By Jide Ajani & Ben Agande
ABUJAâ€” IF everything goes as planned, the 2011 polls will begin with the National Assembly elections on January 8, while the Presidential elections will hold on January 22.
A tentative time table unveiled by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu in Abuja yesterday, showed that the National Assembly election which had hitherto been lumped with the Presidential election would be conducted on a separate date while the Governorship and the State Houses of Assembly elections would be conducted on the same day.
However, an alternate commencement date of April 9 was also announced, in case the necessary amendments to the electoral law were not concluded early enough.
If the elections are to be held in January, the schedule as released by the commissionâ€™s chairman is as follows:
*National Assembly elections:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â January 8, 2011.
*Governorship/State Assembly elections:Â January 15, 2011.
*Presidential election:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â January 22, 2011.
If the elections were to be held in April, the schedule, according to the chairman of INEC is:
*National Assembly election:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â April 9, 2011.
*Governorship/State Assembly election:Â Â Â April 16, 2011
*Presidential Election:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â April 23, 2011.
According to the INEC chairman, the time-table is tentative pending when the National Assembly would have concluded work on the Electoral Reform Bill.
Parties lack internal democracy
Meantime, the INEC chairman has drawn the attention of Nigerians to the dangers of lack of internal democracy in the nationâ€™s political parties, warning that if the parties failed to institute internal democracy in their workings, the nation should kiss democracy goodbye.
Iwu stressed that it was the lack of internal democracy on the part of the political parties that was stalling the advancement of democracy.
He said: â€œThere is a limit to which a single institution can go to contend with an environment in which a horde of desperate, unrestrained elements are out to ensure that there is no order and that nothing works unless it will advance their political ambition. The commission is striving against multiple odds.
â€œThe commission is prepared and ready to do its part. The reforms it has carried out to strengthen its operations and capability speak of a commitment to improve on our election process. But how ready and willing are the other stakeholders in the electoral process to do their own?â€
Talks on reforms by INEC
Professor Iwu said contrary to criticisms from many Nigerians, the commission under his leadership has achieved remarkable result which must guide the conduct of subsequent elections.
He noted: â€œThe challenge before the nation as it prepares for the next round of general elections is to develop a correct political orientation that will be anchored on principle, the interest of the majority and the promotion of the will of the people, not the will of a few big men with means. The environment of politics
and elections in Nigeria must, as of necessity improve for the electoral process to be enhanced. The disposition and conduct of individuals in politics must change.â€
On the reforms embarked upon by the commission towards the 2011 elections, the INEC boss said the commission has taken step to ensure that the issue of ballot snatching was reduced. His words: â€œCustomization of ballot papers which was introduced in the 2007 elections will be retained for 2011 elections. We note with satisfaction that unlike in the years past, incidents of waylaying and seizing ballot instruments are no longer of much value to any person, considering that the balloting papers for every constituency is now customized and different and, therefore, very easy to dictate if stolen.â€
The electoral commission boss added that â€œfor all elections in 2011, the votes will be counted at the end of the polls in every polling centre. The Commission is by this rule committed to eliminating the possibility of those miracles that had been known to happen in the past between polling centres and collation points. The wisdom in the decision to stick to this rule is amply reinforced by recent experiences.â€
He said the commission was determined to ensure that the full benefit of electronic voters register, adding that before the 2011 elections, there would be a review and a revalidation of registered voters in all constituencies across the country. The first of the exercise, he said, would take place between April and July this year.
On role of political parties in ensuring the conduct of credible elections, Iwu said the commission would require all parties contesting elections to register their agents early enough for accreditation.
He called on politicians and other stakeholders to desist from â€˜playing the ostrich and looking for scapegoatâ€™ or undermining the system in pursuit of personal ambition, adding that the commission can only do its best.
Iwu made his assertions against the backdrop of the conduct of the February 6, 2010, governorship elections in Anambra State.