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Friday, 9 September 2011



By Emmanuel Onwubiko

There is a popular adage among Africans that “only a lazy farmer complains regularly that his tools are not working” even when he is aware that he is incompetent and lazy. In February when the Independent National Electoral Commission set out to register Nigerians, evidences of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, ineptitude and crass incompetence showed their ugly heads because the officials of the electoral body led by the former University administrator Attahiru Jega could not carry out smooth and unimpeded registration of voters so much so that a greater proportion of Nigerians of voting age were systematically and criminally disenfranchised by the electoral body.

Attahiru Jega told the nation then that the computers brought in by INEC’s contractors for the registration exercise were yet to be properly configured and therefore experts from the parent company of the data capturing machines have been dispatched to different locations across the country to effectively handle the emerging challenges. But the registration exercise went ahead in very poor and abysmal situation making it impossible for a lot of eligible Nigerians to be captured to vote in the April 2011 elections. In Cross River State for instance, the Resident Electoral Commissioner Mr. Mike Igini, was accused of official indiscretion which made it impossible for majority of voters to be captured.

Several civil society groups including Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, [HURIWA], in a petition to the hierarchy of the electoral commission, accused Mike Igini thus; “…It is therefore with trepidation that we bring to your attention the serious allegations of professional incompetence allegedly associated with Mr. Mike Igini’s conduct of the recently ended Voters’ registration exercise in Cross River State which precipitated the alleged systematic disenfranchisement of a greater percentage of eligible voters in Cross River State and also to bring to your notice the complaints by our members in Cross River state and confirmed by Mr. Igini himself in a media publication that the just ended display of voters register did not take place in Cross River state because the Resident Electoral Commissioner is on record as saying that he was not in a hurry to display the authentic voters register even when he is well aware that there is a legal time frame meant for that very strategic component of the electoral regime in the ongoing democratic process”.

After the shoddy and shabby registration then came the even poorer display of voters register across all registration points in the country because so many eligible voters discovered that their names disappeared overnight. On Saturday 2nd April 2011 when the National Assembly poll was to take place following positive assurances, Jega the man who raised the optimism of Nigerians that he was ready to go ahead with the exercise, disappointed millions of Nigerian voters when he announced a postponement till Monday 4th April but following a barrage of attacks from a cross section of critical minded Nigerians that election was not realistic on the following Monday because it was almost impossible to replace and retrieve ballot papers already distributed to voters across the country and the much dreaded Electoral Officers, Jega again announced that it has been further postponed till 9th April. Is Attahiru Jega a lame duck or an authoritarian administrator who has only come to terms when he has disappointed Nigerians?

Piqued by the unprecedented show of incompetence by the electoral body, several civil society organizations have called for the immediate sack of Jega as a way of restoring the faith and confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system.

One of such groups HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, [HURIWA] condemned the decision of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] to postpone the National Assembly election till Monday April 4th 2011 and has called on the National Assembly and the President to sack with immediate effect Professor Attahiru Jega and appoint one of the most experienced National Commissioners to oversee the conduct of all the elections in line with the electoral Act 2010 as amended.

The group hinged their call for the immediate sack and prosecution of Professor Attahiru Jega on the fact that his official indiscretion for failing to prepare adequately for the exercise has undermined the smooth conduct of the polls which resulted in its sudden cancellation. The group believes that what Professor Jega has done now amounted to 'sabotage' which must not go unpunished.

The group said that the puerile reason adduced by Professor Jega that the vendors failed to deliver the result sheets before the commencement of the now postponed exercise was a clear indication that the electoral panel as currently constituted is not competent and ready to conduct smooth and transparently credible polls even as the Rights body said the development shows that Professor Jega is not in control and therefore may
not be in a position to deliver on his much publicized promise to conduct free, fair and credible elections this Month.

HURIWA said; '"We in the nation's human rights community are gravely worried that Professor Jega contrary to all assurances from him is not in anyway in control of the situation in INEC and therefore Nigeria will be saved from the impending anarchy if he is removed as the Chairman of the electoral commission and somebody much more experienced and competent should be appointed to take up the position on interim basis and conduct the elections….” 

Writing on “How Jega shamed us all”, Eric Osagie, a senior editor of Sun group of Newspapers said of Jega’s failure last Saturday thus; “I do not understand the courage some people are talking about in Jega’s apology or accepting full responsibility for the botched Saturday poll. A man fails an exam and announces that he has failed, what is the courage displayed in that when, in any case, it is clear to all and sundry that the man hasn’t done well. As for accepting full responsibility, who should share the responsibility for his dismal performance with him? If the vendors failed to deliver as promised, why has no one named them or their companies? Are they ghost contractors or companies?”

The best way to stop Jega and some of his Spin doctors before they destroy Nigeria is to flush him out of INEC and for experienced commissioner in that Agency to head the place on interim measures to rescue the remaining aspects of the election’s calendar.

*          Onwubiko is with Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.


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