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The people have spoken

By Josef Omorotionnmwan

WE do not want to fall prey of the very faults that have held this nation hostage in the past. We are not going to spend the next four years eulogizing the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for organising a good election.

After all, INEC has merely done what it is paid to do. If we were to spend the next four years praising INEC to the high heavens; praising the electorate for voting wisely; and praising the governors for governing well, then, 2015 would still meet us standing still, oblivious perhaps that he who stands still is certainly moving backwards.

In the more advanced democracies, whoever singles out the electoral umpire for a national award? He is an ordinary man doing an ordinary assignment, just like the teacher, the nurse, the accountant and the everyday person. The only difference is that in those places, an electoral system has been established over the years and any warm body can occupy the seat and fill in the gaps.

This is what we should be shooting for. Yes, we cannot totally ignore our successes but we should be more interested in looking at those areas where things went wrong so that errors could be corrected. We want to immediately kick-start that process, if only as rhapsodies.

Because of past failures, Prof. Attahiru Jega has effectively displaced INEC as the institution. Whereas in the chain, INEC is made up of hundreds of thousands of people, each of whom puts in his bit to form the whole, all honours and all blames go to Jega.

That alone is enough to shorten the hands of some of his excellent colleagues in the system and rather than put in their very best, they might be more interested in sabotaging that system. If we were to liken the INEC to the university system, yes, the Vice Chancellor is important but the deans of faculties, the heads of department, the lecturers and the students are not any less important in the chain. The INEC of our dream should de-emphasize personalities so that it can focus more on the collective success of the system. Any organisation built around specific individuals cannot survive for too long.

The sudden appearance of quantum invalid votes is quite instructive. Much as the trend is worrisome, it points to the fact that real voting is gradually beginning to emerge. In the past, by and large, political parties cornered the ballot papers and went to some secret places to thumb print them. Such clandestinely thumb printed ballots were usually accurate and direct to the party symbol because they were put in the hands of experts, so called.

We see the current development partly as a function of too many registered political parties struggling for space on the ballot papers; and partly as a function of insufficient voter education. We must prune down the number of political parties. Barring the complete de-registration of the myriad of registered parties, we should by now be able to categorize the parties so that some of the innocuous ones could begin to seek relevance at the ward councillorship level rather than clogging up the system unnecessarily.

The responsibility for building an enlightened voting population must be shared. People think that INEC and the Department of Orientation should shoulder the responsibility for voter education but we think that the political parties and their candidates who are the major beneficiaries of intelligent voting should have a stronger stake in this business.

The fate of the Imo State gubernatorial election was hanging perilously on the outcome of the rescheduled supplementary ballots at Ngo Okpala, Ohaji Egbema, Oguta and Mbaitoli local government areas and Orji ward. What led us to this sorry state?

There must have been attempts at some malpractices or violence and if we must check such malpractices against future occurrence, then, what we do about them becomes more important than even the outcome of the elections. Apparently, Oguta has entered into ‘voice mail’. For how long are we going to allow Oguta to be a republic unto itself when it comes to elections?

That macabre dance in Anambra Central senatorial district still intrigues many. Madam had already earned a lot of respectability somewhere else to the extent that she became the institution that she was supposed to be overseeing. She made a very rapid transformation into partisan politics and with her re-branding stuff, she also virtually became an institution. And as if she must out-run her shadows, she must become a senator by all means and at all cost. First, she was to run under the PDP but as soon as she came across some roadblocks in that direction, she quickly rolled over to the APGA.

All the same, the only issue of public interest in this case is what we want to do about those sordid revelations from Dr. Alex Anene, the first Returning Officer for that election. We remember the alleged promises of inducement of bumper money, a house, cars and scholarship for children, all to manipulate the results! In whichever direction we look, there are indictable offences in this case. A thorough investigation here is more important than the outcome of that contest. The people have spoken but there are some discordant tones. Whose voices are we hearing?

God made man; man made money; and money made man mad. The over-bearing influence, and the flagrant display, of money in our political contests cannot be ignored. We keep wondering if there is any other country in this world, where campaign expenses and sources of funding are totally unregulated. These are issues for future analysis.


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