By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
As Nigerians troop out in their millions to vote in the first in the series of the 2011 elections-National Assembly polls- the political parties say they will be holding INEC and its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega to the pledge to conduct  free and fair elections.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN

Speaking with Saturday Vanguard in separate interview  leaders of these parties said they have done their bit in the field and the time has come for INEC to keep its word.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed,  National Publicity Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN,said  party has done its best and its now time for INEC to fulfill its promises to the electorate.

“ We have mobilised enough and we are  prepared enough and we are confident of winning if elections are free and fair and we expect free and fair elections this time.

We have been working and are still working but I cannot speak for INEC or other political parties because I have not seen the polling booths or the ballot boxes or elections materials but I’m just holding INEC by what Professor Jega told Nigerians. I hope he keeps his words.”

A top chieftain of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in Katsina and  former Deputy Senate President Abubakar Dan Musa in a chat with Saturday Vanguard urges Nigerians to cooperate with INEC so that no reason would be given for jeopardising today’s exercise.

“ Well, if Nigeria decides  to cooperate with INEC, it is ready to conduct free election. Some of the steps taken by INEC shows it means to conduct credible elections today.

“ Resident Electoral Commissioners have been  swapped. That is an evidence of credibility. There is  restriction of movements and  all these measures  will help a  free/fair election. Well, it is possible that some mischief makers would come up but I’m confident there would be strong security to counter their efforts.

I’m not quite sure if all the parties did their home work but CPC is ready and  the masses should insist that their  votes count. CPC is very strong in the North. We are a grassroots party and nobody can rig us out..”

For the presidential running mate of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, John Odigie Oyegun, his party has done well in the field and its for Nigerians to mark their script.

“ Despite some frustrations encountered in the field , we have done out bit. It’s for the people to mark our script.

We hope it turns out fine. There’s evidence of desperation all over the place. Otherwise, we are ready. And if Jega says he’s ready, then we are. We hope this government handles it fine and Nigerians should do the right thing.”

The national chairman of the Labour Party,  LP, Dan Nwanyanwu urges  vigilance during the elections.
“ There should be vigilance during this period. A lot of people could be up to some things but we should not let them. After voting, voters should remain at the polling booths to protect their  votes  till they are counted.

They should follow INEC officials to the collating points. It is only by so doing that our collective will that the elections would be free is achieved. We are holding INEC by its words and we hope it keeps its promise. My party, LP, expects free and fair elections and we are looking for that. On our side, we are very ready and we want Nigerians to ensure they vote right and protect their votes”.

For the national chairman of Nigerian Peoples Congress, NPC,  Prince Ngozi Emioma, he is not too sure with the way things would go because “Jega is confused ever since he assumed office as INEC chairman. It is obvious that he is not prepared for the tasks and challenges of conducting the 2011 general elections.

His constant request for fund, change in election timetable, policy somersaults and contradictions, period of voter registration and extension of time, disfranchise of millions of Nigerians who were willing to register during the voter registration exercise, accreditation of voters before voting between noon and 3:00pm on election day are all pointers that all is not well.

He has removed  periods  of voting, blaming politicians, NYSC members, security agents for assumed failure of the general elections.

His  refusal to accept nomination forms of some political parties for failure to submit their forms before deadline that was not communicated to political parties, granting waivers for political parties and conventions to some parties while denying others, frequent change of parties candidate lists which resulted to numerous litigation against the Commission, blaming the Judiciary particularly the High Court Judge for granting injunctions, which he claimed would  derail the election show he should not be trusted.

His  interference  in court proceedings and intimidating Judges  among other reasons show that Jega is not at peace with himself and may not conduct credible elections.

“ The accreditation of voters from 8am to noon is a tall order. What is the guarantee that electoral materials would be available at all polling stations at 8am to ensure smooth accreditation. The awkward experience of Nigerians during the voter registration showed that this may not be realistic .

When between 500 to 1000 voters are camped together waiting to vote after accreditation and staying back to await result of the election, would they not use the opportunity to canvass for their preferred candidates? Would this not lead to disagreement, chaos and even violence as witnessed during various campaigns and rallies by some political parties.

Does each polling booth have enough policemen and other security agents to control the crowd of voters and troublemakers? It is important that Jega should consider all these and come up with pragmatic and realistic solutions, not wishful assumptions. Jega still has an opportunity to justify the confidence the nation reposed in him. Can he use it? A stitch in time saves nine! The whole world is watching us.”


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.