Attahiru Jega's Election Eve Address: 'We Can't Afford To Fail'
Twelve years ago, our dear country Nigeria returned to democratic rule and we began a journey that many expected by now would have produced a stable democratic system in which peaceful, free, fair and credible elections are routine and taken for granted. Unfortunately, this is still not the case and Nigerians are yet to reap the dividends of democracy. The elections we are about to commence tomorrow, Saturday 2 April, provide the chance for us as a nation to get it right. It is incumbent upon all of us to join hands together to conduct elections that are free, fair and credible. Bringing this about successfully is vitally important to the future of our nation, therefore WE MUST NOT FAIL and we must GET IT RIGHT.
HOW DO WE GET IT RIGHT?
I want to assure you all that INEC has worked tirelessly to put infrastructure, people, and procedures in place to make sure that we have prepared adequately in terms of logistics, the training of our staff and in terms of effective liaison with security agencies to provide security before, during and after the elections. We are very confident that the security agencies are sufficiently mobilised to ensure that there is security cover for both INEC personnel and materials and for those who will come out to exercise their right to vote.
We have recruited and trained approximately 400,000 staff, thereby ensuring an average of three officials per polling unit, plus a number of supervisory officials. We are also doing our best to see that within 48 hours, the results are announced. This is the target timeline we are working on, in spite of the fact that Nigeria is a very vast country with many difficult terrains.
We have also planned to deploy Electronic Surveillance Technology to help us monitor activities in strategic areas. It is not nationwide, but I think with time, we will keep on scaling up.
INEC has been very determined to make sure that we mitigate factors that would prevent Nigerian citizens from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Though this is principally our duty as a Commission, it is not exclusively a task for INEC. It is a shared task. With shared democracy comes shared responsibility. If Nigeria is to get it right with elections, all Nigerians – voters, candidates and INEC officials – must do their part in ensuring the success of the process. We have decided to use the Modified Open Ballot System of voting that was largely successful in previous elections. The employment of this system will require voters to do the following on voting day:
1. Bring their voter’s card to the Polling Unit where they registered.
2. Arrive promptly at their Polling Unit between 8am and 12noon for accreditation and then take their place in the queue for voting which commences at 12:30pm.
3. Voters on the queue shall approach the table one at a time, receive the ballot paper, and proceed to the secluded voting cubicle and select the candidate/party of your choice for the election with a finger print. Voters will then come to the ballot box placed in the full view of those assembled and drop the marked ballot paper inside the box.
We also urge voters to remember that we have set aside SMS telephone numbers and telephone hotlines so that voters can report any election irregularities.
Just as we have a shared responsibility with Nigerian voters to ensure free, fair, and credible elections, we have also placed a sacred trust in the National Youth Service Corps to assist our great country in conducting the elections. These committed young men and women should be commended and encouraged. The work that they will do is a patriotic duty of tremendous importance to our nation. As the primary polling unit personnel, their service will ensure that we hold true to the promise of democracy during our elections. You, our dear Corps members have an essential job to do. Your work is a patriotic duty of tremendous importance to the nation. Please make sure you get to your polling stations on time and discharge your responsibilities creditably. We have done everything to ensure that your safety is assured.
As we prepare for these elections, I wish to offer an advice to the political parties and the candidates. Nigeria has manifold needs and there are a number of places and opportunities to serve our country. We should therefore not view elected office as the be all and end all of public service; we should not see these elections as a do-or-die affair. As aspirants to lead our country it is incumbent upon you to conduct yourselves in a way that sets an example for constructive and congenial political discourse and contestation in the common interest of Nigeria. Please urge your supporters to be peaceful and non-violent and to pursue peaceful means of resolving disputes.
I wish to use this opportunity to urge all Nigerians who are not registered voters to stay away from the polling units. We are collaborating with security agencies to ensure that any person who has done either multiple or underage registration who comes to the polling unit is arrested and prosecuted.
Finally, as elections commence tomorrow, we must seek free, fair, credible and peaceful elections with a vigorous commitment that restores confidence, dispels fear, and moves the nation away from the mistakes of the past. We must do the elections right; we must not fail each other and we must not fail our dear country. The hope of a generation and the eyes of the world are on us. Let us all, in the name of God Almighty, ensure free, fair and credible elections.