BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR & OBINNA EKWEM
LAGOS — IN SPITE of the relative successes recorded in the 2011 general elections in terms of credibility, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said yesterday that it was not yet Uhuru and urged concerted and sustained efforts to ensure more credible polls in future.
Jega lamented that despite water-tight measures that INEC put in place to ensure clean elections, some citizens still attempted to manipulate the exercise, especially the over 800,000 persons who attempted to be registered more than once as voters. He canvassed the establishment of electoral offences tribunal.
The INEC chief spoke at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, while delivering a lecture: “2011 general elections and the consolidation of the democratic process in Nigeria,” organised by the Centre for Social Research and Advocacy, UNILAG.
Jega noted that the electoral umpire with the assistance of all stakeholders, including youth corps members, security agencies and the citizenry, organised credible elections and warned that the mileage recorded could be lost if lessons were not learnt.
“It is not yet Uhuru, for there are still formidable challenges to be addressed and obstacles to be scaled on Nigeria’s path to free, fair, peaceful and credible elections and, hence, toward desired democratic consolidation. For the electoral process has been allowed to be so bad for so long that it would require determined and sustained reform effort to finally get out of the woods,” he said.
Measures for credible polls
Jega said measures that would guarantee more credible polls in future include prosecuting of electoral offenders, which he said INEC had not been able to pursue vigorously because of pressing after-polls challenges like electoral petitions, additional amendment of the Electoral Act to boost electoral reform, learning the lessons of 2011 polls and factoring them into future plans and continuous improvement of electoral security.
Others include paying attention to matters arising such as complaints and accompanying litigation; result collation and transmission procedures; sustainable, continuous registration of voters; sustainable, continuous civic and voters’ education; making INEC more effective and efficient and improving relations between INEC and all stakeholders.
Tracing the history flawed elections of which he said the 2007 polls were the worst ever, the INEC boss urged Nigerians not to allow the era of do-or-die elections to return.
His words: “The 2007 elections, perhaps, illustrated the crudest manifestations of all that has ever been wrong with elections in Nigeria, in terms of the extent and magnitude of poor, fraudulent conduct and conflict-ridden nature of electoral politics in Nigeria: from ballot box snatching and stuffing, manipulation of the party nomination process, imposition of candidates, to incumbent executive interference in all aspects of the electoral process, electoral fraud aided and abetted by high echelons of the election management body, use of security agencies by incumbents to intimidate opponents and ensure/assure electoral ‘victory’, and use of thugs to interfere with the electoral process, and so on.
The impunity with which these dastardly acts were committed, and the evidence were profound and overwhelming, and Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the international community were so disgusted with what happened that, virtually in unison, they demanded for reforms to bring about free, fair and credible elections.”
Commending all stakeholders for the successful conduct of the 2011 elections, especially youth corpers, who unfortunately became targets of post-election violence, Jega said the corpers contributions were invaluable and opposed calls to scrap the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) because of the post-election violence.
Chaired by Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, notable personalities at the lecture, included Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, who was represented by Justice Fatai Adeyinka, and UNILAG Vice Chancellor Professor Adetokunbo Sofoluwe.