By Efio-Ita Nyok
In view of the political maneuvers, perceived shady dealings, accusations and counter-accusations between the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP, etc that has characterised the 2015 general elections in Nigeria; and in view of the fact that our political campaigns has not been quite mature in that ours has not been a campaign of issues or ideology but rather sentiments of varied orientations especially but regrettably religion and tribalism; it has become necessary to reflect with a critical bent on our political space with the aim of putting things into perspective and clearing the political cobwebs that may have overshadowed the minds of the less suspicious or even very sophisticated minds as well. While I do not claim unprecendented expertise in essays of the nature, the fact still remains that the question begging for authentic responses still remains: How independent is Nigeria’s INEC?.
I must admit that, what I term, ‘mechanical wranglings’ which has characterised this year’s general elections isn’t or shouldn’t be viewed as being totally out of place. There are obtainable elsewhere, even in so-called advanced societies. Nevertheless, irrespective of the political shenanigans, there is always an important infrastructure in any political process of this kind to checkmate the unbecoming of major political players, and thereby give credibility to the entire process in the long run. This supposed infrastructure is expected to be above board or unbiased. In fact, it is construed to be independent of whatever influences. It is the objective umpire who determines the rules of the game and is charged with ensuring that actors play according to the set down rules. In Nigeria’s case it’s the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
INEC has been under the able leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega. He came on board when INEC badly needed a facelift from the disrepute Professor Maurice Iwu sunk it into, in the hay days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo(1999-2007). Jega was reputed to be the right man for the job considering his antecedent in public service as vice-chancellor of Bayero University and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) boss in the 1990s where he was seen to be oppossing the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) before his appointment as INEC boss on June 8, 2010. Is he still who he is? Or, was he what he was perceived to be?
Jega slated the 14 & 28 February 2015 date of general elections. But the Presidency for whatever reasons insisted for a change of date. Addressing the Council of State, the INEC boss insisted that he was ready for elections come 14 February. The Presidency had to bully INEC into compliance by using Nigeria’s already biased armed forces who formally notified INEC of its inability to ensure adequate security come 14 and 28 February owing to the security challenge of the country and an intention to have a-6 week operation against the insurgency in the northeast of the country. The mere fact that the Presidency could pull through this clout suggest among other things that INEC isn’t independent as it were. The implications, to my mind, are such that undermine how free, credible, and fair this year’s elections would be.
To begin with, out of the 68 million eligible voters only 48 million had collected their Personal Voters Cards, PVCs. But Jega’s INEC insisted on their readiness. There may be explanations but other considerations discredit these alleged justifications. For instance, it has been revealed that of the 20 million remaining to collect their PVCs, majority were from the south-east and south-south of the country where we have traditional supporters of the presidential aspirant of the PDP. Why was it so? How did the north succeed to distribute about 95% percent of its PVCs despite the present security challenge?
Again, How will Jega dislodge the information making the rounds that thousands of Chadians, Cameroonians, and citizens of Niger have been successfully registered in order for them to be employed to rig the elections in favour of the APC seeing that he approved so many registration centres outside the country against international protocols?
How will Jega respond to the information suggesting that under-aged citizens have been registered and are seen to flaunt their PVCs in the northern axis of Nigeria seeing that some argue that this is common place in the north? I saw a picture of such kids. It is even estimated that about 3 million of such kids have been registered in Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Again, amputees totalling about 70,000 in Zamfara alone have been registered. Millions have been reported to have been registered in the north? How many amputees do we really have in Nigeria, Sir?
Why are polling materials already been seen in London before 28 March and 11 April? How are these taking place?
Why are appointments in INEC pro-northerners? These and many other questions seek clarification.
But, until then, that is, if at all they ever surface, it seems to me that Jega’s INEC is not above board. It may suffice to say that Jega may be an appendage of the northern hegemony who intend to perpetuate the ‘born to rule’ mantra of the north. This is perceived to being the case especially when we recall that Jega as Vice Chancellor of Bayero University had used his privileged position to discourage the proliferation of Christian fellowships in the university campus, but practically restricted Christian campus fellowship meetings to just the chapel, as against the multiplication of muslim campus worship centres in virtually all departments; more still, the contracts he made as Vice Chancellor have been discovered not to be based on due process but was heavily characterised by nepotism.
Be that as it may, with the influence from the presidency and that from the APC, it seems to me that this INEC is not independent. As such, the quality of freedom, fairness and credibility is under doubt. The 28 March and 11 April general elections may be another sham.