By Benjamin Aduba
Special to USAfricaonline.com
In a well written article published by Economic Confidential, a writer Law Mefor asks the question: Can Attahiru Jega Make the difference?
Mefor answers the question tongue in cheek but says that if Mr. Jega took some steps he could make a difference. The tongue in cheek was expressed by Mefor when he looked back at Mr. Jega’s close association with Mr. Iwu and the positions he took in the Uwais’s Commission and Report. Mefor’s answer would be considered correct given the question he posed, but the issue is whether he asked the right question. My answer is that he asked the wrong questions.
For free and fair elections to result there must be many players who have played their parts well. Conducting an election is a huge collaborative, cooperative and coordinated symphony. All the players from the pianist to the drummers, to the flutists, voices, etc and the conductor must all be in synch. Any out of place note anywhere in the symphony destroys the music and the enjoyment of it. The impact of a good conductor is very important but it is usually not sufficient.
For Nigeria to have a free and fair elections in 2011 all the principal players must each play its part very, very well and if any doesn’t the elections would be just another in the long series of fraudulent elections of the past.
The legislatures are a very important player in the conduct of elections. They make the rules and confirm the principle players nominated by the executive. The rules for the 2011 elections are not quite in place as of now, seven months to the start of the elections. This means that the planning for the elections is already behind schedule, a bad omen. Members are more focused on other issues such as how much they should be paid, intra party politics and other extraneous events. The most important business left in this legislative year is the conduct of 2011 elections and that is placed on the back burner where at the last minute it would be brought out and hurriedly put together thus avoiding full deliberations, scrutiny and public comments.
In the attempted constitutional reform key suggestions from key constituents and Uwais Report have been side tracked or postponed, leaving the heavy lifting to another day by another congress. One cannot postpone the day of reckoning forever.
The president is also a key player who is playing “hard to get” while Rome is burning. Will he run? Will he not? The terms of his coming to office forbid him from running in his party. The time left for him (just 11 months) forbids him form running yet he would not tell his people where he stands. He says he is committed to free and fair elections, but there is no evidence of such commitment on the ground. He took his time to name the Chairman of INEC who he said he had not met thus casting doubts on the selection process. His appointment of the commissioners raises doubts about his honesty as some members are card carrying members of his dominant party and not an even a token appointment from any other party. All these cast doubts on the integrity of 2011 election preparations.
INEC as an organization barely exists. The key staff needed for the elections are not in place; registration of the voters (voter’s registry) has not been started, training for electoral officers have yet to begin, and no word about the purchasing of electoral materials. Even the final delimitations of constituency based on the most recent census are still to be undertaken. And this is to say nothing about the electoral calendar, polling stations, and assignments.
Another key player in the electoral process is the law enforcement unit. This unit along with INEC must form a water tight and seamless organization. From all public indications even the officers that would lead the supervision of the elections are not formed and therefore the necessary training has not started, not has there been any familiarity with the geography of the areas to be managed by each command.
Local electoral officers would need to share the responsibilities with the law enforcement officers without which enforcing the laws would be chaotic even in the best of times. And these are not the best of times.
All elections come down to political parties. So far all there is in this front is plenty of noise and no music. Parties have not published the nomination calendar or even the requirements for running. New faces are not showing up possibly because incumbency is the norm. Without new faces we would be doing the same things over and over but expecting different results. I have forgotten what somebody described this as.
Votes are won by accumulating the largest number of votes. There are no visible efforts to educate the public by political parties to get the grass roots energized and ready to vote. In other words there is no politics going on. Everything is quiet in the Western Front. It could be a disaster waiting to happen.
We the people are the true unit that would make any election free and fair and to the extent that the politicians, INEC, law enforcement etc see our determination to take control of our fate to that extent would they be prepared to help us achieve that objective. Just as all is quiet in the Western Front, so is the home front. Who in each local government is organizing to counter any last minute efforts to steal the people’s choice? Where are preparations for monitoring the elections by independent organizations? If politicians do not see people organizing to prevent them from doing mischief, they would be encouraged to go for mischief. A thief’s preparation is to ensure that he would steal and get away with it. But if the thief sees well guarded premises, the thief would go elsewhere. Sometimes the best protection is done by letting the enemy know that you are prepared and waiting.
The list above is not intended to be comprehensive, just to show that the question Can Jega make the difference is not the correct question. He could be the God’s Chosen Son but without the cast of characters surrounding him being ready he would not make much difference.
Consider the magnitude of the task ahead. There will be the presidential election, 106 senatorial elections, 36 governorships, 300 House seats, over 1,000 state house assembly elections, etc in about 7-8 months and we have not started. Even the best oiled electoral machine in the world would have a difficult time pulling all this off.
Elections are won and lost long before the first votes are cast.
•Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba is a contributing analyst for USAfricaonline.com, based in Boston, Massachusetts.