Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 13 September 2014 | 3,967 times
Billions of public funds have gone down the drain, funding the Prof Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since his team of management staff were picked by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and their subsequent confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dominated by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Majority of Nigerians can at best say that this very expensive electoral panel, perhaps the most expensive electoral umpire in the world, has done very little to win public confidence. Two descriptions are used by most people to contextualise the current INEC: inept and inefficient.
It would be recalled that during the 2011general elections, the Attahiru Jega-led INEC unilaterally cancelled an ongoing National Assembly election, costing the Nigerian people approximately N10 billion, because of poor supervision, which resulted in the lack of delivery of the needed electoral materials (reportedly from South Africa) by the firms contracted allegedly by INEC for that sensitive job. Till date, Nigerians are yet to know if these huge sums of public funds wasted in this futile exercise had been recovered from the failed contractors. Again, no information is available regarding whether INEC has successfully prosecuted these contractors for the abysmal failure and the naked show of shame.
From that 2011 election till date, this electoral panel has conducted several elections that have over time been overturned by several election petition tribunals, underpinning the malpractices and ineptitude that attended such electoral process undertaken by the Independent National Electoral Commission. But many Nigerians expected the Jega-led electoral commission to put its house in order ahead of the 2015 general election which, from all intents and purposes, were distant years from the date of the last major elections in 2011. Sadly, with few months and weeks to the all-important general elections in 2015, the Independent National Electoral Commission is still not sufficiently ready, even as the most important component of these national elections such as the voters’ registration is marred by operational nightmares and insider abuses.
Few days back, the electoral panel summoned Nigerians to proceed to collect the so-called permanent voters’ cards, preparatory for the coming February 14, 2015 polls. But, again, the professional incompetence and sheer mischief of this electoral panel were in high supply, because majority of Nigerians discovered to their chagrin that the so-called data-capturing machines, allegedly deployed in 2011 to register voters, did not work as expected because the names of most of the validly registered voters were either wiped out or compromised for no just reason. Even the graduates drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC] scheme to conduct the issuance of the so-called permanent voters' cards were not armed with any computer systems, but were left to attend manually to Nigerians who came out in greater number seeking to obtain their cards, which Attahiru Jega decreed will be the only permissible cards for those willing to cast their votes for their choice candidates in the 2015 elections; which have rightly or wrongly been classified as the most important election for the Sovereign Nigeria State.
It could be recalled that the Northern political entrepreneurs, who parade as politicians, have signified their determination to ensure that the presidential office shifts to their zone. The southern zone, which now holds the presidency courtesy of a landslide victory of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, has indicated that it will be constitutionally justifiable for the incumbent president to be allowed to go for a second bite of the cheery in 2015.
It is, therefore, safe to say that the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission, prior to this all-important election, cannot be overstated.
As a result, most observers believe that the apparent systemic failure of this INEC headed by Professor Jega to get right the issuance of the so-called permanent voter’s cards, may spell doom for the coming elections. As I put pen to paper, yours truly hasn’t gotten my so-called permanent voter’s card of Attahiru Jega-led INEC, which has been decreed as the valid card for next year’s election, despite evidence of my valid registration in the last registration, having been armed with the temporary voter's card which the INEC officials issued me. Findings from the central computer room in INEC shows that my name, as well as hundreds of thousands of other voters, have disappeared or made to disappear by INEC in what is now being suspected to be a grand conspiracy to deny us of our fundamental right to vote and be voted for.
The Attahiru Jega-led INEC recently distributed additional 30,000 wards and the method of distribution is skewed in favour of the North, which is the zone that produced Professor Attahiru Jega. Already accusations of a grand scale plot by the northern political establishment to hijack next year’s election has surfaced, not just from the South-east but also from many quarters in the South and Middle-Belt region of Northern Nigeria.
Even the ruling PDP in the South-east has rejected this Jega’s style of distribution of new electoral wards, which is favourable only to the North.
One time Anambra State governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, was among statesmen and women that have raised the alarm that INEC has been hijacked by the North, to actualise its unhidden agenda to take over power in 2015.
In a news report published by the popular Sun Newspaper, Chief Ezeife (Okwadike Igboukwu) , a known supporter of the current president and, indeed ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s former special adviser, premised the plot on the proposed review of polling units’ distribution chart in favour of the North and the attendant arrogance and overflowing confidence of leading politicians in the region, ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
The writer of the story recalled that this is the first time in history that the nation’s electoral umpire is headed by a Northerner. Ezeife, who spoke to Sunday Sun via electronic means, reportedly deplored the distribution of polling units by INEC, describing it as “shocking and a blatant rigging design with impunity.” He decried the imperial statements of Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido, saying they speak as people who have background information. “In that distribution, North-west has more than 7,000 units, the South-east is given about the same number of polling units as Abuja, the Federal Capital – just a little more than 1,000 units.
“The new distribution of polling units correlates negatively or inversely with the distribution of votes for Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election. The South-east is considered as Mr. President’s strongest support-base.”
Ezeife further revealed an impending plan by INEC to “clean up the voters” register, which is alleged to have resulted in wiping off more than half of South-east voters.
The above disclosure by the no-nonsense Harvard economist and retired perm sec, has led one to ask if this could be said to be what I have suffered in the hands of INEC: because this Jega-led INEC surreptitiously forced the disappearance of my name from the voters’ register.
Ezeife raised some posers: “In view of published distribution of polling units, doubt about the truth of this ‘clean-up’ is weakened. Is there a grand plan to rig the 2015 elections? Can it explain the indication of strong but very surprising confidence oozing out from the statements of some northern politicians, where ordinary political calculations and common sense will suggest total absence of hope? Does it give a clue to the attempt on Buhari’s life?”
Ezeife expressed optimism that the design will fail. He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to push for the confirmation of the report of the just-concluded National Conference, which has provided a framework for a new Nigeria in which all the groups in Nigeria can maximise their true interests.
But the good news, however, is that Nigerians still have enough time to drag Jega and his incompetent bunch of management staff to court, should they continue to show negative sign of a sinister plot aimed at disenfranchising Nigerians. Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the courts of competent jurisdiction the power to intervene and save Nigeria from the impending anarchy that may be visited on Nigeria, should INEC succeed in denying some Nigerians their constitutional right to vote in the coming elections guaranteed under chapter four of the 1999 Constitution.
This is the same INEC that is yet to tackle the issue of child-voters significantly noticeable in Northern Nigeria. The recent Katsina State local council poll saw the active participation of children below the voting age who voted without being challenged; and now it has failed abysmally to show Nigerians a clear justification for the billions of naira that reportedly went into digitalising the voters register. What is at play in this national fiasco and show of shame, witnessed only few days back when majority of Nigerians couldn’t get their permanent cards, is that this INEC has remained consistently unteachable and unrepentant.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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