The Dependence of INEC: My Story In The Just Concluded 2015 Election In Aba

Emeh Chinecherem
Written by Emeh Chinecherem

Sometimes I wonder if INEC is actually biased, though I haven’t come to a conclusion whether they are biased or not. But, the fact remains that, no matter what my opinion or any other person’s opinion might be I don’t want to believe they are biased. As the name goes – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), so should the electoral umpire be indeed.

I seem to have a problem with the name INEC. Starting from the first acronym letter, I – Independent, are they really independent? If they are, to what extent are they? And how true is their independence? A situation whereby INEC offices are located in the LGAs of each state doesn’t seem like independent at all. How can it be justified that the office of INEC is located at the LGA headquarters where we have Local Government Transition Chairmen foisted on the people by the Governor? The implication is that the transition chairmen (in other to maintain their job) will fight with the last blood of their life to deliver the Local Government to the Governor (election wise). So overtly or covertly, as the heads of the LGAs, they would influence INEC officials to dance to their tune during election period. Since INEC is independent and should be devoid of bias, it has no business having offices at the LGAs which are the extension of the seat of power of the State Governors.
The second acronym which is N – National seems to have an acceptable appeal. The reason is because we all know the headquarters of INEC is located at Abuja from where they operate with offices in different state capitals of the country. So I will say the national outlook of INEC is not questionable.

The third, and last acronym which are EC – Electoral Commission is not debatable for, the Federal Government has given INEC the mandate to conduct elections in the country whenever it is time for election and they have been doing that and any time the Federal Government feels dissatisfied with INEC then the statutory right given to them can be revoked. Not until then, they still have our mandate to conduct elections in the country.

Considering the fact that INEC is meant to be neutral in election matters, I am at pain at the level of connivance going on in that agency. It is very unfortunate that during elections, some of their officers work with the ruling party to rig the election. Such collaboration is done most often than not, with and without the consent of the INEC commissioner in the State. Because, it has been observed that such election rigging is done between the collation officer and the authorised party agent for that purpose. How can our country especially Abia State be good if such evil arrangement is allowed to continue? How can the city of Aba be fixed if the electoral umpires are not credible as should be? This situation calls for the attention of well-meaning Abians in particular to rise against it.
During the just concluded 2015 General Election, the activities of some of the electoral officers never really convinced me that INEC is independent. To the best of my knowledge, if INEC is independent, the implication is that, they should not be influenced by anybody or group of persons. They should discharge their duty without fear or favour, and take unbiased decision for the good of the people by declaring the right result.

My personal observation of the activities of INEC in Ugwunagbor area showed that, most of the casual staff that worked with INEC even some collation officers were members and cronies of the ruling party.  The NYSC members in charge of different Polling Units in the Wards were openly intimidated by the supposed auxiliary electoral officers to rig election in favour of their pay masters. Rather than do the INEC work they were paid to do, they resorted to helping their benefactors to truncate the liberation of Abia, and Aba in particular.

With the interference and intimidation INEC received during the 2015 General Election, I just realised that INEC officers were helpless. They were left at the mercy of LGA chairmen who dictated for them what they should and shouldn’t do. How can it be explained that INEC who prides itself as Independent will have its offices at the LGAs where the state governors apparently control the Chairmen there? In fact, there is nothing like Independent there. INEC should be made to have its offices separate from the Local Government buildings so as to be non partisan.
The Independence of INEC was called to question in Aba especially, Ugwunagbor particularly, Ward Four, in fact in Unit 6, 7 and 8. I was baffled that after the 2015 Gubernatorial and State Assembly election whereby the people overwhelmingly voted for the party of their choice because of the change mantra that swept the whole country which Aba residents yearned for, the whole effort of the people (of that part of Aba) was made a mess of. In fact, the party that promised to bring the change in Aba to my amazement could not protect the vote they got from the electorates and their agents were nowhere to be found as the vote they got were duly rigged against them.

I don’t believe a situation whereby during the election, the electoral umpires will give one political party the freedom and liberty to change the outcome of the result in their favour is the Independence we envisaged from them. What do I mean? During the election moment I mentioned above, the INEC officers in charge of Polling Units in Unit 6 and 8 in Ward Four were intimidated and threatened by the then dominant Party to allow them manipulate the election result. The INEC officials were helpless as the supporters of this most despised party in Aba surrounded them and threatened to throw them inside the river if they do not co-operate with them.  It was so bad that the chieftains of the said party came right over there with their supporters and had their way in rigging the election.

These and many more made me to ask whether or not INEC is biased. I could see the frustration and anger the Corp Members in charge of the Units felt. They could not stop the election rigging that was about to happen even though they were not in support of the rigging. I could see how disappointed they felt because the collation officer that was supposed to ensure proper and unbiased conduct of the election consciously or unconsciously turned a blind eye as the election was rigged in the full glare of the people around the Polling Unit. Even the auxiliary INEC officers forced the Corp Members who are not from this region to bring out the remaining ballot papers for illegal thumb printing. Even the police officers in the persons of Ogechi Nduka and Okeiyi Uwaoma posted to monitor the election were sad because, their boss fell to pick his calls when the latter police man called him to report the illegal act that was going on. Right there I just felt that the collation officer might have collaborated in rigging the election, even the head of the police unit in charge of the police men posted in those Units to monitor the election might have also been compromised.

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It is time Government takes decisive measures to ensure the independence of INEC is not called to question; it is time the Government forestalls any wrong planning that will give INEC a bad name. They need unbiased security men during elections; they need to have offices outside the LGA secretariats, and more importantly, they need timely and adequate funding so they could provide efficient service. More importantly, if they want to prove to the electorates that they are not biased, they should not be afraid to always provide the form to record the pattern of voting at the election ground. God is great.


About the writer
Emeh Chinecherem is a dynamic writer living in the city of Aba who never hide his feelings and opinions about the activities in the State. He believes in “change” and desires that this wind of change will blow in Abia State.