By Kayode Crown
This month, Ondo State got a new Resident Electoral Commissioner. He is Barrister Olaleke Agboke.
He held a meeting with stakeholders recently, where according to a report in The Hope, he said that: “For emphasis, the commission’s mission is to serve as an independent and effective election management body, committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
“This goal we shall continue to pursue with the veritable tenets of autonomy, transparency, integrity, equity, professionalism, excellence and dedication, among others.
“In addition, it is our sacred vision to be one of the best Election Management Bodies in the world, that meets the aspiration of Nigerian people.”
Those are lofty words to set the tone for his tenure in the state as the leader of the electoral body in the state.
In time past, there has been no love lost between the INEC and the political establishment in the country, generally speaking.
It was something like a cat and mouse distrust running sky high.
The body is perceived to not be truly independent but rather dancing to the tune of certain political interests.
And that has been a major draw back in our electoral journey.
When an election draws near, the rumour mill goes into overdrive, that certain political parties are conniving with the electoral body to tilt the outcome in their favour.
With many announced election results coming under a pall of distrust, as the credibility of the whole process is called to question.
However, for Ondo State, in the last governorship election, the fact that there was no litigation in the aftermath may be a testament to the maturity of the political stakeholders.
INEC needs to be given kudos for a job well done, considering the constraints under which it had to work and everything that happened before and during the election.
The Federal Government and specifically the security operatives, and the people generally need to be commended for their commitment to peaceful electioneering process in that election.
As the new Ondo REC himself has said, he needs to build up on the success of his predecessor.
He probably needs to visit him to get some tips on how he succeeded in navigating the political mine field in Ondo State, in an election with so high a stake as the last governorship election in October last year.
For the new REC to rest on his oars, will be the greatest mistake he could ever make. He should be on the guard so that he would not be blindsided.
What he needs to do is to emphasise taking preventive measures rather than a fire brigade approach that Nigeria is famously known for.
He needs, together with his team, to anticipate possible problems that might arise and take steps to mitigate them.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. As veritable stakeholders in the Ondo State project, none of us want to have chaos generated from electoral processes on our hands.
While not seen to be hobnobbing with politicians, the new REC, however, needs to carry them along. His mantra should be: too much information available to the people is better than too little.
His coming from a legal background can be a plus and a minus.
For the minus, he might be tempted to sweat the small issues, while losing sight of the big picture. It is a possibility.
For the plus, we know that it will now be really very difficult for Ondo INEC, going forward, not to be up to par when it comes to following through with the different aspects of the legality of its’ mandate. (Could the security in the last election be partly as a result of the security background of the outgone REC?)
Barrister Olaleke, while speaking on what the people can look forward to in his tenure, used seven words: “autonomy, transparency, integrity, equity, professionalism, excellence and dedication.”
We the people of Ondo State would expect nothing less from him than to deliver on those commitments.
The commission and its minders should autonomously carry out (and be seen to be carrying out) its duties, without interference.
The work they have signed up to do is a thankless job. If they do it well, there will be some haters, talk less of not doing well. But they have their conscience and the law to grapple with, hence the need to do well.
All staff of the establishment need to be brought on board to embrace those seven items reflecting the resolve of the new REC in his new office.
It is important that everyone speaks with the same language, and move in the same direction, that there be no Judas among them.
No one among the member of staff should be seen as being negligible. Everyone should be brought on board to serve the mandate of the Commission. They need to be engaged in training and retraining to sharpen them in their activities.
At various intervals, the commission would also employ the services of certain ad-hoc staff. All efforts should also be expended to ensure that they all imbibe the same spirit.
Excellence means going beyond what is required. It is what I call the “whao” factor.
It means elections and the processes around them, are not just the routine but up there with the best anywhere in the world, so that people start to envy Ondo State.
Another word used by the New REC to give us an inkling of what should be expected from him is Dedication. Dedication means, as much as possible, to put your life on the line. When people see the intensity of your dedication, the potential distractors would advice themselves to shift.
What the people want is progress and not a regression into the past. And what we need is a visionary leader for that to happen.
Within the next two years, election into national and state assemblies will be conducted by INEC.
Preparation needs to be in high gear to ensure the success of those elections.
The backbone of election is the sanctity, not just of the electoral box, but also the voters’ register. Efforts should be made to arrest those who may want to play smart and scuttle the process in order to favour themselves or their parties. Those found wanting should be made to face the full weight of the law.
There is also the need for INEC to pay more than a cursory attention to the internal workings of the political parties in the state to be able to guide them in the demands of internal democracy as enshrined in the Electoral Act. Some may want to play smart.
The Federal Government should make money available for INEC timeously, otherwise great plans can easily go down the drain and the independence of the body eroded, together with the shaky trust that binds it to the public it is supposed to serve.
Let everyone regard successful election as a joint responsibility and desist from doing anything that will cast doubt on the whole process. We need transparency, efficiency and probity, as the new REC mentioned.
INEC needs to stand for what is right. And not just that, but to also fight for it, with every weapon in its arsenal, doing everything it takes.