Malam Husaini Pai, its Resident Electoral Commissioner in Plateau, who stated this on Wednesday in Jos, said that desperation by unpopular candidates imposed by their political godfathers had often led to difficult and inconclusive elections.
“We have had situations where political leaders imposed candidates and moved on to ensure they were declared victorious even when they had been rejected.
“It is such unpopular candidates that see electoral victory as a do or die affair and can go to any length to win elections,” Pai told Newsmen He advised political parties to imbibe internal democracy mechanism by allowing the electorate to choose who should govern them, and blamed apathy during elections on the lack of it.
Cautioning political party leaders against being autocratic, he emphasised the need for free, fair and credible primary elections, noting that anything contrary to that could lead to complaints, confusion and violence.
He said that people could also resort to violence if they noticed clear compromise on the side of both political leaders and INEC officials.
Pai, who had served as Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti, Kogi and Kano States, told Nigerians to expect a free, better, transparent and more credible election in 2019 in view of measures taken to refine the electoral process.
He identified the measures to include the inclusion of the smart card reader in the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act, the proposed endorsement of independent candidature and the computerisation of election results.
“If election results are compiled electronically, hijacking of ballot papers will be eliminated because the results would have been captured and will not be affected by the absence of the ballot documents,” he said.
He also expressed happiness that a commission to punish electoral offenders was being considered, saying that the fear of the consequences would deter people from “misbehaving” during elections.
Pai, who said that the credibility of an election depended on a credible voter’s register, urged Nigerians to take advantage of the ongoing continuous voters registration exercise to empower themselves with the card with which to determine their leaders.
“We are using a whole year to give Nigerians a chance to get registered so that no one will be disenfranchised; we expect people to take advantage of this to deepen democracy,” he said.
According to him, 37,040 voters have so far been captured in Plateau, with the highest figure of 8,175 recorded in Jos South Local Government, while Wase has the lowest with 317 voters, among the 17 local governments.
To ensure that more people were captured, he said that seven new centres had been added to help those in populated areas and those residing very far away from their local government headquarters where the exercise was being held.
The INEC official said that he had met with officials of Inter-party Advisory Committee and critical stakeholders in local governments and urged them to mobilise people to register.
“We also plan to meet with officials of the 45 political parties to get their views on our activities and also seek their advice on how we can do a better job,” he said.
Pai cautioned INEC officials against any compromise, saying that severe sanctions awaited anyone caught.
“Our Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, has continued to emphasise that anyone involved in actions that could tarnish INEC’s image will not be spared. Whoever dares him will face the consequences,” he said.