Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, a serious concern has been the upcoming off-cycle elections in Edo and Ondo States in September and October 2020, respectively. Citizens have at different times showed worry over the Independent National Electoral Commission’s ability to conduct elections during the pandemic.
The reason behind the current apprehension on the upcoming Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is because Nigeria has struggled to conduct a substantially credible election even when the terrain is serene. Be that as it may, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that it was going ahead with the elections.
However, before the Edo and Ondo elections, come the Nasarawa Central by-elections in Nasarawa State following the death of a member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Late Adamu Suleiman, who represented Nasarawa Central State Constituency, by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on August 8, 2020, took its first litmus test to determine if it can conduct credible elections during a pandemic through the Nasarawa State constituency bye-elections. The Nasarawa bye-election is took place in seven (7) wards, 44 polling units, and other voting points with a total of 71,919 registered voters and is being contested by two political parties: the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); with an all-male candidacy.
The first election INEC is conducting since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will be this election. The lessons learned from this election will further help INEC in its preparations for the Edo and Ondo State Governorship elections, this also has implication for women’s participation in all elections although there is an almost zero presence of female candidate in the election it is expected that women turn out as voters in this elections against the background of COVID-19 and electoral violence.
To ensure that elections are conducted seamlessly during the pandemic, INEC in May 2020 released a policy document on “conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which is to serve as a guide for engagement with stakeholders during elections. Similarly, to strengthen INEC’s transparency in the election result management system, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Thursday 6, August 2020 announced the introduction of a dedicated public portal called the INEC Result Viewing (IReV), which would enable Nigerians to view real-time results in polling stations as the voting ends on Election Day.
However, INEC emphasized that this does not constitute an electronic collation of results as the collation of election results shall remain as provided by the law. This innovation will also be tested during the Nasarawa Central State Constituency by-election on August 8, thereafter, it will be extended to Edo and Ondo governorship elections. Amidst all the concerns ahead of September and October Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo respectively, the recent conduct of the Nasarawa state constituency election has shown INEC level of preparedness. Also, the participation of voters from a gender perspective has been under review. Women’s turn out in the Nasarawa election was very encouraging. It is hoped in other election in Edo and Ondo will be peaceful to allow the full participation of women.