Jega, INEC And Delta State
Six months to the end of the Uduaghan administration, the infinitely weird Nigerian judiciary ordered an electoral re-run in Delta State. Nobody really knows why. But one person should at least be thanking the court, and that person is professor Attahiru Jega of
INEC. He has just been handed a free laboratory! And the lab is actually a very good one, because the electoral situation and challenges in Delta State are a near-perfect sample of the worst problems that INEC would be facing in 2011. Some notable factors include the following:
(1.) Delta is a stupendously rich state, and all kinds of people are salivating to control it.
(2.) It has an impressive collection of home-made thugs and unemployed young men, who have been deployed by politicians in the past, and who might be deployed yet again.
(3.) Some powerful and influential people, notably Edwin Clarke, are out to control the state by all means, so the temptation to engage in electoral and procedural malpractice is pretty strong.
(4.) Aso Rock itself has a strong interest in the re-run. The results might well determine whether Jonathan gets the delegates in the oncoming PDP Primary or not. The stakes are high, and almost do-or-die, so again, the motive and temptation to tamper with the electoral process is quite strong.
(5.) Even in the best case scenario, the Voters Register is in the state is out-of-date -by four years! People who were 14 years by the time the register was created have now come of voting age. If the register is not updated, many will be disenfranchised.
(6.) Above all, the last Electoral register in the State is broken. By some estimates, as much as 60% of the entries are forged! This would be Jega's first real outing, so, what should INEC do? It should simply do its job - conduct FREE and FAIR elections as a neutral umpire. The people of Delta deserve nothing less. Is Jega and his crew taking this seriously? We have already been told that the last Electoral Register will be used. I don't know if this was meant as a joke, but if it was, somebody should take the INEC Chairman aside and tell him that it is a very bad joke. Six months into Jega's tenure, he we cannot be using a voters register that is clearly broken.
Building a credible register in it Delta State is going to be challenging, but thankfully, Delta is also a very small state - about 3 million in population, and about 7 thousand square miles in territorial size. If INEC cannot build a new register in the time it has for this re-run, it will NOT be able to build a New register across Nigeria before the 2011 elections, its 80 Billion notwithstanding. So let us be clear: the buck now stops on Jega's desk. If the elections in Delta fail to meet the maximum standard for fairness and due process, the blame would be on Jega and his INEC, not on Maurice Iwu. If Jega is embracing the old register as a way of proactively buying himself a scape-goat in the event of failure, he should forget it.
The game has already begun. The bridges have been burnt. Maurice Iwu is firmly gone, for good. Jega is completely and openly on his own now. Delta State is his laboratory, and he should use it to re-test the integrity and competence of the processes he is planning for the 2011 elections Nigerians are certainly watching, as are the politicians. What they see in Delta State will determine how they approach the rest of the elections.
By Dominic Ogbonna