The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Professor Atahiru Jega, has come out to declare that all is not entirely well with the Commission. In other words, the 2015 elections, as close as it is, the Commission is yet to be adequately prepared. He enumerated INEC’s challenges as: insecurity, funding, attitudes of political class, apathy on the part of the citizenry, delay by the legislature in the amendment to the legal framework, prosecution of electoral offenders, completion of the review of electoral constituencies and polling units. He was however quoted as submitting that, “these challenges are not insurmountable and we will spare no effort to ensure that aspirations of Nigerians for free, fair, credible and peaceful elections are actualized in 2015”.
Towards ensuring adequate preparations ahead of the polls however, Professor Jega had enumerated the following vital reforms being put in place by his Commission: biometric voter registration being used for a continuous voter registration currently going on in phases across the country, issuance of permanent voter cards to registered voters, serializing and coding of all sensitive materials which include ballot papers, ballot boxes, result sheets etc. According to him, these reforms, part of which were put into use in the Ekiti polls, were aimed at substantially improving on the past and to check and possibly block all the noted loopholes therein towards enhancing the integrity of the polls in 2015 and beyond.
If the aforementioned submission of Jega is to be taken as the true and credible representation of the workings and focus of the Commission, then one can rightly conclude that INEC is working hard at ensuring that the coming elections will be a sharp departure from what it used to be; meaning that a relatively free, fair and credible elections are feasible.
However, one cannot help being worried over what has now become the norm. It is indisputable that, no matter how laudable INEC’s ideas over reforms may appear, such ideas could only be actualized with the effective cooperation of the federal government; that is to say that the 2015 will be credible only to the extent that the federal government would want it to be.
Whilst the executive could, among other steps, jettison the reforms by starving INEC of fund, the legislature, on its part too, could sabotage its (INEC’s) efforts by failing or refusing to provide the required legislative back-up that would give it the necessary legal empowerment to facilitate the exercise.
Our fear in this context is hinged on the culture of trivializing and politicizing everything by our politicians, regardless of its national relevance or importance, for purely narrow and selfish gains. Isn’t it worrisome that INEC should be crying over the issue of inadequate funding for the nationwide elections scheduled for just a few months away? Should the issue of legislation not have long been settled by now? Certainly, with this unpalatable development, Nigerians have every reason to be worried over what is likely to become of 2015.
This is why Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) is calling on the generality of Nigerians and in particular, the civil society organizations, organized labour, the Nigerian Bar Association, the media and other relevant organizations, to rise up now, against what is beginning to appear as a deliberate and orchestrated ploy by the powers that be, to frustrate the INEC’s well-articulated designs aimed at winning the confidence of the Nigerian voters and indeed, the international community, in its ability to organize a credible and universally acceptable elections in 2015. The collective pressure should begin without further delay as time is not on our side. We do not deserve anything less.