Watching the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega this morning (5am Mountain Time and about 1pm Nigerian Time) in a national broadcast regarding the postponement of today’s’ elections in Nigeria, I only but felt pity for the INEC Chairman. I felt pity for him because this seems to be a sincere and honest Nigerian trying to make a mark in Nigerian history but is been sabotaged. I felt pity for him because he appears so naïve and innocent that he cannot quickly decipher pranks vendors play, especially when it is political. But I won’t blame him for the later because this is an uncharted territory for him (dealing with vendors/contractors).
Professor Jega succinctly stated reasons why the elections have been postponed till the 4th of April, 2011. Among the reasons adduced by this erudite and well-respected scholar are:
1. Elections materials did not arrive on time
2. Vendor claimed the disaster in Japan affected the supply of election materials
3. Vendor claimed the crisis in Libya affected the supply of election materials
4. Vendor claimed cargo planes could not deliver elections materials due to the above concerns in Japan and Libya, respectively.
At the end of his broadcast, the announcer stated that the INEC chairman will not entertain any questions because it is a broadcast. But journalists who gathered and listened to the INEC chairman’s broadcast raised their voices in dissent. They all barked “no, no, no. There must be questions.” The INEC chairman then interjected and agreed to take some questions. Among the questions raised were:
1. What assurances can you give Nigerians that this election will hold on the 4th?
2. Will there be public holiday on the 4th?
3. Does this mean that Nigerian cannot hold credible elections?
4. We hear that a vendor did not supply ballot papers on time. Can you be forthcoming about this?
Overall, there were six questions asked. The professor made notes while these questions where being asked. He labored to provide answers as much as he could. To me, I saw an uncomfortable INEC chairman. I saw a hoodwinked and discomfited professor. I saw a shocked man. Yes it is true that the vendor had promised the INEC chairman that these election materials will get to soils Nigeria on Friday at two different times or hours but was disappointed. The vendor only brought in the materials at 8am on the Election Day. True there were Nigerian Air force planes waiting at the Murtala Muhhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nigeria to deliver these ballot papers and election result sheets to the various states affected, but there were no guarantees that these election materials would have made it at all the polling booths on time. So the decision by the INEC chairman to put off the scheduled national assembly elections.
In his broadcast, Professor Jega attempted to explain the fact that for us, Nigerians, to have credible, free and fair elections everything must be played by the books. And all players must play by the rules. I think Professor Jega took the bulls by the horns by putting off this national assembly election. He took the right decision and I believe history will judge him well on his actions. Assuming he didn’t take this crucial and all important step of postponing the elections, what would have happened? My thinking is this: this might be a ploy by the vendor and some politicians to thwart the efforts of Professor Jega and the Federal government in their promise for free and free elections. I want to believe that this particular vendor may have contracted with corrupt politicians to discredit the Federal Government’s efforts towards ensuring that Nigerians are bequeathed with rigging-free elections. The reasons produced and manufactured by this particular contractor are simply baseless and flimsy. This national assembly election was not fixed a month ago. The contract was not awarded a week ago. The Japan disaster did not happen a day ago. The Libya imbroglio did not start a minute ago. So why is this vendor supplying today’s’ elections materials at the dead hours when everyone has lined up for accreditation and in full voting spirit? These election materials should have been in the country for over a minute, a day, a month ago. What is the fear? Is it the security of the election materials? What happened to the Central Bank safes? What happened to the safes in the commercial banks? Couldn’t those materials have been delivered to an army barrack and have them safeguarded by our military?
This smells of sabotage. This does not sound well. There is something going on here. There is something missing here. I want Nigerians to clamor for investigation of this vendor. He has embarrassed the nation. He has embarrassed INEC. He needs to be brought to book. And all future contracts must be taken away from him and given to the contractors/contractor who has delivered and can deliver.