13 Feb

By Paul Inyang

INEC Chairman

INEC Chairman

Two weeks ago I was opportune together with Dr. John Okon to attend a program sponsored by the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) here in Washington, DC. As reported a great many Nigerians and indeed Africans participated in this program. As represented in an earlier report by the Premium Times Newspaper (posted on this forum) the forum was titled—Preparing for Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Key Challenges and Priorities. The keynote speaker was the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega. I will not bore you with the details because the Times was quite accurate in its reporting. Here are some of my personal reflections on the on the forum:

I was quite impressed by Prof. Jega and honored to meet him in person. He presented what I thought was a well thought out paper—a fair outlook for the elections and elucidating on some of the challenges that INEC and the country at large would be facing enroute to the elections. I found him to be earnest and as honest as he could possibly, considering his audience which was quite diverse. There did not seem to be much that was political about him—he sounded mostly like the social scientist he is. Like any technocrat in his position, he attempted to strike a balance and most of all painted an encouraging picture of the upcoming elections. He was able to listen and get feedback about some of the concerns expressed by Nigerians and civil society organizations like—the Policy and Legal Advisory Council, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Independent Election Monitoring Group, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center, South-East Governance Network and Stakeholder Democracy Network to name a few.

In Forums like this, things that are not said are often as important as what is said. Time was also a concern, as Prof. Jega did not have enough time to expand on the activities of INEC and answer questions raised. There were two issue that were of particular concern to me—the time table for the elections and security. Prof. Jega cited two basic reasons for the early February elections. He indicated that the elections were set two weeks apart because experience has taught INEC that it is logistically impossible to hold ALL elections on the same day. By that he meant that the National assembly and Presidential elections would be held on Feb, 14 2015 and the local elections comprising of the —governorship and state house of assemblies on Feb, 28 2015. He suggested that Nigeria does not have the resources to make it possible for the elections to be completed in one day. He complained about the lack of funds, resources and the logistical challenges posed by such an enormous endeavor. The question of how the National elections would influence the local elections was not broached. The underlying political motivation which is suspect and the fact that it favors the incumbent parties was largely ignored and unexplained. The other, was to allow time for the legal processes to be exhausted. However, the question of the political timeline sequencing with the legal time-frame was not answered. It is assumed that the courts will work within the framework of the political timeline—this has never been the case. As most of you know some political court actions raised during the 2011 elections are still being litigated till date. The Nigerian legal system has never been able to work within an expeditious timeline—the courts have a mind and framework of their own. At the end of the day the courts will cite the expiration of the statute of limitation—reverting to the status quo— which will deny aggrieved parties much needed judicial relief.

The question of security remains the foremost concern of most Nigerian as expressed during the forum. Prof. Jega noted that INEC was working with security agencies to streamline the election process and protect votes. He disclosed that INEC would be setting up of collation centers which will be videotaped for the record to ensure credibility. These centers will be responsible for the “count” and “announcement” of the election results it is presumed—under the protection of the security of the security agencies one would assume. Most Nigerians have seen security forces in action during election—safety and objectivity would not be what they would ascribe to this process. What would be different? Also, there are instances where the party apparatus have totally usurped and ignored INEC role in the past and used a simple spreadsheet to report results with impunity—this was unaddressed raising questions at least in my mind about INEC’s preparedness. The other essential element of the elections is the distribution of material. How is INEC going to assure that election materials arrive on time or arrive at all? The issue of what happened in Anambara, where the material meant for some wards did not make it in for the elections without an adequate explanation from the INEC official in-charge was also discussed. Prof. Jega offered that they would be prosecuted—most Nigerians would say—hmmmm. Since 1959 this has been an issue how can we get it right? The issue of the accompanying violence was not addressed appropriately and will shared with on a later date by this writer.

Please register to vote, help others register and protect your vote!

Paul Inyang – 2/12/2014


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