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Wait till you get to INEC

By Josef Omorotionmwan
YES, what we have we hold. This is also in consonance with the time-tested Biblical injunction that we should always confess positive because the power of the tongue is so strong that therein resides the prospect to swim or sink in life.

But there is also the need to remain truthful at all times. If in March 2011, we are still voting at the 2007 elections, then, there is cause for worry.

If the Appeal Court sitting in Benin City just last week finally decided that the case of Akoko-Edo Constituency II in the Edo State House of Assembly has been annulled and the parties should return to a re-run within one month, then, there is obvious reason to worry.

This gives birth to a situation in which the contenders will be doing two examinations within two months because notwithstanding who wins the March re-run, chances are that from their different parties, both might have also been re-enrolled for the April elections in just the same way that Uduaghan and Ogboru will again be facing the electorate in April after their combat of the past few days.

If our elections are still marred by the usual irregularities of late arrival of materials to polling points, snatching of ballot boxes, ballot stuffing and other associated ills, even when in the case of the Delta re-run, the General Overseer himself was personally on his duty post, then, it certainly provides enough food for thought.

If the situation is still such that four otherwise sparsely populated local government areas could pull out more votes than the remaining 21 local government areas put together and this, because of prevailing conditions, is acceptable to us, why should we not worry?

To keep doing the same thing the same way over and over again and be expecting different results is the very definition of madness. Of a truth, the change of guards at INEC often comes in the crest of popular acclaim. But unfortunately, history is yet to provide us with enough evidence that waves of popular opinion are synonymous with reasoned judgment.

The much we know is that in less than five decades of Nigeria’s electoral history, we have come full circle, from Justice Ovie Whisky who would have fainted at the sight of a million Naira, to Professor Attahiru Jega who would ask for, and immediately get close to a hundred billion Naira for the pre-election registration of voters.

We have observed over the years that the INEC assignment is a terminal job, akin to a tasty poison, which when we drink, we die. Nobody ever comes out of it clean. The nearest we ever got to having a clean bill was during the infamous years of ebullient Prof. Humphrey Nwosu. In the end, though, he either messed the system up or the system messed him up; and the final outcome became the worst ever.

Were it possible to bring the Pope to try his hands in conducting our election, the system would so smear him that he would probably return to Rome a mortal sinner. We are therefore tempted to counsel that in case you think you are smart, just wait till you get to INEC.

And so soon, even when we have not yet started rehearsing for the main bout, the condemnation of our own Prof. Jega is so loud in some circles that one begins to wonder if this was the same man that we all praised to the high heavens a few months back as the God-sent man for the job. That leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the INEC job is a death sentence of sorts.

Essentially, we have no electoral system in place yet. In the absence of a good electoral system, we can only expect chaos. If there is any lesson to be learned from our current electoral confusion, it is that the questions of electoral failures cannot be settled until they are settled right.

When there is a good electoral system on ground, of course, any warm body can operate it. But for as long as we continue to build our electoral system around individuals who are prepared, albeit unwittingly, to squander the goodwill they have acquired over the years, we shall continue to get what we are getting.

Has anyone ever stopped to ask, who head the British and American electoral commissions? If you asked any British or American citizen, he would tell you that he doesn’t know and in any case, what does it matter, anyway? In simple fact, those systems are manned by mortals, far less endowed than the professors and eminent judges that get consumed in our system.

The difference is that in those places, they already have established systems into which anyone can fit. Two quick questions: Must we change our electoral laws every election year and why must we embark on fresh registration of voters before every major election?
Is anyone expecting the 2011 general elections to be drastically different from those of 2007? Such may be disappointed.

Here and everywhere, the President sets the example and in our particular case, we have a man who is already properly stationed to write his own testimonial. Whether Jonathan is witting or unwitting, what is clearly beyond dispute is that not many appointees would do things that they know their principals would not wish them to do.

As an instance, a simple indicator here is that even if the opposition cries to the high heavens that the ordering of the April elections has been predetermined to favour the PDP and its agents, no one will listen to them. But ultimately, this is not the stuff of which good electoral reforms are made. And so, the pains remain.

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