During our national elections, two major players can be considered: the organizers of elections (the umpire), INEC(part A) and the rest of the society, made up of eligible and non-eligible voters(part B). Neither of these two groups alone can ensure peaceful, free, fair, and transparent elections. Both must play their roles adequately for us to have satisfactory elections.
Unfortunately, when most people try to ex-ray why an election has not been satisfactory, they tend to assume that part B is flawless. True, INEC sets the pace, and if that function is badly performed, part B’s role, no matter how well intended, cannot make up for the failures of part A. On the other hand, even if INEC scores 100% in preparations and conduct, a satisfactory election can never result unless the rest of the society plays its part adequately.
INEC is made up of the Chairman with his principal officers, other permanent staff and thousands of ad hoc staff mostly in the field. Just as it would be impossible for any leader, president, governor, local government chairman or even a local chief to guarantee the peaceful conduct of the voters under his domain in any circumstance, it would also be impossible for INEC chairman and his senior staff to guarantee the conduct of their staff especially the field officers. Why then does it seem a bigger crime when an INEC staff is found wanting than when a voter is found wanting?
It takes two to tango. Aside from this, traditionally, INEC staff are the ones that usually come under pressure by members of the rest of the society and when things eventually go wrong as a result, INEC is blamed. I find it difficult to imagine how INEC staff would on their own attempt to rig elections in favour of a candidate without that candidate having previously contacted them. Maybe some people expect all INEC staff to be angels while the rest of us mere mortals.
My point here is that members of part B should bear in mind that their role during elections is as important as that of INEC and should endeavour to play it patriotically. Failure of part B during elections is as grievous as failure of INEC during same elections. Fairness in judgement should always be called in. The rest of the society in some cases will be able to check excesses of some INEC staff. Dereliction of duty by INEC at any level is of course blamable on INEC. A completely different scenario arises when a plot to rig elections is traceable to INEC management. This also can be resisted by the larger society.
It is even possible to argue that part B is more to blame for unsatisfactory elections for the following reasons:
1. Pressure to commit electoral malpractices is usually initiated by members of the larger society who believe they would be the beneficiaries.
2. Violence during elections and all sorts of electoral process disruptions are usually initiated and executed by members of the larger society.
3. INEC can be compelled to do its job well by being held to account at all levels by the larger society. The opportunity to engage in electoral excesses by INEC staff emerges when there is failure in the performance of this function by the larger society. Therefore, the larger society can compel INEC to do the right thing, but INEC cannot compel the larger society to do the right thing.
So, please rise and play your role in your little corner and we will be fine.