By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
With the deluge of problems and grievances that characterise the on-going voter registration exercise, it is obvious that at the end of the 22 day exercise which expires today, many Nigerians will remain unregistered.
The implication is that if we couldn’t get the registration right, if we don’t register all Nigerians of voting age owing to the constraints witnessed in the exercise, the expectations of free and fair elections will remain a mirage.
From non-functionality of equipment, shaky registration, fake NYSC members posing as INEC officials, frustration suffered by INEC officials and ad-hoc staff, the voter registration exercise was threatened from the onset and could jeopardise conduct of forthcoming elections.
These hiccups necessitated the first amendment of Section 9 (5) of the Electoral Act last year to grant powers to extend time for the conduct of the exercise.
The Electoral Act had to be amended for the second time recently to give room for one week extension of the voter registration but Nigerians are still in doubt if the exercise would not disenfranchise many and going by these problems, if Jega’s assignment of conducting free and fair elections is achievable. It is believed that rigging of elections starts with voter registration . Saturday Vanguard sought the opinion of Nigerians across political divides on Jega’s first outing.
Jega has failed, NPC
In the words of Prince Ngozi Emioma, National Chairman of Nigerian Peoples Congress (NPC), Jega has not performed well despite his laudable credentials.
“ INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega may not be the political messiah Nigerians are expecting to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. The poor handling of the voter registration exercise across the country is a classical example that he cannot cope with the rigour of general elections. One week extension of the voter registration is not be enough to register all eligible voters going by the snail speed INEC has conducted the exercise . It is obvious that millions of Nigerians will be disfranchised.
The newspapers publication of photographs of men and women fighting to get a “tally number” that would enable them to register in the order they arrived at a particular registration unit in Abuja showed the enthusiasm of the populace to participate in the exercise. It is also a shame that Nigerians have to fight to perform their civic duties, things that are taken for granted in most developing democracies in Africa where electoral materials and personnel are adequate.
“Jega’s request for additional N6.6 billion for the one week extension of the voter registration clearly shows that he is not only short-sighted and incompetent but delights in taking Nigerians for a ride. It is sad that Jega has not justified the confidence the nation reposed in him. The N6.6 billion is a rip-off . There should be a thorough probe of this shambolic voter registration that has embarrassed and insulted the sensibilities of Nigerians. It is evident that Jega has failed. Even with an additional N100 billion , Jega could not handle the voter registration let alone conduct credible elections.
“We are baffled at the way the electoral Commission and some political parties violate the election timetable with impunity. INEC should stop this show of shame immediately. This macabre dance is a prelude to chaos, anarchy and violence. Like every referee and umpire, INEC should be decisive, firm and resolute in enforcing the election timetable and other rules governing the April 2011 elections. Jega should be wary of unscrupulous politicians who want to manipulate the electoral process for their selfish interests. The whole world is watching us.”
I don’t envy Jega –Titi Ajanaku
Presidential Adviser on Women Affairs during the regime of Obasanjo, Titi Ajanaku thinks that despite the odds against INEC and the voter registration, the coming elections would still be better.
“People say Nigerians are very difficult people, but the system is faulty. I don’t envy Jega but I hope that the one week extension will make a lot of difference and that almost all the eligible voters would register. I just hope.
“What happened with Jega’s first outing may not be perfect but I know this voter registration is different from that of 2007 where the head of Barrack Obama appeared in one of the states as an eligible voter and the head of INEC chairman appeared in one of the South-West states. Let us not judge Jega by the voter registration exercise. Let’s give him the benefit of doubt and hope this year’s election would be better than the ones held in the past.”
INEC should learn from its mistakes—Tanko Yakassai
Elder statesman and First Republic politician, Tanko Yakassai in his submission urges INEC not to allow what happened with voter registration to happen with the elections proper.
I don’t think the on-going voter registration is perfect. It has too many flaws and some of the mistakes started with INEC.
“The mistake of INEC leadership is to employ NYSC people who are incompetent and computer illiterate and are not experienced in such affairs. Now, I would share an experience with you, a friend of my wife who works with INEC approached her that they needed 46 people as ad-hoc staff. When they got the 46 people, only one of them is computer literate. We are talking about ad-hoc staff. And now, there is also the situation of INEC staff not being computer literate themselves. We had this scenario where INEC started recruiting those who paid them money. It was that bad.
“Now, there was the issue of the DDC machines which should have been brought in much earlier. Even if INEC officials are computer literate, they needed time to acquaint themselves with a machine they were not familiar with before the commencement of the exercise. But let what has happened not happen again. Let’s hope that Jega’s INEC has learnt its lesson from these mistakes.
“There are reports from all over the country that officials of INEC always arrived late at registration centres .They should sit up by subsequently sending their materials in time, attending to voters early. During the on-going registration, I realised that people come early and wait in vain for the officials to arrive. Many got frustrated especially workers who couldn’t wait because they had to be in their places of work. If such a thing happens with the elections proper, then, we are finished. So, Jega should sit up.”
We are on a familiar path—Balarabe Musa
For this vocal voice from the North, Nigeria is still on a familiar terrain and people should not expect free and transparent elections judging by what is on ground.
“There is nothing new to expect from what we have seen. It’s going to be the same elections we have always had. We all have seen what happened with voter registration and I don’t think the conditions will allow free and fair elections as expected. There will only be marginal improvement and that is if PDP will allow that.”
Jega’s performance is mediocre —Arigbe Osula, fmr Rep
Honourable Arigbe Osula was a member of the House of Representatives in the last dispensation and he says Jega’s performance has been mediocre.
“Well, I’m totally not pleased with INEC’s projections and successes. This is the first trial for INEC and their performance is medicore and that is not pleasing. If what happens with the voter registration happens in elections, Nigerians would not accept it. This performance so far is not acceptable. Our expectation of Jega is higher than he has given us but lets just hope that the elections proper would be better.”
A lot of people are disenfranchised —MD Yusuf
Alhaji M.D Yusuf was an Inspector-General of Police ,IGP, and a member of Presidential Advisory Council. He was also very instrumental as a member of Northern Political Leaders Forum that searched for a Northern consensus Presidential candidate of the PDP. He says of INEC’s performance so far.
“A lot of people have been disenfranchised. The last free and fair election we had in this country was in 1959/1979.The rest have not been free and fair. Those in power always lord it over the system and this time around, the PDP has been lording it over the system and so, expecting a free and fair election will be expecting too much. I have not been able to register as it is and that has been the experience of many. So, that is the issue.
“If you are not registered, you cannot vote and elections would not likely be free and fair from what we have seen with voter registration. INEC can still address that. ”
Let’s commend Jega —M.T. Mbu
Ambassador M.T Mbu is the leader of South-South Elders Forum and according to him, Jega’s performance so far is commendable.
“INEC performance is commendable so far. Anybody who really wants to register will do so within the time frame given. But you know that the problem we are having also has to do with apathy towards the system. There are people who do not want to register at all and have not made any efforts to do so.
“Apart from that, no matter what is said about this INEC, I can tell you it is better than those of the past and would likely conduct a more credible election.”