The just concluded 2011 general elections in Nigeria have been widely acclaimed to be successful but not without the usual problems, drama and controversies which characterize Nigeria’s elections since independence.
It is a good development that we are beginning to get things right. With the botched April 2, 2011 National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerians began to lose confidence in the ability of Professor Attahiru Jega, a man widely believed to have the integrity and credibility needed by an INEC chair, to deliver a free, fair and credible election which has become a mantra during the build-up to the elections.
Just some few hours into the NASS election, their was a breaking news that the elections into the Senate and the House of Representatives have been postponed till the next Monday due to the late arrival of some sensitive materials required for the election. Again, less than 24 hours after Professor Jega’s shocking, embarrassing, surprising, unfortunate, disappointing cancellation and postponement of the National Assembly elections, there was also breaking news stating the re-postponement of the earlier scheduled date for the NASS election to Saturday 9th April, 2011.
This further made the citizens apprehensive and unsure of what happen to Nigeria in the next few weeks especially as African countries have been thrown into deep crises due to their inability to have a smooth transition from one government to the other. Many people had wondered why the NASS election was postponed to Monday 4th April, 2011 rather than the next Saturday. Guess Professor Attahiru Jega led INEC mentioned that date under pressure but later realized it was not feasible besides the May/June WAEC examinations was billed to commence on 4th of April, 2011.
Nigerians went about their duties still apprehensive about the effects of the bombshell and history making event of INEC. Really, it was difficult to come to terms with the postponement of the NASS election but again, it only confirmed the fact that anything can happen in Nigeria.
The 2011 general elections brought about some changes which many Nigerians have been clamoring for since the build-up to the elections. Though the results might not entirely reflect the true wishes of the Nigerian people, it shows that we are gradually getting there. Getting to a point when the vote of all Nigerians would count. There were concerns that the turn out of the people will be poor owing to the disappointing cancellation and postponement of the NASS election by INEC but luckily enough, Nigerians were still enthusiastic about the 2011 general elections.
The Nigerian electorate has so far been commended for turning out enmass to vote for the candidates of their choice despite INEC’s initial monumental failure. Professor Jega cited his commitment to ensuring that Nigeria have a free, fair and credible election as a reason for the difficult but necessary decision taken by INEC. But Nigerians were already skeptical about Professor Jega’s ability and competence. The postponement of the most anticipated election in Nigeria which the worst electoral umpires in Nigeria’s history never attempted contributed to the fears of Nigerians. Besides there were reports of late arrival of electoral officers and materials. Some people could not find their names on the accreditation sheet. Also, some political party’s names and logos were not in the ballot paper. In fact, an entire street was disenfranchised. They could not exercise their civic responsibilities as citizens of Nigeria after going through the stress of registering their names during the voter’s registration which lasted for about three weeks. This made some Nigerians lose hope in the entire process. However, it was hoped that INEC would have addressed these issues before the new date for the NASS election. But unfortunately, some Nigerians could still not find their names on the accreditation sheet during the April 9 NASS election. It was reported that over 20,000 voters with authentic voter’s cards could not vote because their names were not on the register. These people still continued to hope that something would be done before the presidential election. But some of them were disenfranchised again. The affected Nigerians were disenfranchised just like those who could not register during the voter’s registration due to maldistribution of data capturing machines. These Nigerians are not happy with the conduct of the 2011 general elections because they were not given the chance to exercise their rights. Although INEC has apologized for the inability of such Nigerians to vote but the deed had already been done. In the end, there were some changes, even though not to the extent Nigerians had expected after many years of self-imposition and unimaginative leadership. No doubt, Nigerians deserve to be led by new crop of leaders with vision for the country and her citizens.
Fortunately, Professor Attahiru Jega has been able to justify the confidence reposed in him and redeem his image both at home and internationally. He is the man of the moment. Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the 2011 general elections are the only ones that has been applauded by all and sundry, Nigerians at home and in dispora as well as the international community.
During the NASS election which took place on April 9, 2011, there were some issues. Some political party’s logos were still missing on the ballot paper; there was low turn out of voters in some parts of the country due to the INEC headquarters’ bomblast; loss of confidence in INEC and apprehension of another postponement. In Iloye, Ogun State and Bayelsa State, there was ballot box snatching. A total of 117 ballot boxes were reported to have been snatched across the country during the NASS election. The culprits are yet to face the full weight of the law for their actions.
Another event that is typical of the electioneering process in Nigeria was the controversy over who won in the Anambra Central Senatorial election. The INEC returning officer, Dr. Alex Anene was pressured to announce results for Anambra Central Senatorial District involving Dr. Chris Ngige of ACN, Professor Dora Akunyili of APGA and other candidates. Dr. Anene was reportedly promised the sum of N10 million, a car and a duplex among other things. In a bid to address the impasse, INEC ordered a re-run and appointed a new returning officer, Professor Charles Asimonye. But shortly afterwards, the decision was reversed and Dr. Chris Ngige of the ACN was announced winner of that election. In the twinkling of an eye, the Anambra Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Professor Chukwuemeka Onuknogu said Dr. Chris Ngige’s victory was illegal. INEC chair, Professor Attahiru Jega also said there was no winner yet in the Anambra Central Senatorial election besides the commission had set up a probe panel to investigate the controversy in order to get to the root of the matter. Finally on April 26, 2011, a re-run was held in 10 wards and result announced showed that Dr. Ngige was the winner. There were so many complaints arising from the NASS elections. Under-aged voters were reported to have voted in Kano. The Lagos PDP said the NASS election was far from free and fair, they accused the ACN of bribery and rigging. ANPP in Kogi State alleged that there were irregularities and threatened to boycott the presidential elections if not addressed. REC’s were accused of collaborating with some parties to swing election results. Some politicians stormed INEC headquarters to ask for the cancellation of results. The ACN in Kwara State and some other parties threatened to challenge results of the NASS election. In short, many political parties rejected the NASS election results. Political parties favored by the NASS election results agreed that the elections were free and fair while those not favored alleged that there were irregularities. Some winner
s of the NASS election also alleged threats to their lives. All these confirmed the European Union (EU) observer’s description of the NASS election which said that “the NASS election was a positive step but improvements are needed”.
Fifteen Senatorial Districts as well as forty-six Federal Constituency’s election were “re-re-postponed” to 26, April 2011 by INEC. There was no election in these federal constituencies and senatorial districts due to lack of election materials. Shortage of ballot papers also led to the disenfranchisement of people who were supposed to vote during the National Assembly elections that were held on the 9th of April, 2011. In response to these problems, Professor Jega said adequate measures had been taken to address the problems of NASS election. The INEC chair assured of better polls on Saturday April 16, 2011 and also hinted on his plans to restore sufficient credibility to the election process. Professor Attahiru Jega was true to his words. Even the European Union (EU) observer mission agreed that the conduct of the presidential election was better than that of the NASS election. Individuals with missing names and pictures were asked to request for an addendum. May INEC officials arrived on time in many places across the country.
Most of the presidential candidates agreed that the conduct of the election was good. They promised to accept the result of the presidential election in good faith. Some said they would accept the people’s verdict provided the election was free, fair and credible. The emergence of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the winner of the presidential election is against some people’s perception and opinion about the president. Does it mean that Dr. Jonathan had the national appeal to be re-elected? Did the allegation made by the presidential candidate of the CPC, Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari during an interview on Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service that the ACN and the PDP were working on a sharing formula for cabinet positions in the aftermath of the presidential election had anything to do with it? Or was President Jonathan underestimated as someone who does not have the clout to win elections all on his own? Reports about the very low turn out of people in states like Ogun, Kogi, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Lagos, Benue, Ekiti; the alleged working agreement between the PDP and the ACN; the victory of PDP in Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Edo and Oyo States which are considered as the strongholds of the ACN; the plans of Dr. Jonathan to match Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Naira for Naira; the ACN denial of the former Governor of Lagos State’s alleged deal Dr. Jonathan through Chief Bisi Akande; the desertion of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu by Asiwaju Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande; the stepping down of presidential candidates of six political parties for Dr. Jonathan and the adoption Dr. Jonathan by the Labor Party and other political parties as their candidate paints a gloomy picture of the country’s political future. It remains to be seen whether the allegations leveled against the ACN leadership by the presidential candidate of the CPC, Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari are true. Events following the swearing-in of Dr. Jonathan will show whether or not a deal was struck to deliver all the Southwestern states to the PDP in the presidential election.