Ekiti and Osun Polls: Jega’s INEC Must Redeem Its Image By Erasmus Ikhide
Political observers are not particularly in high spirit as INEC’s train is in top gear to relocate from the South-East to the South-West, where gubernatorial elections are scheduled to be held in Ekiti and Osun states this year. INEC’s latest fiasco in Anambra State governorship election basically ceded its already battered image to the abyss.
The supposedly benign electoral umpire turned monstrously malignant has not shown any serious sign of compulsive penitence or fervent avowal that the forth coming elections in Ekiti and Osun States would not be worse than the last heist, apart from the usual noncommittal preachment of “we will do better” from Prof Attahiru Jega, the Commission’s chairman.
Any serious minded organisation in the stead of INEC which bears the lot of harnessing voters’ voices, transforming it into franchise-driven governance in the people’s interests, would take a step further to educate and intimate the populace about the internal mechanisms put in place to check the earlier premeditated flaws and ineptitude that have become current with the organisation in handling elections in the country.
Now, who can trust Jega-led commission to conduct credible polls in Osun and Ekiti states this year, going by the way the electoral body performed in Anambra State recently? Who will not accuse the Federal Government and the INEC of planning to rig the governorship elections that are to be held in the two states any time from now? If Jega could fail woefully to conduct a credible poll in less than one year, what is the possibility that subsequent elections in the country will be flawless? What efforts is Jega’s INEC making to dissuade Nigerians from believing that the shameful conduct of the INEC in the inconclusive Anambra State governorship election is not a pointer to what should be expected from the electoral body in the Ekiti and Osun states governorship polls respectively?
The credibility problem suffered by the commission in Anambra State election informed the Nigeria Bar Association’s NBA position that INEC, as presently constituted has lost its bearing and cannot be trust by Nigerians to conduct credible elections in the foreseeable future. In a communiqué at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Nasarawa State recently, the NBA described the governorship election in Anambra State as embarrassing and unacceptable.
The President, Okey Wali, SAN, who read the communiqué said, , “The inconclusiveness of the said elections and the serious operational and logistical challenges that gave rise to the supplementary elections have created serious doubts in the minds of Nigerians regarding the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct acceptable elections in 2015. The NBA views as very embarrassing and unacceptable the inconclusiveness of the Anambra State governorship election, occasioned by operational and logistic challenges in an election supervised by six national commissioners, 15 Resident Electoral Commissioners and a galaxy of permanent staff from the contiguous states.”
Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has lost as much faith in the commission as the NBA. Aregbesola who has become the highest election manipulation victim in Nigeria and had had to retrieve his mandate through judicial intervention after two years of legal tussle and fireworks does not want to suffer fool gladly any more. He became governor on November 26, 2010, after he was declared the winner of the April 14, 2007 governorship election by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, which sacked Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the PDP.
“It is significantly illogical for Jega’s INEC to argue that the magnitude of the infractions at the last election in Anambra was not sufficient to cancel the election outright. We cannot trust a body with such illogical thinking to do a good job of the next election especially because even the basis of that process – which is the voters register – had been mysteriously mutilated so massively that a considerable number of voters could not find their names on a register that had contained their names at the verification process”, Aregbesola said. To be candid, the avoidable pitfalls that dogged Anambra polls is such that would create the impression the Jega’s INEC is programmed for mischief and failure from the outset.
But Jega, a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, whom I earlier referred to elsewhere as an “accident of history” said the commission had learnt its lessons from the Anambra poll. In an address to his 37 resident electoral commissioners not too long ago, he admonished that the conduct of the governorship elections in both Ekiti and Osun states would be a catalyst for the conduct of the 2015 general elections, a clear self-indictment of his artful failure in the Anambra election and some of the others before it.
“The lessons we have learnt from Anambra election have to be factored into our preparation for 2015 general elections. I want to use this opportunity to commend all the RECs and staff in the states to ensure that we are one as we prepare towards the 2015 general elections.
“As we are all aware, we are moving towards the last lap of our work and preparation in the next one month or so as we prepare for the 2015 general election. May I use this opportunity therefore to ask all of us to contribute our best as we prepare for that election. Of course there will be two other governorship elections Ekiti and Osun states, before we go into the poll.
“The challenge for us is to ensure that we make the two governorship elections a test case in terms of remarkable improvement before the 2015 general elections. Obviously, all the lessons we have learnt from Anambra and all the efforts that we have been making to make 2015 successful and credible election, I will have to also ensure that they are factored into our preparation for the 2015 general election”, he said.
Nigerians are worried that INEC is perhaps condemned to reaping the same tendencious “mistake” again. The open confession of failure and accepting of responsibility by the commission for the electoral fraud committed in the November 16th, 2013 Anambra State governorship has not fully redeemed her image. The electoral body has to ensure that one of her member of staffs being prosecuted for short-changing Anambra citizens did not escape just punishment due him. The essence of this is to prohibit any member of INEC’s staff from sabotaging the reform so carried out by the commission or compromise the people’s electoral rights in the foreseeable future.
More worried are friends of Nigerian who have consistently voiced their concerns that the country may roll back on the pages of time if certain issues are not properly addressed; including free, credible and acceptable election by 2015. The task of ensuring that the nation remained together in one peace laid squarely on Jega Commission’s shoulders.
However, the electoral umpire vow to deliver on its promise once the commission’s financial obligations are met. The electoral body has proposed to spend at least, $7.9 on each of the 73.5m electorate captured in its register which would be used for the 2015 general elections in the country. The total amount was estimated at N93bn.
“Our estimate is that the cost of election per voter, which is an international standard for viewing the cost of elections, is coming down in Nigeria. We project that for the 2015 elections, this would come further down by almost $1 from $8.8 in 2011 to $7.9, representing almost a 10 per cent drop. This compares favourably with some other African countries. However, we are anxious about getting all our funding requirements being met well in advance of the 2015 general elections”, Jega said.
Interestingly, the Federal Government has allocated N45 billion in 2014 budget to enable the commission prepare adequately for the 2015 general elections, out of the actual amount for the successful conduct of the election. It would be exclusively INEC’s undoing if the Federal Government meets up with the remaining balance of N48 billion with the next year’s budget or through special fund. INEC must strive to write its name in gold this time.
Besides, the other probable fear is the manipulative machines of the PDP that surpasses whatever ingenious reform the electoral body is trying to put in place. Jega’s INEC cannot afford to compromise Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, which in itself would amount to shattering the nation’s hope for 2015 election and by unmistakable extension, the hope for the nation’s survival beyond 2015.
Erasmus Ikhide writes from Lagos Nigeria.
Tell: 23480 5622 5515
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com