Prior to the start of the 2019 general elections, there were fears that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who have always acted as ad-hoc staff for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may refuse to participate in the process. The fear was based on the tragedy that befell some of their colleagues during the 2015 general elections, when some lost their lives.
With the do-or-die politics going on, many parents of the corps members threatened not to allow their wards participate in the elections. The challenge was heightened by the general insecurity across the country, particularly in the northern part. So, when the election came and many corps members volunteered to serve their father land, it was a pleasant surprise. Of note, elections took place in all parts of the country, including areas which were considered high risk areas, even by military personnel.
So, it is gratifying that INEC has promised automatic employment to the corps members who distinguished themselves during the elections. We consider such a move reasonable and gracious, and we commend INEC for the initiative. After all, ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander’. Indeed, the decision is a win-win situation for the distinguished ad-hoc staff and for INEC that will be employing those with field experience. Without doubt, the success of the 2019 general elections hung on those ‘tiny shoulders.’
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In a way it is right to say that youth corps members risked their lives for the 2019 general elections, especially in the north-eastern part of the country. If the corps members had refused to participate as most parents wished, there might have been no election. Nigerians are also aware that INEC’s workers may not be willing to suffer the indignities suffered by the ad-hoc staff. Many of them slept in open space, while some slept on chairs over the night preceding the election, because of shoddy logistics arrangement.
So, the ad-hoc staff deserve the automatic employment, because they have paid the price to make the election happen. They have been outsiders looking inside, but with the automatic employment they would become insiders looking inside, but with outside knowledge. Many of them should come with insights and innovations to make our elections more credible. Having experienced the challenges facing INEC as outsiders, they should be able to bring initiatives to make the process more functional.
While many commentators are hailing INEC for the initiative, the social media is awash with claims by persons claiming that they have not been fully paid for work done in the 2019 general elections. Could that be true, or are the commentaries merely to besmirch the integrity of INEC? While we give INEC benefit of the doubt, it is important that it investigates the allegation that some ad-hoc staff have not been paid. If truly some are still being owed, then the promise of automatic employment may be a hallow ritual as some persons have claimed in the social media.
It is also important that the process of recruiting the ad-hoc staff be transparent. It will be a shame if the privileged hijack the opportunity to recruit their wards into INEC, when they did not participate, not to talk of distinguishing themselves as INEC’s ad-hoc staff. To avoid any abuse, the beneficiaries should have in their letter of employment the place where they served and that should be accessible to the public, particularly their colleagues who may feel left out.
No doubt, INEC needs fresh thinking, and the youthful minds of the corps members may be the tonic to rejuvenate the commission. They are also likely to bring technological innovations that would help the commission do better.
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