Ahead of the 2023 general elections, all eyes are on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to uphold to Nigerians its constitutional responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections in the country.
The Commission which has always been robust in its insistence that it would put the interests of Nigerians over and above the interests of any individual or section would face a litmus test of its capacity, integrity and credentials when the elections unfold next year.
Whether it will pass the test is another thing for it appears that the challenges the Commission faces are piling up by the day.
The monster of insecurity
The Independent National Electoral Commission has already raised the alarm that the insecurity convulsing sections of the country was a threat to the 2023 general elections. And the body was not just crying wolf.
In the Northeast and Northwest, many communities remain submerged in insecurity with rampaging terrorists making laws and extorting hapless villagers.
Having cut off access to those communities, the question was always about how INEC would fare especially with the mounting suspicion that some of the security situations have been carefully orchestrated to ensure that elections are not conducted in certain parts of the country.
But it would appear that even before INEC considers how to navigate the labyrinthine insecurity threatening the 2023 general elections,a problem of graver immediacy is the deluge of litigation it is facing from a mix of sore losers, professional litigants and genuinely aggrieved aspirants who have been at the receiving end of the unscrupulous activities of their political parties who put curious cash gifts before their constitutions.
The 2023 general elections are still months away but already Nigerian courts, especially the Federal High Court, are already swarmed by pre-election matters.
Because these matters are constitutionally time-bound, it has been the case that the courts have had to abandon other matters to treat pre-election matters with urgency. The cost is better imagined.
That this deluge of litigation is coming before the elections proper come and go leaving behind the usual trail of complaints and litigation is undeniably a great strain on INEC.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that there are about six hundred of such pre-election matters in different courts, leaving a body already short of resources with a blizzard of distractions to contend with when it should be concentrating on conducting free and fair elections.
There is no doubt that this is a problem that must be fixed urgently.It is even scandalous that INEC is always the chief target of disgruntled aspirants to elective offices in the aftermath of the conduct of the primaries of the political parties.
It is the many political parties who litter Nigeria’s political space that must put themselves in order.
If Nigerian public offices have been abused for many years by men who live by nothing, becoming in the process objects of ridicule, it is because unscrupulous political parties in Nigeria repeatedly present people without character for elections.
Politics always begins from political parties, everything must be done to ensure that they are kept honest, hardworking and helpful to Nigeria’s democracy.
As long as this is not done, INEC would continue to be unduly swarmed by distractions just before crucial elections.