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Jega has threatened the foundation of Nigerian democracy.

By: Kali Gwegwe
 Published April 7th, 2011

There is no doubt that up Until January 2011, a larger percentage of the Nigerian population had lost hope in the Nigerian electoral system. It took a lot of persuasions and reassurances for Nigerians to develop some faith in the Attahiru Jega-led INEC. Furthermore, President Goodluck Jonathan's "One-Man-One-Vote" campaign also played a major role in changing the mindset of Nigerians about electoral umpires. It is assumed that only the highest bidder can win elections in Nigeria. In most cases, the incumbents have access to cheap funds to compromise electoral officers. This negative political culture has mostly reduced the important place of the electorates in the democratic landscape. Instead of playing a determining role, the electorates are treated as inconsequential elements. This is glaringly against acceptable democratic practices.

Democracy is all about offering quality political leadership. Without the electorates, the quality of political leadership would be abysmal. This is the reason why problems of political apathy are usually given serious attention in modern societies. It is believed that the fear of the power of voters is responsible for the high quality of political leadership in Europe, Canada, and the United States. If our political leaders must perform, votes would have to count so as to put our political leaders on their toes. Not just that, the war against graft must be taken to the bedrooms of every person living above his or her income. Without this, let us forget about democracy.

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As an individual, I have respect for Attahiru Jega. This is based on the much I know about him. It was for this reason that when some hitches were experienced during the voter registration exercise, I called for calm. It must be remembered that millions of Nigerians refused to come out to register simply because of what happened in the first few days of the registration exercise. They rushed to the conclusion that nothing has changed despite all the assurances from Jega. It will be difficult to blame them. A hitch free registration exercise would have changed their deep-rooted perception of electoral umpires in Nigeria. Jega and his commissioners blew this golden chance.

The unfortunate postponement of the 2011 elections from 2nd April to 9th April will further swell the ranks of Nigerians that have been consumed by the political virus called "apathy." This is not good for our democracy. It will take days, weeks, months, years, and probably decades, to win back the millions of Nigerians lost to "apathy" due to the shocking postponement of the 2011 elections.

Following the hitches that nearly marred the voter registration exercise in January, Attahiru Jega quickly pointed accusing fingers at some "Vendors." He has again fingered these faceless "Vendors" for being responsible for the late arrival of ballot papers when we have more than enough aircrafts in the country and elsewhere to deliver on time. The truth is that, Jega was not on top of the situation. You cannot place the future of a country on the heads of some faceless “Vendors” without carrying out an oversight function. If he had done so, planes would have been dispatched from Nigeria to fly in those ballot papers from whatever destination they were printed. It is very sad that Jega allowed a dog- "Vendors" to bite him the second time. This shows clearly that he is not proactive.

It is right to argue that there was actually no need why Nigeria should print her ballot papers abroad. We are only over exaggerating our incompetence. With the new electoral laws, it will be impossible for any political party to rig the elections even if the result sheets were in the hands of any of the political parties. What is important is for all political parties to send their agents to all the polling booths to witness and endorse the result sheets and retain their copies for comparison with what INEC will announce. In actual fact, the success of the elections lies on INEC officials- not the political parties.

In several cases, it is proved that INEC officials connive with political parties to distort results. One way to discourage this is impose heavy sanctions on INEC officials were election results were tampered with. With the new electoral guidelines; even if INEC officials collude with politicians to change election results at the collation centres, voters who witnessed the declaration and pasting of results at the polling booth can testify to this fact at election tribunals. For this and other reasons, there is no reason why billions of Naira should be wasted to print our ballot papers overseas.

Kali Gwegw
CEO, Nigeria Democracy Watchtower
2, Greenvilla-Customs Link Road
Bayelsa State

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