For Jega, Action Please.


And so, at long last, the new leadership of INEC has gotten its wish to have a hefty sum of N87.7 billion approved for it to conduct a new voter's registration exercise. This is in line with popular views on this issue. By all means, this sum is not a chicken change (in  the oft repeated Nigerian parlance) and Nigerians expect to have added value for this money. Not that heftier sums have not been pilfered by unscrupulous and nefarious officers of the state in the past and not that heftier amounts will not be pilfered in the future or is not being pilfered now but the Attahiru Jega led INEC must understand that the approval of the amount comes with a subtle blackmail that will be laid to rest the moment he satisfies the craving of Nigerians for a free and credible election in 2011. I had maintained a stoic silence as the debate as to the appropriateness or otherwise of that hefty amount released to INEC for voters registration endured. It was deliberate and borne more out of a desire to educate myself better from the attacks and the defence of such huge budget. I wanted the dynamics to work out a possible solution and I believe in the approval of the amount, the issues have been worked out and we are on our way to a brand new and credible voters register to herald the ferocious demand for a free and fair election in 2011.

  I hope Jega and co know why that amount was approved for it because the demand for that money from Jega and team also came with a subtle blackmail. Perhaps, they thought that Nigerians would be dissuaded by the huge budget to agree to go to a crucial election with the distorted existing register. I hope they are not pleasantly surprised that the public rose to back their demand, which should inform them of the desperate yearning of Nigerians for credible polls. I hope they appreciate that Nigerians just want a free and credible election to usher in a leadership they can call their own in 2011. I hope they understand the importance of a new and unpadded voters register in this task and I believe they are in good stead to understand that Nigerians see a credible process as firmly hinged on a credible voters' register that will be trusted to rightly capture the actual number of voters in the country. I do believe that the Jega team knows the irredeemable shortfalls that attended the last so-called register carried out by the discredited former INEC leadership. They should appreciate that a voters' register that contains names like Muhammad Alli, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton , Mike Tyson, etc. is a macabre forgery that Nigerians would not vouch for to deliver a free and credible election. They should equally know the larger anxiety and anticipation about a credible election in 2011 and these helped give their demand a positive nudge from the expectant public.

  Now that the new INEC has gotten its wish, I believe they will have no room for failure; either in the voters' registration process or in the election proper. They have been placed on a historical pass they cannot afford to flunk. They have been given an irrevocable condition to perform. This comes without an alternative and they must blame themselves alone if they should misuse this opportunity. This is the blackmail that attended the approval and for them to deliver satisfactorily, Jega and his team must ask for the best of heavenly graces to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians in 2011. Yes, money can facilitate their delivery and they have it but then, they need to ask for courage and strength to resist the corrosive influence of political hustlers for that will prove their Achilles' heel if they flounder at any course in their present assignment. The greatest burden lies in Jega's head and for this, he must source the strength of character, anywhere he sees it, to ensure the nation is not treated to another nightmarish experience in 2011. He needs to source the right men that will assist him in this task and he needs to get the needful materials that will improve his delivery. Right now, Jega and company must hit the ground running. Time is not on their side but they have an achievable target if they must input sincerity and commitment to their task. They must move with a great precision to actualize the aspiration of Nigerians for a process that will not encumber their choice on who leads them from May 2011. Granted the mess the electoral process had been turned into in eleven years of unrelentless assailing is tremendous. Granted the process had been so intentionally scrambled to make it amenable to the intents of power racketeers and mongers but Jega can still redeem the process if he wants to but he should be prepared to make enemies of those that ensured we have so discredited a process in the first instance. His case is not made easier by the fact that those that will fall victim of his cleansing mission have entrenched themselves into all powerful political positions in the land. These are the indices that make his a suicidal mission but he has no choice than embark on it.

  The coming months will decide for Nigerians the sincerity of Jega and team. His body language and footwork will say much to this effect. He has made two great mistakes in his initial insistence to conduct the coming election with the mangled Iwu voters register and his public defence of Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, the former Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti who was at the center of a howling electoral perfidy in Ekiti last year. But Jega is still within redemptive range and he is the only person that can confirm or mar this expectation. So he should bank much on his body language from now and he needs to ooze out enough positive body movements to assure the yet doubtful Nigerians it is not the same old story. Granted, he has said a lot already but he needs to walk his talk and emit more positive promises.

  From now on, Nigerians are desirous of knowing the various stages and steps of the forthcoming election. They want to know how INEC plans to satisfactorily plans to deal with the recurring obstructions and malfeasance politicians bring to bear on elections, which has constituted a grave impediment to free electoral choice in the past eleven years. Nigerians need to know their roles in the process and how best they can contribute to arrest the predilection of politicians to twist the process for their benefits. Recently, former governor of Cross River State , Donald Duke came out with a bombshell on how governors rig elections in Nigeria . he must have limited the exposé to governors because he was once a governor that benefitted from such perfidy. Jega must read in Duke's confession a borderless crisis that permeates all strata of so-called elected officials and offer Nigerians. That document should present him a ready question and he must provide an answer that satisfies Nigerians on how best to curtail the excesses and intrusion of political office holders to the electoral process. He needs to tap into such similar insights and develop a modal Nigerians can hope on to deal with selfish interferences to the electoral process.

  By now, Jega and team should have told Nigerians the preferred electoral system to follow in the upcoming general election. Is it the present secret ballot system ? Is it the Option A4 system? Is it the open ballot system? If this is decided on, a free debate would have unmasked the strengths and weaknesses of each system for Nigerians to assist Jega to perfect. They should not entertain the thought that theirs is a single mission. Nigerians want to invest in the process for the cost of another fatal electoral crash will be too great to fathom. Let Jega and team come out with a system that is receptive to the contributions of Nigerians. For me, I still believe Option A4 is best for Nigerians for it inculcates attributes of both the secret and open ballot systems. This shall be well explored in future reports.

  All said, I want to assure Jega and team of the good wishes of Nigerians. They must not make the mistake of misplacing this nor should they take the favorable approval rating they got at their inauguration to mean that Nigerians will accept any charade from them in 2011. They should realize that the line between favorable public rating and outright public condemnation is very thin. They should not misconstrue the present public acclaim to mean a license to cook another phantom election for Nigerians in 2011. Now that Jega and team have gotten what they asked, Nigerians wait in anticipation for their broad plan for 2011. They must put them together and lay them in the public domain for vetting and that done, they must start now to put credible structures on the ground for a great delivery. Once again, I wish Prof. Jega and team well but they hold the key to their success.   Peter Claver Oparah. E-mail: