But it says the electorate were observed in many polling stations to have conducted themselves in an orderly manner in spite of observed attempts to influence voters through vote buying as well as some security challenges.
Congratulating the Government and people of Nigeria for successfully organizing the 23rd February elections despite the logistical and security challenges, WANEP is, however, canvassing for conduct of High-level preventive diplomacy with the candidates so as guarantee maintenance of peace during and after the counting, collation and proclamation of results. “The Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders should take note of identified conflict flashpoints in order to take proactive measures to prevent future election violence”, it added.
It wants stakeholders to desist from announcing unauthenticated results on social media and other platforms while collation and transmission of election results by INEC were ongoing, pointing out
Noting a total of 38 violent incidents recorded between February 23rd and 24th, 2019, resulting in 36 fatalities arising from reports of ballot box snatching, armed violence and intimidation received from the field, WANEP is fearful of voter apathy in subsequent elections.
It regretted that although political party campaigns were generally peaceful across the country but campaign on both traditional and social media platforms were mostly based on candidates’ personalities rather than issues. It specifically stated how the two major presidential candidates did not engage in direct pre-election debate but had separate interviews and how the campaigns were not devoid of sporadic incidents in few locations.
The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, (LSD) did not differ remarkably from this direction of analysis of the Saturday poll, given its rating of the exercise to have been generally very peaceful and the turnout commendable. However, it says the logistics should be improved upon in future election while the tempo of voter and civic education be intensified.