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The 2011 Elections, Jega, and Conspiracy

Source: huhuonline.com
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In October, 2010 the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), headed by Professor Attahiru Jega, announced cancellation of its earlier released 2011 election timetable just about two weeks after its release. I responded in an article titled 'INEC should stop this distraction.'   On April 2, 2011, the day National Assembly (NASS) election was scheduled by INEC to hold, Nigerians trooped out in their millions to cast their votes. For hours they waited for accreditation in the hot sun. By about 1.00 pm, Professor Jega announced postponement of the election and moved it to Monday, April 4, 2011. Those two events portray INEC as an incompetent organization that lacks foresight and sagacity in planning and execution.

 
 
  FACTS:
1.     Professor Jega, at the news conference where he announced the postponement of the NASS election, gave the late arrival of voting materials from overseas as the reason. But when did Professor Jega realize that the voting materials would arrive late. According to him, by 5.00 pm on the eve of the election the materials were yet to be delivered by the vendor. Yet, he waited until about 1.00 pm on the Election Day to announce the postponement.

2.     President Jonathan also had no idea about the logistics problems INEC was facing. Political parties also had no idea of the problem of delivery of voting materials from abroad. INEC leadership did not find it necessary to consult with the political parties and other stakeholders before the press conference.

3.     Monday, April 4 is not a right day because we cannot afford to toy with our students' future or sacrifice their examination (WAEC) on the altar of institutional failure. I understand that the West African Examination Council examination commences on that day. I would rather that both the presidential election and the postponed NASS election should hold on the same day (April 9, 2011).  

 
 
 
  IMPLICATIONS:  
1.     The credibility or reliability of INEC has seriously been impugned. There are already some conspiracy theories flying around:

i.               There are some people that want to create chaos in the country by frustrating the holding of the April elections. In other words, even subsequent elections may be frustrated in various forms.

ii.              A constitutional conference, being the demand of quite a number of progressives, may be forced by the failure of the election process. If it becomes very difficult to conduct rancour-free elections until May 29 th , 2011, a sovereign national conference will be a fait accompli. INEC and undiscerning politicians may help willy-nilly to present Nigeria with a platform to come together at the table of brotherhood and discuss the basis of our union in order to avoid a cataclysm. The die is cast.

2.     Losers in the NASS election, whenever it holds, may have a ready excuse for their loss. This portends a highly charged political environment in the wake.

3.     Neither INEC nor the ruling party (president) have reasonable control of the election process.

 
 
  THE WAY OUT:
1.     Ideally, Jega should have resigned after his postponement announcement. However, that would worsen the situation and create confusion and panic in the election process. Accordingly, Professor Jega may hang in until all elections are conducted before resigning. His capacity and efficiency at supervision of the election process have been called into question with the two incidents I have mentioned above. He may be a man of integrity, but his efficiency is highly in doubt.

2.     Jega and his commission should establish prompt communication channels with political parties. Daily briefings should be done until all the elections have been conducted. This is to remove doubts about the process that may be entertained by many stakeholders.

3.     Ballot papers and result sheets should be made available in all states at least 48 hours before elections are held. Accordingly, even if the papers are printed abroad, the materials must arrive in the country at least four days before scheduled elections.

 
  We do not accept lame excuses from vendors or INEC. What connection has Japan natural disaster with Nigerian elections? INEC must work to wipe away our shame by yet giving Nigerians highly transparent elections whose acceptability will be a given among Nigerians.

 
  I call on Nigerians to remain vigilant at polling booths, especially when INEC is implementing the modified open-secret ballot system. Those responsible for this national embarrassment should be identified, publicized, and adequately punished. We must not blame God as Professor Jega implied in his philosophical 'Man proposes and God disposes' mantra. I am sure God is not the one that has been dispensing discredited elections in Nigeria. Our religious (or rather dis-religious) propensities have attained nationally embarrassing levels.

 
  Finally, why must we print our election materials abroad? Ah, maybe the reason is why our big men prefer foreign hospitals to Nigerian ones; maybe that is why they prefer to send their children to study overseas. Our appetite for and patronage of foreign services and goods have been our bane. But will Nigerians do something to change this at the elections? The answer may just be few days away. Don't give up on Nigeria, my dear compatriot. The weapon of change lies in your hand-your vote.

 
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ). EMAIL: