We are faced with the choice of either compiling a new votersâ€™ register in less than eight weeks orâ€¦salvaging the existing register in 16 weeks. Either of the two presents a very difficult choice indeed. â€“ Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, Thursday, July 22.
is at the verge of adding to her electoral inventiveness by organising the next elections without a votersâ€™ register. From all that has been said on the matter, the existing votersâ€™ register lacks enough credibility that it does not qualify to be addressed as a votersâ€™ register.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is listing its constraints with time, money, manpower while the National Assembly is busy tugging at the reins of power, with its focus on efforts to return the current membership.
How credible the elections would be is now a side issue. The major considerations are the dates of the elections, but gerrymandering that should result in those in power holding it. A veneer of a credible conduct of the elections would be enough to have INEC applauding itself.
Everyone recognises the importance of the votersâ€™ register for credible elections. The scant attention validation of the votersâ€™ register is getting is the sign that electoral reforms died with the high standards the Uwais Committee set in its report.
A new emphasis on 150 days before the end of the tenure of the incumbent President and not later than 120 days for Governors as election dates means elections for 2011 should start next January. Politicians are fitting into the schedule rather than show interest in the process that would elect them.
We are set for elections with the outdated votersâ€™ register. If the authorities want credible elections, they can resolve the constraints.
Jega had said of the votersâ€™ register, â€œFake voter registration equipment purchased for the 2006 registration exercise were responsible for the problems with the existing registerâ€¦as soon as the contract was signed with credible partners, they were abandoned and fake equipment was purchased, some with expired licences and that was what affected the voter registration exercise in 2006.
â€œIn the course of our retreat in Uyo, we closely looked through the existing votersâ€™ register, sampling over 1,000 polling units from randomly selected 19 States. What we found were massive inadequacies, including under-age registrants, hundreds of blank or blurred photographs and multiple registrations by the same persons.â€
President Goodluck Jonathan swore-in Jega on 30 June saying: â€œWe have given you the free will to operate and we donâ€™t want Nigerians to hear that your legs and hands are tied. Nobody has tied anybodyâ€™s legs.â€ The blame game is just starting.
â€œRevelationsâ€ of former Governor of Cross River Donald Duke that governors and the ruling party bribe electoral officials with vehicles, money, and other incentives are distractions. Was this the practice during Dukeâ€™s eight-year tenure in Cross River State? Did he realise the fraud after leaving the ruling party?
Power is too intoxicating for politicians to permit a democratic dispensing of it. In the 2011 elections, those in power would do everything to ensure invalid votersâ€™ register. A valid votersâ€™ list could be the first step to them losing power.
Jega, like those before him is waiting to wring his tied hands.