The forthcoming 2015 general elections have recently been throwing up series of interesting scenario which, by all estimation, marks it the most controversial, most contentious and in fact, the most chaotic in the history of electioneering in this country. The two prominent gladiators i.e. the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress have since been at other’s jugular, trading accusations and brickbats.
Party campaigns, which should have been an issue-based exercise, have so far been reduced to mere mud-slinging, brickbats, name calling, hate campaigns, innuendoes and in many cases, outright blackmailing. However, we cannot but allow all these to go on, on the excuse that, as some are quick to remind us, that ours is still a nascent democracy; “we are still growing; we shall certainly get there someday”.
Granted that our over 50 years democratic experience is still considered young and that mistakes made are meant to serve as tools for getting better as we advance towards perfection, we cannot however help asking the question: can we ever get any better in the face of apparent retrogression in our attitudes generally especially with the way we operate under our own peculiar, but absurd form of democracy? One would naturally have expected that an over 50 year old person should be able to display some appreciable degree of maturity but when such person now behaves like a toddler, something fundamentally nay pathologically is wrong and as such, a major, comprehensive surgical operation, cannot be substituted.
Excuse-makers, for series of abnormalities displayed by the major players in our political turf, are always quick to remind us of how the likes of the United States of America had had to grow steadily through decades and centuries before getting to where they are today. But the basic question these excuse-makers should have to provide answers to is; could America have been able to get to this enviable stage today if it had been a case of one-step-forward, five-steps-backward, as is seemed to be the case with Nigeria? Can growth be synonymous with retrogression?
Well, it is generally agreed that the very foundational bane of our society, has always been the issue of poor leadership. This being the case therefore, the only option left for Nigerians to effect the desired change is no other than to elect leaders of their choice and this could only be made possible through a free, fair and credible elections.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission Professor Atahiru Jega, today, has had placed squarely on his shoulder, that onerous task of organizing elections that would be acceptable to Nigerians in particular and the international community that has expressed so much interest in what becomes of the world’s largest black nation as it files out to choose its leaders for the next four years.
Since making public his commission’s time-table for the election, the afore-mentioned two leading gladiators have been having one issue after the other to contend with. Most pronounced of these contentious issues have centered on the appropriateness or otherwise of amendment in the set time-table, allegation of lopsidedness in the distribution method of the PVCs by INEC, the competence of the INEC as presently composed particularly the Chairman, Professor Atahiru Jega, as a section of agitators, mainly from the ruling party, the PDP, now calls for his removal and substitution ahead of the elections and most recently the issue of the appropriateness or otherwise of the use of the CARD READER in the process of voting at the polls.
Whilst all other issues have been considerably addressed, that of the Card Reader has remained intractable. It has, of late, being heating up the polity almost to a boiling point. INEC, on its part, has insisted on using the card reader as, according to it, it remains the only device capable of curtailing several manners of malpractice during the exercise and has even gone ahead to carry out a test-run in many states of the federation. But if Professor Jega and his commission had thought that the appreciable success (put at 90 per cent) recorded during the demonstration of the device, would put to rest any reservation that anybody or group might have had over the issue, recent developments have so far proved they must have been mistaken as opposing voices have remained unabated and so the attendant controversy have become more intense. Electorates as well as political parties have now been polarized along pro and anti card reader. In particular, leading members of the ruling party, the PDP, has been the more vocal in opposing the use of the device. A powerful section of the party has even been calling for the sack or resignation of the commission’s chairman, Professor Atahiru Jega whom they score low on performance.
However, President Jonathan has, at various fora, denied any plan to remove Jega or force him to proceed on terminal leave. Nigerians generally are clamouring for a free, fair and credible election and the use of the card reader has been proved to be near perfect in curtailing electoral fraud to an appreciable level, why again are all the noise on its propriety? Who really is afraid of the card reader?
It is on record that apart from the ‘Option A4’ experiment of 1993 which eventually produced an undisputable winner in the person of Chief MKO Abiola on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP): an election that was so faultless that it was generally adjudged to be the freest in the history of this country, every subsequent election had had most of the offices contested for ending up in the law courts, following allegations of massive malpractices. The card reader has been tested and found to be capable of checking such malpractices as multiple registration and voting; presenting fake voter card for voting, voting by proxy, among others. Majority of Nigerians today have welcomed the card reader and are ready to vote, come March 28, 2015. But then, who is afraid of the card reader?
Reports just reaching us from the grapevine has it that, some leaders of a leading particular party, in a particular community within Lagos, has, of recent, been going round, meeting those people considered to be sympathizers of their party but who, for one reason or the other are ineligible to vote in the coming elections as they do not possess their PVCs and assuring them that they could help them secure their PVCs through the back-door.
The requirement is simply that such person produces his/her passport-sized photograph with his/her name written on a piece of paper and his/her PVC would in turn be made available to him/her. Grapevine has it that the perpetrators of this act most likely have their accomplices within the INEC circle, who help to produce the PVCs. It’s as simple as that. Such a person does not have to be at the INEC registration centre in person as demanded by law. Perpetrators of this fraud had calculated initially, that since such PVCs must have truly emanated from the INEC and bearing all the symbols of the electoral commission, the bearers would be free to vote with them without any hitch whatsoever.
However, with INEC insisting on using the card reader, they now have their plan ‘b’. These disgruntled elements are well aware that such cards are most unlikely to scale through the screening of the card reader because they would not carry the biometrics (i.e. fingerprints etc) of the bearers, what they and their highly influential godfathers and collaborators are ultimately set out to do is to resort to blackmail; fault the device’s supposed infallibility and fool-proof technology and therefore press for its rejection.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL owes it an obligation to the general public to bring this alleged plot by enemies of democracy and good governance in our nation and to implore every lover of this country to stand against any group or quarters opposing the use of the Card Reader in the forth-coming elections. We must all join hands together to ensure that, for the first time in the history of electioneering in this country, winners emerge through a free, fair and credible election. Nigerians desire no less.
Executive Chairman, CACOL