The United States’ International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Wednesday issued their third report on Nigeria’s 2019 general elections. Once more their joint report highlighted their fears over the transparency and fairness of the polls. Their fourth and last report would centre on the conduct of the vote itself February 16 and 19 2019. A statement the two institutes issued after the third assessment feared interference by INEC, security forces and politicians in the forthcoming elections would endanger a free, fair and credible process. It said such interference, perceived or not, could “undermine confidence in the electoral process”.
The assessment delegation comprised Linda Thomas-Greenfield (lead delegate), a former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs; Lewis Lucke, ex-USAID senior official and Ambassador to Swaziland; Dickson Omondi, NDI Kenya Resident Country Director and John Tumaszewski, IRI Africa Regional Director. They claimed to have met all stakeholders in the electoral process, including incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking re-election, opposition candidates, political parties, security agencies, the media and civil society groups. The third joint assessment, according to Thomas-greenfield, “includes analysis of the electoral environment since the second assessment (in September), the status of recommendations previously offered by NDI/IRI, and issues that could still be addressed between now and election day to ensure more credible and peaceful polls…” .She noted the “positive efforts being made to conduct more transparent, and inclusive elections”, but warned that “confidence in the process and its outcome could still be undermined”.
The delegation narrowed its focus on INEC, understandably because under Section 29 of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) it has the power to request deployment of security personnel for elections. The delegation wanted the election umpire to “urgently provide clarity” on the voting, counting and collation processes of the elections. On this score, if we understood rightly what a member of the delegation later said, in an interview, to AIT Thursday, they seemed to agree with the opposition that the elections should be conducted using the amended 2015 Electoral Act which Buhari has vetoed because it is coming too close to the elections. Not his assurance to them that he had personally instructed the security agencies to be nonpartisan during the vote impressed them.
Let us, from the outset, state that we have no reason to doubt the two organizations’ credibility, based as they are in America, the so called Mother of Democracy. What more, they “have organized more than 200 international election observation missions across the globe”. Doubtless, they deserve credit or the huge success of Nigeria’s elections in 2015 that resulted in the first transition from one government to another. However, our worry is over their often paternalistic attitude to Nigeria. It is as though they are telling us that without them we can’t get it right. Another thing is their frequent warnings that there are issues that could undermine the credibility of the polls are amounting to scare-mongering, something that, we fear, may also hurt the electoral process. Please, less of this.