Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC and calls for more transparency in March 18 election is very important. More than a week now since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ended the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly election across the country, but the dust raised by the outcome of the exercise seems unsettled. Many said this is so apparently because, views and propositions arising from the exercise have been multifarious, given the way the exercise went. While some Nigerians applaud the electoral body for the election which they think was reasonably credible, others however condemn it in the strongest of terms, alluding to wildscale irregularities in most polling units across the country. They also blame Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, for this.
In view of these devisive perceptions of Nigerians about the whole exercise, stakeholders in the electioneering process have created a lot of conversations around the different shades of opinions on the front burner. These conversations, though ongoing, are primarily meant to set a new template, or better still, give a clean slate for INEC ahead of the governorship and state houses of assembly election. This has become expedient owing to the fact that March 18 election happens to be the last round of the exercise in the span of four years which the electoral umpire must use to either confirm its neutrality and independence to the suspicious minds of most Nigerians, or swindle its integrity which of course is facing another trial.
Many want the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Cyril Omoregba, to realize that the March 18 election presents to him, a serious integrity test; more serious than Presidential and National Assembly election. It is this serious because politics, as people often say, is local. The governorship and the house of assembly election is more than a concern to the people who feel a time has come for them to personally elect their leaders. If perhaps many Akwa Ibom people were not watching the REC very closely and his body language during the February 25 election, he should realize that this coming election is most critical to the people and therefore, the eyes of the people are going to pry on him like never before.
Based on the people’s expectation to eventually have a free, fair and credible outcome, stakeholders in the state have called on the REC to leave no one in doubt as to the preparations to the billed up to this Saturday’s exercise and ultimately, the election proper. The REC can do this by being more transparent in the way he handles the state electoral process. The transparency here is that the REC has to carry all stakeholders along in the process as has been clamoured for, by Stakeholders. It will portend danger unimaginable if stakeholders keep complaining about the lack of transparency in the process as it was noted before the February 25 election and no action taken to assuage the past inactions.
Recalled that three weeks ago, Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Akwa Ibom State, in a press conference, had accused the REC of not carrying the council along in the billed up to the Presidential and National Assembly election. IPAC had alleged that Mr. Omoregba failed to involve it in the mock election, inspection of the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System, BVAS, and other pre-election programmes, contrary to the promise of transparency and Stakeholders’ involvement the REC had sworn to, on assumption of office last year.
Apart from the voice of IPAC and its call for more transparency, civil societies also want the REC to regularly engage the media, political parties, civil societies and even the electorate who are all critical stakeholders in this process.
Prior to the Presidential and National Assembly election, critical stakeholders were worried over the manner in which they were not fully involved in the pre-election planning as they ought to have been involved, particularly in Akwa Ibom State. One case in point is when Centre for Human Rights and Accountability Network, CHRAN, raised an alarm that REC in the state was not sufficiently transparent as it relates to his relationship with CSOs and stakeholders. Again, just last Wednesday, a civil society group, Youth for Change Initiative, YOFCI, also called on the REC to be more transparent by carrying stakeholders along in every step of the way. The organization believes such inclusiveness can stem the tide of violence and also strengthen confidence in the electoral process.
If the REC and INEC alike will heed these calls by relevant stakeholders in the electioneering process, a lot of confidence will be instilled and even the outcome of the election may not generate any heat like the Presidential and National Assembly election has generated, because the people would have seen the level of transparency in it.