En route another general election, there is every need to keep INEC on its toes and ensure that our hopes for a credible process of leadership selection is not wrecked once again, as we have been accustomed to in recent times. There is need for eager Nigerians to step up the pressure on INEC to deliver considering the great cost the country is bound to incur if we are made to gobble yet another nauseous charade as in 2003 and 2007. I urge all credible groups and individuals in Nigeria that really desire a decent walk away from the discernible state of Hades threatening the country to gird our loins and help INEC to deliver a credible process that will not only simmer down the heightened political temperature but also arrest the noticeable predilection to violent fracture, which we deny to our collective grief.
Now, despite my loud doubts about the conduct of the just concluded voters register, I believe we all need to swallow the abject incongruities that threaten the credibility of the registration exercise as well as the final figures INEC would have us believe constitute the registered voters in Nigeria today. I counsel that we all work with the figure INEC has at hand presently as a working instrument in our desire to walk away from the shameful vestiges of shambled elections and have leaders we can own up to as being our free and unforced choices, believing they will work to clear the heavy tar of leadership dementia that envelopes the country like a heavy pall. I can say that despite my optimism in the INEC registration exercise, I was hugely disappointed by the final results of the exercise, especially in its observable inclination to restrict the number of registered voters from the South East and the South South but as I had said, let us leave that for another day.
For now, I want to restrict the purview of this report to the charge that there exist about 30,000 fake polling units in Nigeria. There is the charge that these fake polling units are the trump cards of inordinate politicians who are on a desperate mission to manipulate the coming election to their advantage. This story is disturbing and given the desperate attitude of politicians, must challenge any INEC leadership, desirous of making a clean break from the farcical concoctions that our electoral process has been reduced to in recent times, to action and urgent action for that matter. If 30,000 out of our 120,000 polling units in the country are fake, then one doesn’t need to look farther to know why our elections had been mere howling parodies that work from the answer to the question. I don’t have any reason to doubt this report. I don’t think any reasonable Nigerian should doubt this but then, it is left for Jega and his INEC to disprove this allegation. It is left to them to sort this out by simply carrying out an audit of the 120,000 touted election units in the country and publishing them for all to know. I do not think there should be any secrecy on where the units are and if they are found to be domiciled in the homesteads of party roughnecks, chieftains, traditional rulers or opinion leaders, they should be quickly relocated to public places where voting could be carried out unencumbered and unhindered.
I prescribe this because there were wide ranging allegations of surreptitious registration in the homes of party chiefs and government officials during the recent registration exercise. This is not a good development that will aid Jega in his oft expressed desire to give Nigerians a credible election next month. My wonder is if the statistic from such clandestine registration that could be anything but free and fair, formed part of the final figures INEC released. If it does, there is great need to further vet the process to weed out those illegally registered; especially with the less than satisfactory manner INEC handled the filtering process that would have ensured the elimination of multiple registrations from the new voters register. We need to know from where Jega got his final numbers and I don’t think that this is too much for curious Nigerians to know.
In a nutshell, I am challenging INEC and its leadership to come out and prove to Nigerians that there are no fake polling units in the country by publishing the names and details of all the polling units and leaving them to be verified by the voters. Total tally of votes at the end of the election should be from these confirmed voting centers and not those located in the bedrooms of government officials and traditional rulers, most of who, in cahoots with those in government, are always fingered in vote manipulation in this country. The total list of all the polling booths and their locations should be immutable statistics that are not subjected to the whimsical interests of politicians and all other stakeholders. Such list must be duplicated and sent to all the political parties and published in the national dailies for people to raise their objections. I believe this is a critical necessity for a free and fair election and will certainly help Jega and co to strike good results in their avowal to give the country a credible election in April. Muddling these allegations means that so many Nigerians that have grown to doubt the sincerity of those that work for government will go to the next polls with the impression of unaccredited voters in unaccountable polling units cancelling their legally cast votes and this is indeed bad for the system.
Another critical factor Jega must ensure is the credibility of his Resident Electoral Commissioners posted to the various states. There have been several complaints against most of the RECs in various states and most of them bother on proclivity to parties in power in their respective states. Jega must ensure that those sent as Resident Electoral Commissioners are above board and not easily swayed by the nectars that are bound to be unleashed to sway them to work for the governments in power at all levels. Let the ground be even for every party and contestant. I think that should be the by word of every politician in this very crucial race and I believe that is the by word of every Nigerian that desires competent and capable leadership to restore the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians at this very low ebb of our history.
Jega must do everything to free the system of the negative influence of unscrupulous characters that would not mind playing with the interests and all the expectations placed on the coming election. One would suggest that Jega juggle his RECs at the very last minute so as to arrest the tendency of some to trade with the interests of the people. Again, Prof. Jega must develop means of cutting off this traditional impediment to free and credible election by thinking out ways of freeing the process from the influence of corrupt RECs. He must know that these RECs hold the credibility to his success and not allow their indiscretion to spoil his desire to give Nigerians an election they would be proud of.
I therefore urge Jega to move with speed to do a quick audit of the polling booths in the country, publish them for people to raise their objections as a way of addressing the allegation of the existence of illegal polling units. Again, he needs to watch his RECs closely and replace any of them that is alleged to share close affinity with their state governors or other interests. I want to rest my case for now but will continue to engage Jega’s INEC till Nigerians belch satisfactorily that we have a credible election to point out to by the close of the polls in April 2011.