By Emeka Umeagbalasi
THE three fundamental problems bedeviling the policies and actions of the Nigerian pubic office holders including academics in contemporary times are pride, inferiority complex and shamelessness on the part of their formulators and executors. These have gravely crept into the headship of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under Prof Attahiru Jega. They also exhibit the antics of being more catholic than the pope.
The referenced public officers are also in the habit of embracing anything new without caution, option B or consequential studies. The foregoing appears to be the case with INEC’s headship under Prof Jega as it concerns the monumental failure of the Electronic Voting Card Readers during the presidential and National legislative elections in Nigeria.
If it is a social clime where public office holders are honourable, INEC Chairman having offered guided apologies to Nigerians and keen watchers of the country’s electoral events; would have resigned honourably. By keeping the country’s President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria standing for over 35 minutes to be electronically accredited to vote, which eventually failed woefully; the President could have slumped if he is psychologically and physically unhealthy. By INEC’s making and indecency, the President of Nigeria was tortured for over half an hour.
By inferiority complex and pride, the INEC Chairman toed the line of incorrigibility as a professor of political science and refused to listen and consider numerous written and oral appeals by Nigerians as it concerns the dangers and consequences of wholesale application of Card Reader technology into Nigeria’s electoral industry and midwifery without caution and availability of manual alternatives such as TVCs factored into the Voters’ Register in the event of its failure or compromise.
Instead of listening to expert individual and group Nigerians and those that proffered several solutions to the referenced; he issued a statement threatening them with civil remedial lawsuit accusing them of running campaigns of calumny against him and his Commission.
Today, the referenced Samaritan citizens including our leadership have extensively been vindicated. It boils down to a saying that goes: when a professor loses a socially integrated direction, he or she becomes a professor of primordialist and clannish thoughts. The wisdom of the Eze-Ulu, Chief Priest of Ulu Deity and his only son-Oduche in the famous Novel of Prof Chukwuemeka Ike called the Bottled Leopard remains our fundamental reference point as it concerns the foregoing.
The referenced Chief Priest was feared, adored and respected among his people as it concerns midwifery of his clan’s deity. But on hearing the arrival of the white man’s religion, he took the wisest decision by not packing up his deity’s midwifery to follow the white man’s religion. Instead, he sent out his only son-Oduche to learn the way of the white man’s religion, while he stays put with his deity to avoid losing all if the new religion fails. This should have been Prof Jega and his INEC’s wisdom.
Further, the INEC Chairman’s attempts on the Nigerian Television Authority to downplay the monumental failure associated with the Card Readers are most regrettable and condemnable. For instance, it is totally fallacious for him to have said that Card Readers only failed in 350 polling units out of the 119, 793 country-wide polling units.
In Anambra State alone, Card Readers never succeeded in up to 200 polling units and the State alone has 4,608 polling units. In most of the polling units in the Southeast, Card Readers failed woefully resulting in reversion to manual accreditations.
There are a total of 15, 549 polling units allocated to the Southeast by INEC. In South-south zone, many, if not most of the polling units in the zone hosted woefully failed Card Readers resulting to the use of manual accreditations. There are 17, 760 polling units in the South-south including President Jonathan’s Bayelsa State, which has 1, 804. There are also other widespread complaints of Card Reader failure in other parts of the country including the FCT, Southwest, Northeast, North-central and Northwest zones. In all, the major challenge that trailed the referenced polls is the monumental failure of the Card Readers.
Other fundamental minuses in the polls such as late arrival of the INEC and voting materials, late voter accreditations and late voting are all derived from the failure of the Card Readers. For instance, in most parts of Anambra State including Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Idemmili North, Idemmili South and Aguata LGAs, the lateness was generally attributed to efforts by INEC staff to master and fix the Card Readers before going to the polling units. There is also ethno-religious connotation introduced into the voting exercise in the Southeast by some perceived ethno-religious zealots in uniform.
For instance, in Ogbaru LGA, the INEC staff reported that they were held for hours at the instance of the DPO in-charge of Atani Police State, one Supol Ibrahim; who they said blocked their way from the LGA headquarters and claimed that he was acting based on the order from above as it concerns malfunctioning of Card Readers.
Malfunctioning ofcard readers
In the 33 area of Nsugbe in Oyi LGA of Anambra State, the DPO of the 33 Police Station, one Suplo A.A. Adamu allegedly blocked the road for hours, impounded all coming vehicles and seized their owners’ PVCs, citing order from above. It took fierce intervention of Justus Ijeoma of the Anambra CLO for the captives and their PVCs to be freed. Another fundamental minus in the polls was alleged high incident of under-age voting in the Northwest and the Northeast including Taraba State.
This issue was taken up with INEC by leading rights groups like Intersociety several times and in writing, yet the Commission went deaf and dumb over it. Also in the referenced polls, hundreds of thousands of under-age children (those not up to 18years and above) got accredited and voted. There were cases whereby owing to the failure of Card Readers and attendant lateness in the arrival of INEC materials and voting, hundreds of thousands of voters got tired or frustrated and left voting units.
In other words, INEC further disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of registered voters particularly in the Southeast and the South-south zones in addition to 12.4 million registered voters earlier disenfranchised and denied voting rights. The referenced disenfranchised 12.4 million registered voters of pastoral and sedentary ethnic backgrounds by INEC by way of non issuance of PVCs remains the god-father of the referenced fundamental minuses trailing the referenced polls. This is a grave affront to the pluralistic and multi ethnic composition of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Umeagbalasi, a civil right activist wrote from Onitsha.