The disenfranchisement of the candidates who are supposed to take their West African Senior School Certificate Examination mathematics papers on Saturday is painful and embarrassing. If the children of the top officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission are among those affected, wouldn’t INEC have postponed the election? The Edo State Government and INEC must give paramount consideration to the future intellectual growth of the state instead of going ahead with a controversial election.
What is so sacrosanct about the election that it cannot be postponed? Must poor people always be the ones that would be sacrificed for the country? Some people may argue that it is too late to postpone the election. Is it not also too late to postpone the examination? We must speak out against this, otherwise, it would repeat itself.
I am sure that some of the affected candidates are above 18 years because it is the Private Candidates’ examinations. They must not disenfranchise those who are eligible to vote among them. If it is confirmed that there are eligible voters among the candidates, an arrangement must be made for them to vote on Saturday while they still take their examination.
If I were the governor of the state, I would yield to the pressure of the candidates and call for the postponement of the election. After all, is the current INEC management not synonymous with inconclusive elections? What difference is the postponement of the Edo governorship poll going to make? INEC has rescheduled elections in the past. Why can’t it do the same now that it is necessary to do so?
It appears that there is pressure on INEC and the Edo State Government to hold the election at all cost. Hence, they want to conduct it at the expense of the future leaders of the state. The primary consideration of any government is the welfare of the citizens. What would it cost INEC to postpone the election compared with what the candidates stand to lose?
They would either be denied their right to vote or forfeit the examination. Both options are painful. When you look at the equity dimension of the issue, the government would lose less than the children. If that is the case, why can’t they postpone it? Is the next governor of the state going to be inaugurated next week? Why must they jeopardise the future of the candidates for an election that could be postponed at a little cost?
Bose Ironsi (Executive Director, Women Rights and Health Project)
These are serious rights violation issues. The students have the right to take the examination. They also have the right to vote. The government too also has the right to perform its obligation to the people.
However, the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission should have taken the interest of the students into consideration when fixing the election date. I don’t believe the students should be taken to other states to take the examination. That means their parents or guardians would also be denied the right to vote. This is because the students cannot go alone. Their parents or guardians would have to travel with them.
Also, what about the risks involved in travelling outside Edo State to write the examination? Is the government or INEC going to insure them? Who would take care of the cost of transportation, accommodation and feeding? It is a complex challenge.
But sincerely, what I think is reasonable to do now is to talk to the West African Examinations Council to postpone the examination for the affected candidates since only one subject is affected by the election. Considering the issues involved, the examination would be easier to shift than the election.
We should allow the election to hold as postponing it would be more disastrous than shifting the examination for the candidates. They could even take the examination the subsequent day. The examination body could easily make provisions for logistics, including the supervisors and question papers. Examinations were postponed in the past. I think Saturday’s examination could be postponed as well for the candidates billed to take the examination in Edo.
Adedeji Adeleye (Executive Director, Independent Advocacy Project)
First, the West African Examinations Council fixed the examination date before the Independent National Electoral Commission came up with its date. So, INEC should take responsibility for picking a date that conflicts with WAEC’s examination date. Having realised that there was a conflict, INEC ought to have shifted its own date to accommodate the Edo State candidates taking the examination who would be disenfranchised if INEC insists on conducting the governorship election on Saturday.
We do things in Nigeria as if we do not have laws. I expect some constitutional lawyers to seek an injunction to stop the election in order to protect the rights of the affected candidates. Otherwise, INEC would commit an act of impunity.
We should not forget the fact that it is their right to vote in the election. This is not just a case of opportunity cost. People’s rights are going to be violated. INEC must not be allowed to get away with this impunity.
Dr. Idayat Hassan (Director, Centre for Democracy and Development)
The clash of the Edo State governorship election date with that of the mathematics examination is as a result of our flawed planning culture. Ostensibly, the conflict would have come from the Independent National Electoral Commission which did not do proper consultation before fixing the election date.
Our planning culture is flawed. There is even the likelihood that the election is holding a day or so before Salah. That means many voters would have travelled from where they registered.
Sending the candidates to different states has cost and safety implications, especially considering the poor condition of our roads. If the election must hold, the Edo State Government should give stipends to the affected candidates to cover their expenses.
Postponing the election is no longer feasible because resources have been committed into the process. What INEC should do is to organise a supplementary election for eligible voters who would be out of the state to take the examination. This is unlikely to happen; but it is something we must contemplate.
Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi (Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education)
My position is that no eligible voter should be denied the opportunity to exercise his/her democratic right through a free, fair and credible electoral process.
What INEC is about to do to the students taking the examination, who have been sent to other neighbouring states as a result of the governorship election in Edo State, is contrary to the fundamental principle of popular participation.
Going forward, we must think of reforming the electoral process to make voting more flexible than it is now.
Nigerians, who for one reason or the other move to another part of the country during an election, must not be denied the right to vote. A move towards electronic voting would help in this regard.
We should gradually begin to put in place the framework and infrastructure to make electronic voting a reality.
Femi Aduwo ((National Coordinator, Rights Monitoring Group)
The Federal Government, Edo State Government, and the Independent National Electoral Commission should be reasonable enough to allow the candidates to take the examination.
First, the date of the examination was fixed several months ago before the governorship election. So, the election should be shifted. We have witnessed a governorship election conducted on a working day before. That means the election can be shifted to next week.
Why would they move the students to other states to take the examination? Who would accommodate them? Who would feed them? How are they sure that the logistics in those states would accommodate them?
Even if the government is ready to take care of the cost the students would incur, what happens to those who are eligible to vote among them? Are they not going to be disenfranchised? What is the big deal about the election that it cannot be shifted? They still have three months to the inauguration of the incoming governor. So, why can’t they shift the poll?
It is embarrassing that this type of issue still comes up at the level of our civil rule evolution. The attention the government gives to education and the future leaders of the country as portrayed by the oncoming Edo election is disappointing. The election can be shifted; so, it should be shifted.