PLEASE, DON'T TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY
I must start by confessing that I'm just a little Nigerian who knows nothing about how or why billions of naira is budgeted for anything. I'm not a professor of economics or statistics and so you do not have to take me seriously. I'm just writing. Turn with me to INEC voters registration, chapter N74 billion and read from verse one to the end. It is a very interesting passage.
Our own dear INEC needs or requires N74 whopping billion to register us good people of Nigeria to vote next year. Prof Attahiru Jega has justified what the money will be used for very well. We need to delete all the Mike Tysons and Bill Clintons from our voters register, but something tells me that in 2011 we will end up with Idi Amin and other African ghosts. Maybe they will even come out of the voters register and actually attempt to vote. Because one thing is sure, there will be no new voters register because there will be no N74 billion. I dare Professor Jega, the National Assembly and the Presidency to prove me wrong. We are all going along on this roller coaster, knowing it will lead to nowhere near free, fair or credible election.
We all know nothing new, nothing different from 2007 will happen, all of us; me, Senators, Reps, Ministers and Presidency. We all know we are playing games. So let's play it and on May 29, 2011, we shall swear in what my friend, Dr Ekundayo, called another set of crooks. Maybe not everybody will be a crook, but I share his apprehension. How can you trust adults who want to budget or get approval for N74b in July, 2010 for expenses of 2010? What adjectives do you use in describing men and women who knew we would have another election in 2011 but sat on their palms since 2007 waiting for the appropriate time to put the rest of us on 'high jump'? What is the new thing we are just learning 10 months to the next swearing-in?
Anyway, don't get carried away by my questions. I already warned you that I am just a little Nigerian who does not know anything.
For months after the 2007 election, we screamed until our eyes bulged out of their sockets that Prof Maurice Iwu was our problem. Even the politicians who knew they are the real problem joined in the cacophony. We cursed him. We raged. We foamed in the mouth. Then we removed him. Like what you find when you remove a clean brown plaster from the an injury, our festering, smelling sore confronted us.
Yes, Iwu was not a good umpire but Nigeria can never, I insist never, have a good election umpire for as long as we all play a game with no rules. What can a referee do when players punch one another, kick the goalkeeper in the shin or spit in the face of fellow players? Didn't the National Assembly know that our voters register was a matter of urgent national importance? Didn't they know we would need money to do a new one and that a new voters register would take time? Did they delay looking at the electoral act till the time they did for reasons they are not disclosing? Is this faulty register what they truly want for next year? How can we be sure everybody is not acting a script? Almighty God, are you there? Are you watching all of us?
Please don't forget that you are not supposed to take this seriously. I'm just a writer. I know nothing about voters registers, fake or genuine.
If I know anything, registering voters is not rocket science, but then I do not know anything, remember? I do not know if we have that N74 billion stashed somewhere waiting for Prof Jega. I do not know if we should approach IMF or Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala can even help us at the World Bank. I also don't know what explanations the Federal Government will offer for not providing this critical funding, just N74bn. Perhaps we are not solvent. Perhaps we are broke. Perhaps we should have started this process two years ago and stagger the N74bn into smaller instalments. Our elders say only a foolish husband say that his wife's delivery caught him unawares. Does it not take nine months for a woman to deliver a baby? That is where I smell a rat. Our politicians know what they are doing. They know they prefer the decrepit register and all the evils therein. What they want to do next year is to make Jega miserable and destroy whatever reputation he came into INEC with. Poor old fall guy.
Now Prof, I heard Hon. Uche Onyejeocha of the House of Representatives saying that INEC should have Plan B,C, D. I totally agree with her. If Jega is not going to end up a fall guy, he needs a fall-back position. He needs to do something out of the ordinary, something that you probably can't find in political science textbooks.
I will digress briefly into what I know.
In the last few years, newspaper houses in Nigeria discovered that the cost of circulating their products nationwide is enormous. In fact, they were circulating at a loss in addition to getting to the newsstands late. They all started planning for simultaneous printing, that is having printing plants in more than one location. Today, more than a few have successfully done so and are reaping the benefits of planning ahead and investing in the future. Having presses in more than one location is expensive, strenuous and frustrating, but we know it is doable and the gains far outweigh the pains. In fact the pains eventually go.
So, when you bought this newspaper as early as 8 am today, it is because The Sun has a printing plant close to you. When legislators get The Sun at 7.00am in Abuja, it is because we have a press in the FCT. When our readers in Port Harcourt get to read us at breakfast, it is not because we sent the newspaper by the first flight. It is because this establishment has been and is being run by forward-looking, committed professionals who are ready to move up against all odds.
Print media houses operate from their headquarters where the production is planned and coordinated by the Editor who we can, in this case, equate with the INEC Chairman. He has line editors (INEC Commissioners) and bureau chiefs and state correspondents across the nation (RECs). The stories are filed online from all over the country to the head office daily. Stories, photographs, adverts et al. The editor and his men process it into a newspaper in soft copy and send it online to the other plants outside Lagos, for instance. Each page contains about 1800 words plus photographs that sometimes take 60 minutes to upload or download and adverts that take even longer. The newspapers are printed while the nation sleeps. The process takes place every day, 365 days of the year.
Is registering voters once in four years and upgrading the register annually more strenuous than what I just described? What do I know? Nothing.
What if we set up 10 laptops (HP PAVILLION dv 6000) in each local government area, manned by 10 youth corpers for 10 days? Will they be able to register at least 70% of the population? Can data for each day be sent online to INEC head office and central data centre? Can data for each day be burned on a disc as backup, giving us 10 backups per local government? Can we on the 11th day all go to Abuja and collate physically? Can we print and bind into hard copies data from each local government? Is this so difficult? Fine, we will need some money to buy laptops, pay the corpers and other coordinating staff, but we certainly won't need anything near N74bn. Then we can start an elaborate hi-tech registration on May 30, 2011.
Prof Jega is just like my doctor who experienced power outage in the middle of a surgery some years ago and still successfully completed it using eight torch-lights. We all hailed him. He became a hero. Nobody knew his discomforts and anxiety as he held the strings of a man's life in one hand and a torch light in another. All we knew was he saved a life in spite of 'NEPA' . What if INEC tries my model. Call it Plan B or Plan H, it just might work and there is no harm in trying. He's in the middle of a major surgery right now and our national life is in his hands. He can't let Nigeria die on the table. Or can he? After all, I don't know anything about these things.