*Jega: It is not true
*Lessons before Osun election
BY JIDE AJANI
What was the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, thinking about when it set out to appoint monitors for last month’s governorship election in Ekiti State?
This question becomes very pertinent against the backdrop of the avowed determination of Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC’s Chairman, to consistently deliver free and fair elections to Nigeria.
And whereas political pundits have attempted to analyse why and how Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the state governor, lost, INEC almost introduced muddle into the entire exercise. But for the seeming determination of majority of the voting public in the state – at least based on the result of the election as declared – any other result may have thrown the whole exercise into a kilter.
Apart from the obvious presence of Nigeria’s military on the day of election, almost making the election appear like a war-time event, the general consensus is that the election went well.
However, the decision of INEC to send 10 Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, from some states other than the ones contiguous to Ekiti is raising some concerns even within the Commission.
Sunday Vanguard was told by INEC insiders that the usual practice in elections past was to appoint RECs from states that are contiguous to the state where the electoral event would hold.
But in the case of Ekiti State governorship election, not only were RECs from far flung states appointed to participate in the election, Sunday Vanguard discovered that there were no RECs from the South
East or the South South geo-political zones.
This development, Sunday Vanguard has been made to understand, is causing ripples within INEC.
To support the latter claim, sources in INEC pointed out that the Ekiti mission was fraught with many internal dissensions and inconsistencies. They refer to instances of animosities between some national Commissioners particularly two close commissioners with almost the same temperament and attitude who resented the overbearing attitude of one national Commissioner who has elevated himself with the apparent blessing of the Chairman, to the status of a “Super-National Commissioner”.
To buttress this claim, audit of all those selected for the election showed that all electoral officers and
10 Resident Commissioners that were posted to the Ekiti elections were all exclusively from north and South West. To disguise this obvious act, two national commissioners inside source in INEC described as unserious and one of whom had never made independent and useful contribution at any meeting since appointed
were asked to be part of the exercise for mere semblance of representation.
When asked why this should be done given that the Electoral Commissioners were supposed to be impartial and professional
irrespective of their states or zones of origin, the source claimed that irrespective of how professional the posted Electoral Commissioners were, it was the norm to ensure regional balancing in such postings to mitigate suspicion and build trust on the part of stakeholders.
It was further observed that there was no memo informing selected participants, prior to the election posting, and insist that it is a matter of fact that there was no formal consultations between the national commissioners to compile a list based on set criteria that would depoliticize and depersonalize such a list.
According to inside sources in INEC, the previous practice under successive leadership of the Commission even as recent as under Professor Maurice Iwu, with respect to such isolated elections like the Ekiti election, was that a meeting of the Commission will be convened to do a scenario analysis of the election location, in order to determine the choice of personnel deployment; such deployment list will be reviewed in a formal meeting and observations will be made to point out inconsistencies and issues that may have political salience but which may have been ignored.
Moreover, there are concerns whether Prof Jega can withstand the pressure from some vested interests from the northern political establishment to claim political power by hook or crook.
There were also unconfirmed reports that some of those posted to oversee the elections may not have been remunerated equally, thereby fueling further suspicion that all may not be well.
But Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to Professor Jega, dismissed the insinuations.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, Idowu said it is sometimes ridiculous “why Nigerians like to read needless meanings into things INEC does. The Commission selects officials for assignment based on their capabilities and their availability. The Commission is very dispassionate about its activities and it is not interested in where people come from or do not come from”.
No matter. That an election is being held in a South West state and all the RECs appointed for the exercise are from the North and the same South West sends the wrong signal. This is accentuated by the fact that the political thinking of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in merging with the All Peoples Party, APP, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, is that a political forced forged in the furnace of South West and the North would be unbeatable.
Had the incumbent won the Ekiti election, INEC would have been at pains to explain away why the appointments of RECs totally shunned those of the South South and South East. Observers insist that on the part of INEC the outcome was serendipity – a success that occurred because fate smiled on the Commission rather than from its own exertions.
To be fair, Jega continues to maintain his dignity. One of the very positive outcomes of the Ekiti election was his resolute stance that the Permanent Voter Card, PVC, would be used. He withstood pressure from many quarters to reverse the decision to go ahead.
This has set a tone for future elections. The Osun governorship election which holds next week would present another test for Jega’s INEC. It is hoped that he would again succeed.