THE GAINS, THE PAINS, THE LEGACIES
The 2011 election in Nigeria have finally come and gone with some, re-run election here and there. The Independent National Electoral Commission has lived up to its promise, to deliver a free, fair and credible election in which each vote will count and be counted.
INEC, under the dynamic leadership of its boss, Prof Attahiru Jega, has been applauded both nationally and internationally for delivering an election process in which the ills that plagued such exercises in the past were effectively plugged.
In the beginning, it was evident that INEC under its previous leadership was tottering on the brink of the precipice. It became imperative to effect a change in the leadership of the organization as the 2011 elections beckoned. The Federal Government took the bull by the horns by removing the erstwhile INEC Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu. The appointment of Professor Jega as INEC helmsman received accolades from far and wide and across the nation.
Prior to his appointment, Prof. Jega had been known to be a no-nonsense scholar and academic and who had led the Academic staff Union of Nigeria Universities in the past, with a history of complete dedication to any task assigned to him and which he has set his mind to accomplish. No wonder, Prof. Jega, upon appointment, proceeded to reposition the INEC, and to give the body his usual character trait of distinction and forbearance.
Inspite of the initial hiccups in the electoral process which led to the postponement of the first in the series of elections, that is the National Assembly election, INEC rose to the occasion to redeem her image and to give the country the much-needed electoral respite. The National Assembly elections were conducted all over the Country peacefully and orderly. It is to the credit of INEC that her permanent and support staff in the elections lived above board like Caesar's wife.
The officials in charge of the conduct of the elections embarked on the task with a rare and uncommon sense of duty. All the eligible voters were duly accredited and thereafter elections began in earnest. The voting process itself was not particularly cumbersome, although there were complaints of insufficient voter education and amplification of the voting process, resulting in a huge pool of invalid votes which were not counted and could, therefore, not count in the election.
Security at the election venues and polling booths was generally satisfactory. This made it possible for law-abiding citizens to come out confidently to perform their civic duties.
Apart from the first set of elections in the country when the ballot boxes and papers and other sensitive materials did not arrive timeously in a handful of places, the INEC made it a point of duty to provide the election materials in all the polling centres across the country, voting was mature and orderly. The atmosphere was peaceful and the INEC officials business-like and courteous.
Voting all over the country proceeded according to schedule and peacefully. All voters were counted after the voting exercise in the presence of all stakeholders including voters interested in staying behind to know the outcome of the exercise. Credit must be given to the INEC for the logistics put in place to guard against the incidence of ballot box snatching and other electoral vices in the polling centre's. Although these ills of our past electoral exercises reared their ugly heads in a few voting centres, they were few and far between as INEC put strategic measures in place to check them.
INEC should be given special kudos for the superb arrangement put in place in subsequent election such as the Presidential, Governorship and House of Assembly election. As usual, the enabling environment for peaceful voting and counting of the votes was provided. Party agents, monitors, observers and other stakeholders witnessed the voting exercise and the counting of the votes. The result of the voting in each polling booth was made available to all the stakeholders. Armed with this, it was almost impossible to tamper with results at the collating centres.
INEC should also be commended for the prompt released of election results. In the past, delay in the release of the results had led to considerable anxiety, falsification of figures and doctoring of the result sheets. Some unpatriotic politicians had cashed in on such delay to either conjure their own results or to go on air tro announce their own results themselves contrary to the law that the electoral body reserves the rights to announce and publish the results. This state of affairs had triggered off violence in the past. This time around, however, INEC released all the results promptly and dutifully.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the 2011 elections have been the most transparent election ever conducted in Nigerian Political history. The process was open and there was no room for any type of manipulation. In practically, all the states, the results collated from the polling centres tallied with the results released by INEC. Case of falsification of the results of the election, thumb-printing of the ballot papers and such-like electoral fraud were reduced to the barest minimum.
All the stakeholders were carried along by the INEC. All shades of opinion were accommodated. INEC dealt fairly with all the political parties. A level-playing ground was provided every where to achieve the mantra of free, fair and credible polls.
The transparency of the 2011 elections could be seen from at least two angles. The elections produced the highest number of incumbent and sitting Governors and also highest number of Legislators who lost their position in the political history of this country. Opposition parties gave the ruling party and the sitting Governors a good run for their money.
Some opposition parties swept the polls in the National and State Assemblies elections even when they lost the Governorship optimism, some hitherto unknown political parties, the political scene and caused ripples across the country, especially in the Northern parts of the country and garnered many National Assembly and State Assemblies seats and a Governorship slot in Nassarawa State.
The implication of all this is that the election process was free and fair. Some political godfathers were floored in some parts of the country. Some incumbent Governors and Legislators were swept away by the political hurricane on account of their perfunctory performance and ineptitude. Not even their influence, access to a large proof of resources and proximity to the power-brokers in the land could save them from the judgment of their people which has delivered in a loud and clear manner.
The credibility and transparent nature of the election could also be distilled from the way the losers took their defeat with equanimity and calmness.
This is a pointer to the fact that they appreciated that the people had spoken and they had to listen.
The violence which broke not in some parts of the country especially over the outcome of the Presidential election is unfortunate, uncalled for and uncivilized. The massacre of defenseless Nigerians and youth corpers by their compatriots is most callous and barbaric. As the largest democracy in Africa, it beloves Nigerians to lead by example and to serve as a beacon to our African brothers.
The destruction of lives and property was unnecessary as the result of the elections were clear and simple and could not have been otherwise as the party with structures all over the country and which campaigned ceaselessly across the country gained upper hand in the result of the elections.
Notwithstanding the intemperate remarks of some leaders of the opposition parties and the resort to violence by a section of their supporters, there are certain fallouts of the elections which INEC must address. They include the large pool of invalid votes, the alleged falsification of election results between the polling and collation centres, spurious voters-turnout figures and alleged prior thumb-printing of ballot papers.
On the whole, INEC has done well it has delivered a free, fair and credible election. The polls were clean, clear, transparent and reliable. All valid votes were counted and each votes counted in the exercise. A new political dawn is here. Thanks to INEC, there is a silver lining in the Nigerian political cloud.