Let Jega Have His Time Extension But Let Him Start Running


When he was appointed the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, I  knew that three great challenges faced Prof. Attahiru Jega and his team. These were:

i. The problem of time,
ii. The problem of financing, and
iii. The problem of re-investing confidence in INEC.

Of these three problems, I reckoned that of time was the most challenging while that of  financing followed. The third problem is very critical but stems from how the first and  second problems were handled. Again, the third problem, being attitudinal, needed so much  positive actions and right steps to helm in among a very cynic and pessimistic people who  had almost given up on the electoral system and had consigned it to another relic of the  malfunctioning state we are burdened with. Because it draws heavily from human input, it  is subjective and remains the most sensitive of the three problems.

Jega’s INEC decided to take the second challenge of finance before the rest, probably  urged on by the saying that money answereth all prayers but no sooner had it gotten its  hefty budget approved for it than it found out that it had merely side-stepped the great  challenge time posed to its pronounced desire to give Nigerians an election they can  swear with in 2011. It took only the scathing public derision of the INEC election time  table for this critical election for Jega to face squarely one of the most important  problems he has to face at the time of his appointment. He has therefore gone back to  Nigerians with another request-this time to be granted a little more time to ensure that  a credible election is conducted in 2011. One would have expected this request earlier  than now because all point to the fact that Jega will need more than the time frame  allowed by what some say are our law books and the time he was empanelled to do this  important task, to conduct the 2011 elections and return a credible and acceptable  outcome.

One vital area Jega needs sufficient time to tidy up is on the issue of voters’  registration. Because Nigerians have rightly identified an authentic voter’s register,  far from the macabre concoction by the immediate past INEC leadership, as the engine room  that drives a credible election, they rightly perforated the tentative Jega time table  that allocated just two weeks to register voters all over the country. Because it was a  joke, many felt Jega must have knowingly used that to stir and drive the demand for more  time to do a thorough job. Of course, Nigerians were not amused and that sparked  countrywide doubts about Jega’s capability to do free and fair polls in a matter of  months.

Related News

Now that he has asked for time, it is wise and judicious to grant him this latest  request. I note that most Nigerians are getting discomfited by Jega’s persistent demands  and that in itself, has created fears on whether the man is indeed capable of the task at  hand. But then, I believe his request for more time is justified only if it is for a  little added time to do a proper voters’ registration. With sincerity, I believe Jega can  pull off the other activities on his present timetable within the allotted time frame. We  should give Jega a time not exceeding one added month for him to tidy up and after that,  let him not give us further excuses to doubt his competence and commitment to conducting  a credible election in 2011. I don’t buy the hogwash about the sacredness of the  electoral act or such other hocus pocus. Let us make room for him to perform and granting  him enough time to do a proper work should be one of the indices to having him succeed.

After granting him this latest favour-for that is what it seemingly is- we must wait on  Jega to throw more light on the coming election, especially as regards the process and  system of voting for the election. This is very important towards dealing with the third  afore-listed problem, which has to do with the re-invention of faith in INEC and its  activities. This is a critical factor in having a credible election and without that,  Jega is struggling in vain. One believes it is time Jega came to the streets with his  plan for 2011. What electoral system is he adopting for the critical polls? Where do the  people effectively tap in to ensure the process is made credible? How will he stop the  politicians from hijacking the said process and tilt the process in their illicit favour?  How will the citizenry assist within the framework of the given process to check the  excesses and interference of politicians? How credible are his Resident Electoral  Commissioners who are his field officers in the states? What measures has he to track  proceedings in each of the 120,000 polling units in the country? What direct relevance  will be the Direct Data Capture Machines in detecting electoral fraud especially as it  relates to multiple voting? How will his favourite voting process deal with the noted  shortfalls of the process now in place, which has stood out for its porosity to the  influence of desperate politicians?

These and many other critical questions must be answered by Jega within his preferred  framework for the election. He must invite the devil to send his advocate to punch holes  in his plans and fine tune whatever process he deems best for the election. Public debate  must be courted to make it much more adaptable to the people and as the election date  draws near, Jega must be explaining every process to Nigerians, taking their questions  and proffering answers where needed. Like Humphrey Nwosu, Jega should be attacking the  basics of the election by now, explaining every bend to curious Nigerians and taking  their fears along. He should be simplicizing the process we are to adopt, engaging  fervent debate on the process and inventing ingenious ways of empowering the citizenry to  police the process against notorious political perverts for that remains the greatest  armor he has for a credible election. It should be noted here that any process that lacks  the input of the ordinary citizenry will come to a certain grief, as the 1999, 2003 and  2007 electoral charades did. He should be outlining newer and more meaningful roles for  election observers, monitors, the media and other critical apolitical stakeholders  necessary for the conduct of a credible election.

All said, let Jega have his latest request for time extension, as he had his first  request for a huge war chest but let him woo the Nigerian citizenry through his actions.  Let him deal with the accumulating doubts about his capacity to deliver with his actions  henceforth and let him work real hard to re-invest the dawdy electoral process with the  confidence of the people. He should be creative as well as forceful in selling his idea  to Nigerians and courting them as critical stakeholders in the conduct of a free and fair  election in 2011. He has taken care of the first problem that confronted him on ascension  to duty, he certainly will get the second problem way behind him but he will need extra  effort to tackle the third problem. Here, human factors will be imputed and creativity is  called for if he must get Nigerians to trust the system to give them a credible election  in 2011. He may get more time to get his acts right but he has no time to work to get the  confidence of the Nigerian people on the process so he must hit the ground running as  fast as his legs will carry him.

•Peter Claver Oparah wrote in from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]

Load more