FREE POLLS IN 2011 IS A MIRAGE

By NBF News
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The structures and actions the federal government needs to put in place are simple and elementary. The issue of the voters register is one that can guarantee free polls in any situation. As at today, many of the voters' registers in Nigeria are either forged or contain fake names while names of real voters are omitted. For as long as there is no credible digital method of voting in Nigeria, there will always be rigging of the polls and this is the reason why voters' registers filled with fake names continue to thrive. Such registers are the foundation for declaring bloated election results.

Furthermore, the issue of incorrect voters' registers is tied to the national census figures which are also thoroughly padded to create a false impression of higher population in certain areas. Those who have such dubious census figures will thwart every effort at a credible voters' register. It is possible for Jonathan to do what is right if he is sincere and has political will.

The second issue relates to the culture of impunity among Nigerians. Since 1999, there has been adequate laws to guarantee fair and reasonable good behavior regarding elections and so the clamour for additional laws is, in my view, begging the question. Even if the contrary were to be the case, the present national assembly is populated with some members whose elections were not free and fair. Consequently, they will not make laws to check genuine election malpractices in the real sense. All that you see is mere cosmetic show of shame.

Recent elections in Nigeria have endorsed the culture of impunity as nobody or party gets punished for violating electoral laws. In all the rerun elections that have taken place since 2007, Nigeria has lost several billions of hard-earned oil money to avoidable errors by public officers. I do not see any change as you pointed out because, for them, it is better for the entire country to go bankrupt than for a PDP man to be punished for rigging elections. If there is adequate enforcement of punitive laws against persons and political parties who violate the electoral laws of the land, then many people will begin to think twice before daring the rules. Today what we hear is win first by all means and leave the rest for the courts which have become more corrupt than the politicians.

What we have here is a situation where a political party fields a governorship candidate in an election and when the election is annulled by the courts after he has served for some years, he re-contests the election using stolen public funds and buys his way back only to start his tenure afresh. Is this not a classical case of reaping from one's own wrongdoing? Until Nigerians begin to ban parties that err and punish the candidates, all the talk about electoral reforms or one-man-one-vote is a mirage and Jonathan knows it.

Thirdly, the Nigeria Police needs reformation and proper funding so that as much as possible, Nigerians can begin to have the kind of police they desire and deserve. Such people-friendly police will defend the people's votes in appropriate cases instead of the situation where politicians buy up police officers and use them to frustrate the will of the masses during elections. We have read and seen on television where police officers wearing uniforms carry ballot boxes or stuff ballot boxes in favour of one political party and those others who should depend on their protection watch helplessly. The dominant party commands the loyalty of the police, prosecutor and the judge and any reported case just dies a natural death. In fact, it becomes an offence to complain in the first place. But when indicted police officers begin to pay dearly for the wrong they commit in the course of their duty, then the dream of a free and fair election will begin the journey of realization and society will be a better place to live in.

Next is the issue of voter education. Many voters in Nigeria are thoroughly disconnected from the voting and electoral process as a result of repeated loss of confidence in the system. Many Nigerians believe that their votes don't count and so it will be illusory for anybody to convince them otherwise. High illiteracy level among the populace makes prolonged voter education especially on sensitive issues very essential. People's rights and duties regarding the election processes should be explained to them in the simple language they will understand so that the confidence-building process can yield positive results. I believe that a lot of people who rig elections can still win in normal contests but the rigging virus has eaten deep into us and what this does is to erode the confidence of even the strongest.

Besides, the conduct of electoral officers at the polling stations needs re-examination. Politicians buy and keep the result sheets ahead of time. To stop this, it is good that before the start of voting, the original copy (not scanned copy) of the result sheet must be shown to all party agents and they should sign it and also sign same after the results have been declared in the full glare of everybody. This means that the people must guard the results jealously. There should be no cheap victory and those who clamour for electoral changes must be in the field to ensure the desired changes come through instead of sitting in their houses to shout about electoral reforms. This is my humble suggestion.

I wish you well and please keep it up.
Mr. Nimi Samuel, Yenagoa.
IWU ALONE NOT THE PROBLEM
Your write up is indeed a masterpiece. You touched it all but we Nigerians are not sincere enough to exhibit transparency which will in turn create the enabling environment that will help us grow spiritually, economically and politically. The history of Nigeria that I am studying has always been about movement from good to bad. Iwu is not Nigeria's electoral problem but the political parties and the politicians. The Iwu we know may be better than the angel we do not know but only time will tell…08063520406

NO CREDIBLE POOLS IN 2011
Your article on Sunday Sun of May 9, 2010 is true. We won't have credible polls in 2011. President Jonathan has just proved that by appointing Prince Solomon Soyebi as the Acting Chairman of INEC.