Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu has given a hint that there may be a presidential run-off after voters cast their ballot on February 25, 2023, for their preferred candidates and that the Commission is prepared for it.
Delivering a lecture on Tuesday, January 17, at London-based Chatham House, Professor Yakubu said: “the truth of the matter is that for every general election, the commission prepares. At least for some time now in the last three electoral cycles, we also prepare for that possibility.
“The reason is until the constitution was amended, there was only one week for a presidential run-off in case it happens.
“With the number of registered voters we have, it is almost impossible to print the ballot papers required and the result sheet and deliver them to locations and conduct the elections as required.”
Speaking on the topic: ‘Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Preparations and Priorities for Electoral Integrity and Inclusion,’ INEC boss said: “every election since the last three electoral cycles, we also make provisions for the possibility of a presidential run-off in case it happens. If it happens, then we’ll have no issues, and this year is no exception.”
He said that with the amendment of the constitution, INEC now has three weeks between the presidential election date and the run-off date.
He said available data indicates that Nigeria has 16.7 million more voters than the rest of West Africa.
“Based on figures compiled from electoral commissions and interior ministries in West Africa, Nigeria’s current voter population is 16.7 million higher than the 76.7 million registered in all the other countries put together – and there are 14 other elections in the sub-region.
“This means that a general election in Nigeria is like conducting an election in the whole of West Africa and beyond.”
He dismissed any speculation of plans to put off the elections scheduled for February 25 and March 11, saying INEC is not contemplating, let alone planning, to postpone the 2023 general election.
He stressed that the commission is not considering the postponement of the presidential poll amid attacks on its offices nationwide.
“We are going ahead to conduct the election as scheduled,” he said, noting that though there are “tremendous” challenges and expectations of INEC, the commission is a beneficiary of “enormous” goodwill in Nigeria and beyond.
“We can surmount the challenges and ensure elections continue to get better,” he added.
Professor Yakubu reiterated the need for the establishment of a new commission to deal with electoral offenders.
He lamented previous attempts to pass the bill for the establishment of the commission, saying the failure to do so had frustrated efforts to get justice against offenders in Nigeria’s courts over the years.
Professor Yakubu said work on the country’s electoral process would remain incomplete if electoral offenders continue to walk freely.
He argued that via the powers given to the commission in the recently signed Electoral Act 2022, INEC can’t make an arrest or investigate offenders.
He said that the establishment of a new commission will help to enhance efforts to prosecute offenders.
INEC boss said that though the Senate has passed the bill, it is still before the House of Representatives Committee, adding that everybody in the queue by 2:30 pm on election day will vote.
On Diaspora voting, the INEC chairman was optimistic that the legal obstacles preventing foreign-based Nigerians from voting will be cleared eventually.
He said that Diaspora Voting by millions of Nigerians living outside the country remains a recurrent issue for the Commission, just as he added that Nigeria is said to have one of the largest diaspora communities in the world.
“Our quest for a fully inclusive extensive national deployment like we do in Nigeria will naturally come with challenges.
“We have worked closely with stakeholders and development partners to confront these challenges and we are satisfied with our preparations so far.
“Our commission does not take the pledge that we have repeatedly made to Nigerians lightly. We are leaving no stone unturned in our preparations.
“Our commitment remains only to Nigerians and not to any political party or candidate. That is what the law requires of us. We cherish the institutional independence and integrity of the Commission.
“With the enthusiasm of Nigerians, the goodwill of stakeholders and partners, and the commitment of the Commission, we believe that the 2023 general election will be among the best conducted in Nigeria.”
Professor Yakubu reassured voters that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has come to stay, saying there are plans to ensure it works perfectly.
He said that the 2023 election will be among the best polls in the country, insisting that only votes counted during the election will determine the winner of the elections.
Professor Yakubu said elections are a multi-stakeholder activity, adding that the commission has demonstrated it in previous elections.