Jega: Another long walk to credible elections
Few weeks after writing about the new helmsman in INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega in an article titled ÔÇśAttahiru Jega: Is he not overrated?'; I am compel by patriotic zeal to alert Nigerians that it's becoming lucid that this man's appointment is a mistake. Professor Jega seems to be a nice man saddled with a responsibility far beyond his capacity and astuteness. He is obviously walking the path of failure, and painfully can't decipher any other path to avoid this visible catastrophe awaiting him, INEC and the rest of us come 2011 elections.
Professor Attahiru Jega may be an accomplished university lecturer and administrator; but his few weeks as INEC chairman has revealed that the man lacks some of the basic deftness required in providing good results in a national assignment of the magnitude of INEC. Just recently, he admitted before a team of journalist of a print media organisation that he was not expecting the daunting challenges he presently encountering in INEC. Even though he claimed he is up to the task, his actions and body language in the last few days point otherwise.
The hue and cry over professor Maurice Iwuh' tenure as INEC chairman was anchored on the monumental failure of the 2007 elections, which was conducted under his headship of the electoral body. Despite Iwuh's computerisation of INEC's activities, and the assurances from him that everything is in placed to give us a credible election; the entire process and eventual results of that election were the worst sham ever recorded in the history of party politics in Nigeria. The eventual fall of Iwuh and the coming of Attahiru Jega was welcomed with relief and great hope.
The ominous signs on the forthcoming elections under Jega seem to be pointing at the same disappointing ending as Iwuh's 2007 elections. The recent bye election in Ilaje in Ondo state, though won by Labour Party has shown that under Jega there will be no difference with what was obtain under Iwuh. With media reports alleging ballots snatching and voters' intimidation at the poll; and some parties accusing INEC officials and the police at the various polling centres of bias and open support for one of the parties in the poll. Now, where is the difference between the Iwuh's era and this one?
While, Attahiru Jega demanded for N74 billion to conduct voters' registration; and we should not forget he is still not sure of the required amounts he needs. He wants to acquire 120,000 biometric data capturing machines; a little over three years ago, Professor Iwuh's acquired the same type of machines, which Jega is claiming are inferior; because of that, Jega wants to acquire new ones. If truly, Iwuh's machines are inferior, why must Nigeria buy new ones? Where are those who supplied these inferior machines, can't they be ask to replace them or refund the money with accruable interest? What about the INEC officials who accepted these machines and certified them good for use, how comes no head is rowing in the commission right now, for this crime against Nigeria state? Where is ICPC and EFCC in all of this?
Meanwhile our extravagant and purposeless federal legislators have now increased Jega's budget to N89 billion and have passed it; despite the fact that the initial N74 billion is seen by many as outrageous for a mere voters' registration. Those vouching for Jega's reputation as a honest man can as well tell Nigerians if they will grant Jega this questionable amount if the money is coming from their personal pockets. We don't need to be wasteful with the meagre resources available at our disposal. Beside how are we sure Jega's machines will not be classified as inferior when another INEC chairman comes onboard after his tenure.
The other expenses from the initial N74 billion is the training of personnel that would operate the machines. With a large percentage of computer science graduates still in the labour market, I wonder why Jega needs the services of corpers and final year students, who perhaps might have to go through very intensive training before they can effective use the machine. If his intention was to save cost, then he is obviously going about it the wrong way. It's going to cost the commission much more to train corpers and final year students in tertiary, compared to recruiting computer literate personnel. Beside a versatile computer graduate is equivalent to the output of 100 hurriedly trained corpers and final year students.
With four months to next general election, based on the new electoral time table, are the ballot papers and boxes ready? Or is Jega waiting for voters' registration first before getting the other things ready? Are Nigerians in the rural areas presently being sensitize on the need to protect their votes? Is INEC publicity directorate reaching out to the electorates street to street, house to house on why they should come out and vote in the next general election and ensure their votes counts? Is INEC in schools talking to students on the meaning of responsible citizenship and why they need to be registered and vote when they are 18 years and above? These are some of activities Attahiru Jega's INEC should have been doing as they wait to commence new voters' registration; not lame duck interviews.
Beside what is wrong with Option A4? This system of voting was purely a Nigerian invention to suit our peculiar environment. This system is more credible considering the large illiterate population in the country. Are we being honest with ourselves, when we are fully aware that more than 50 percent of our eligible voters cannot read neither do they understand the logos and manifestoes of parties? They simply thumb print at any box that catches their fancy, or are cajoled through financial inducement, harassment and deceit (an easy tool because of the voters' illiteracy) to vote a particular candidate during election. But Option A4 makes it easier, because all they need to do is to queue behind their candidate or the representative of their candidates. And they are counted and the results known to everyone right there.
So far Professor Jega has not provided enough clue to assure Nigerians he knows what he is doing. He has made countless mistakes on the amounts he needs to conduct voters' registration. Also, most of his policy somersaults in just four weeks in the saddle only shows his leadership inconsistency and managerial deficiencies.
Nigerians and indeed the rest of the world expect so much from 2011 elections. In fact that election alone would determine if we are ready to move with the rest of humanity towards responsive leadership. It will also determine how will be respected and address as a people globally. That's why we have to save ourselves the humiliation of a Jega's disappointment now before it too late.
His well publicised statement of ÔÇśno money, no election' is an assault on every sensible Nigerian. If he is not given the money he needs, the honourable thing to do is to resign his appointment and not threaten the country with no election. He is not indispensable; to me, he is just another dash hope in our long but fruitless journey to transparent and credible election.