REPENTANT DONALD DUKE
Even as Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan told the international community that Nigerians were sold out to having a free and fair elections in their country. They wanted their votes to count in ceding their power to particular politicians. They want to be sure that power belongs to the people even if God still has a hand in deciding those to whom the people transmit the said power through their votes. Jonathan said that much in his CNN interview. When he eventually mounted the saddle, he pledged to bring that national desire to reality. Short of outright declaration of a two-point agenda the new president focused on power and credible elections. His priorities were right.
There had been a shouting match between political parties. Elections have never been won and lost, free and square. Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, the former military Head of state, hell bent on wearing the civilian toga of that position, says he has never lost any election. Reason: No such exercise has been free and fair. And to make the point, he always took recourse in the courts. It didn't matter that they never agreed with him. His consistent court appearances were good enough showing for his disapproval of the process. Several others like him think and act in similar way.
Jonathan says he would make parties with the best rigging machinery stand out as lepers in the polity. They would be repulsive and thus lose relevance.
Now previous beneficiaries of electoral malfeasance have gone on a confession spree. Plugging the holes have been made easy. Ex Governor Donald Duke spilled the beans the other day in Abuja. He described in rather vivid oral pictures, the rigging process, which he said, begins long before election Day. The states Resident Electoral Commissioners [RECs] commence the wrecking process on arrival. Duke says on paying their first courtesy visit to their duty posts, the RECs receive perks by way of Guest Houses and official cars from the governors on arrival. The compromise commences at that point. Do they not say that one good turn deserves another? How would a REC announce results against his benefactor?
The corollary is an implied poor funding of the REC's employer. If the commissioner came prepared he could only have been driven by greed to seek another accommodation and means of movement from someone he was expected to examine. Now that the riggers are repentant and have begun to make confessions, the nation must take advantage of it. They cannot make restitution. Some have argued that Duke's new- found holy posturing stems from his touted exit from the Peoples Democratic Party believed to be custodian of the largest rigging machinery in the land.
The nation ought to gain from the foregoing. If Jonathan's wish to leave a legacy of transparent electoral process is not to be construed as the sweet coated talk of a power seeker, then he must join in the lobby train to persuade the National Assembly to give Professor Attahiru Jega what he needs to function well. The INEC boss has lately been sweating to pull his budget through both chambers. The eagle-eyed members, whose scrutiny seem limited to financial issues not pertaining to them, have picked holes with Jega's submission. They have threatened to cut the budget by ten percent. They say Jega's allowance of 30 percent profit margin for vendors of the Direct Capture machine is outrageous. Jega says his sublime intention is to get the machines directly from manufacturers.
'If for any reason we cannot get it directly from the manufacturers then we have to get it from the vendors. So the profit margin is added to take care of procurement from vendors. If we get the machine directly from the manufacturers, we will save we will save the 13.7 billion budgeted for profit margin. Few other issues had also received temporary knock from the lawmakers who had told Jega to beware of civil servants. They could build in all sorts of things into the budget. 'let people not take advantage of the fact that we are in a hurry to deliver the voters register within a short time and ask for all sorts of frivolous funds. We will not say because we have limited time and go ahead to approve frivolous figures' says Senator Iyiola Omisore, chairman of Appropriation committee.
It is just as well that the lawmakers are keen and Jega has given the promise above. But Duke's whistle still rings loud. Clearly rigging begins at the point of funding for the electoral body. For whatever reason Duke blew the whistle, the authorities must act fast. It may be the belated confession of an election rigger but it holds the key to put a permanent stop to a malfeasance fast becoming the electoral culture in this clime. A lie told severally begins to appear like the truth.
The best offenders must not continuously reap the fruit of their brigandage. For so long as the peoples vote fail to count for that long would public officers continue to perpetuate treasury looting and bad governance given that they cannot be accountable to people whose consent play no role in their stay in power. The Resident Electoral Commissioners now know that we know. Thanks to Donald Duke. Perhaps the blame net can now be cast afar, beyond the INEC boss. Maybe we ought to send apologies to Professor Maurice Iwu who was vilified and sacrificed while his Commissioners were having a ball.