5th April, 2011
Last Saturdayâ€™s botched National Assembly election should serve as a reminder to Nigerians once again that we still have a long way to go in our democratic journey. The fact that the election was postponed midway before the actual voting shows that the agency charged with the conduct of the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, actually took us for a ride because it was not really prepared to hold the election.
We cannot understand why INEC should deploy men and materials to the streets on Saturday when it knew that a critical document in the election process, the result sheets, were not among the materials distributed for the election.
If as at the close of work on Friday INEC knew that the result sheets for the election were yet to arrive the country from the printers overseas, common sense dictates that the electoral body should have gone on national television to stop the election the following day. This would have saved the country from incurring a huge loss as a result of the cancellation of the elections.
Some pundits put the estimated official loss of the cancelled elections at more than four billion naira in allowances to electoral officials, cost of materials and logistics. Individuals and organisations also lost billions to the postponement.
We cannot fathom the rationale behind the mobilisation of men and materials to the polling booths nationwide when a critical document like the result sheet was not among the documents distributed for the polls. By dispatching men and materials minus the result sheet to the streets and calling on the authorities to restrict movement, the INEC succeeded in making a fool of all of us.
The explanation that the electoral body would have distributed the result sheets on the day of the election to all the polling units had it arrived that same day does not hold water. INEC underestimated the huge logistics involved in distributing such documents to polling units throughout the country, where in some cases you have difficult terrains to surmount. It is also a wishful thinking to believe that the document could be distributed to the polling units before the close of elections like we were made to understand by some state electoral commissioners.
Nevertheless, we are comforted by the fact that the electoral body owned up to its failure and heeded the advice of political parties and civil society groups to shift the elections to 9 April. We are also happy that it has promised to ensure a hitch-free election next Saturday.
It is in the light of these that we are appealling to Nigerians to give INEC another chance to conduct credible elections, starting from Saturday.
We also sympathise with the Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who before the Saturday fiasco, had assured Nigerians that his commission was set to conduct the polls. Like all human beings, he is not infallible. We commend him for demonstrating courage and accepting full responsibility for the cancellation. But he has to contend with the purported cabal who are said to be sabotaging his efforts.
We are sure that he would have learnt from what happened last Saturday and made the necessary corrections. We implore Nigerians not to feel disilluisioned about what happened last Saturday. In fact, rather than feel disappointed, they should be reinvigorated in their determination to ensure that their vote count this time. This is why they should go to the polling booths on Saturday like they did on 2 April to vote for candidates of their choice and defend their votes.