Open Letter To INEC Staff By FCT Senatorial Candidate

Dear INEC Staff,

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I was intending to address this open letter to the INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu before I changed my mind and decided to address it to all INEC staff.

This is because I believe that every INEC staff from top to bottom is extremely important to the success of the 2023 elections which is the most important election since 1979 when the military junta first returned Nigeria to democracy.

My main reason for writing you this open letter is to inform you about the need for you to start thinking out of the box more on how to handle the various challenges that can frustrate the Nigerian electorates and all honest politicians who are candidates as the 2023 polls draw nearer.

To engage strategic thinking in playing your roles, I want you to particularly study what the United States Embassy in Nigeria did recently to address the problems created by the Covid 19 lockdown in the Embassy’s Visa administration régime.

In case you don’t know, there was a huge surge in US visa applications after the lockdown was lifted. Hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians were applying for students visa to pursue their education in the USA. Hundreds of thousands wanted to renew their expired visa. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians were applying weekly as new applicants going for visitation and holidays. Several hundreds need medical visa. A few thousands want to JAPA and needed to apply for immigrant visa. The system was so stressed that the nearest interview dates I got when I applied in February 2022 to renew my visa was October 2023. I was in the drop box category before but President Donald Trump had cancelled drop box for Nigerians. The pressure was so bad that the efforts of all the consular staff and the support staff to clear the backlog didn’t seem to mean much. To make the matter worse, some smart Nigerian visa business men cashed in on the challenge to milk desperate visa applicants and taint the integrity of the system.

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Nothing reveals the resilience, brilliance and quality of systems and leadership like big challenges. To address the messy situation, the leadership of the US Embassy in Nigeria got Drop Box to be reinstated. This gave the system a temporary reprieve. Within two months, the challenge grew bigger. The leadership of the Embassy assessed the problem again and attacked it innovatively.

First, the staff of the consular section were increased and the officers were working round the clock to address the problem. Secondly, the Drop Box which covered only those whose two years multiple entry visa expired not more than twenty-four months before was increased to cover m forty-eight months expiry. To break the back of visa racketeers, applicants were first screened internally by consular staff after submitting application for appointment and an e mail is sent to qualified applicants to proceed and pick a Drop Box appointment date. With these innovations and pro-activeness, the US Embassy solved several problems and is moving steadily towards clearing all the backlogs with great thinking.

Today, millions of voters’ cards are sitting in all INEC Offices across Nigeria for an election that is about two months away. Some of you INEC staff complain that Nigerians are not coming forward to collect the cards from your offices. Many potential voters are confused about where and how to collect their cards. Those who have visited your offices said the places are rowdy and the process is frustrating. How do we address this? Many concerned Nigerians want to assist you but they don’t know who to meet or even how to go about that.

I urge you and the management of INEC to think out of the box more regarding how to make the permanent voters cards collection exercise easy and enjoyable. If you need ideas, please feel free to ask Nigerians for help.

The confidence of Nigerians about BVAS is growing. I commend you all at INEC for that bold innovation Mr. Mike Igini your former colleague is doing a great job to boost the confidence of Nigerians about the reliability of that innovative addition to our electoral management process. His interviews are incisive and educative Please do your best to not disappoint Mr. Igini and Nigerians who have now put their faith for credible elections in your BVAS.

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The issue of vote buying is a monster that you and the INEC management must again think out of the box to address. One of the ways you can do this is by ensuring that the voting point in every polling unit is far away from vote buyers and other officials to the point that voting can truly be done in secret in the real sense of it. This will make it impossible for a vote buyer to see how a vote seller voted.

Like many other Nigerians, some of you INEC staff see the electoral process and period as an opportunity to make ‘cool money’ which is actually dirty and destructive money. The survival of Nigeria depends on the 2023 elections. No INEC staff should do anything unlawful to prevent the election from revealing the true will of Nigerians. To make 2023 elections a success, every INEC staff must be totally committed to helping Nigeria succeed by giving their all and shunning corruption and inducements from professional politicians to circumvent the system. Nigeria is bigger than all of us. The interest and survival of Nigeria should be the utmost preoccupation of all of you at INEC from now on. You should also do your best to educate all your adhoc staffs and security agents in your team to stand up for Nigeria by sacrificing their personal interests for Nigeria to survive.

Beyond the 2023 elections, I urge INEC management to begin to prepare the foundation for how to conduct elections where the law enforcement agents can vote, where electorates can vote in the comfort of their homes and the candidates don’t need polling unit agents.

Thank you for all you do for our country. Long live Nigeria.

Olanrewaju Osho is the Senatorial Candidate of the Social Democratic Party – SDP – for FCT.

Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.

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