NewsReel 11/30/13 - As It Was In Delta, So It Is In Anambra

[ Masterweb Reports: Eddy Aghanenu reports ] – The event was INEC Retreat in Lagos sometime in August last year. It was on strategies on how the electoral body can best perform its duties in future elections. The INEC Boss in his remarks said the retreat was necessary so that the electoral body can manage the electoral process better, plan for change systematically, and to foster better communication within and outside the Commission. Hope was raised that future elections in Nigeria will be free, fair and credible.
Prof Attahiru Jega, the Kebbi born activist is a gentleman, sincere and committed to ensuring that Nigeria gets it right in her elections. One had hoped that the success he achieved as a labour leader and as a university administrator will be translated into his new job as the nation’s electoral boss. Unfortunately, recent events in Delta and Anambra States have cast doubt on the ability of INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election. From what happened in both states, can INEC be said to be an unbiased empire? Is Prof Jega still in control of the electoral body?
In the last Delta Central senatorial election, the process was heavily flawed. There were various allegations of electoral malpractices. There were allegations of brazen snatching of ballot boxes and electoral materials by the ruling party thugs. Security agents were not left out in these shameless acts.  Security agents became security risks. Voters were allegedly chased out of polling units. Electoral materials arrived very late in opposition strongholds. In some cases, not all materials arrived. In Udu and many areas in the senatorial district, accreditation of voters started very late. Massive thumb printing of ballot papers by the ruling party’s thugs aided by security personnel were very evident. Some leaders of the opposition were physically threatened and harassed. There was apprehension in the land as voters lived in fear of the thugs and security agents deployed by the ruling party. In the words of late K.O Mbadiwe, the ruling party “bulldozed” their way to achieve their selfish end.  There were allegations of the active participation of INEC personnel in this devilish plan of stealing the people’s votes. In spite of these glaring irregularities, INEC in a diabolical alliance with the ruling party went ahead to announce the results which they have conjured up.
Today, electorates in Delta Central are disillusioned. They have now developed apathy towards future elections since their votes no longer count. To them, whether they vote or not are immaterial as results will be announced in favour of the ruling party.
The same scenario played itself out in Anambra State. This time, the rigging method was more advanced. It started from INEC where voters register was heavily doctored. The voters register in Anambra State today is no longer a reliable instrument for the conduct of elections. Majority of voters can no longer find their names in the register. The PDP flag bearer and his father were unable to vote because their names were missing.
Election materials meant for some local government areas, especially opposition strongholds were missing. There were also allegations of late arrival of materials, late accreditation and ballot snatching. There were allegations that the security agencies were neither innocent nor impartial in the Anambra election.
To buttress the fact that the rigging was well planned is the discordant tune being sung by the PDP at the national level and the PDP flag bearer in the state. While PDP in Anambra State was shouting foul over the elections, the national secretariat was busy commending INEC for conducting a very free and fair election.  The PDP flag bearer not only rejected the results but also rejected the planned election in those areas where election did not take place. He called for a total cancellation of the election.
It is therefore very evident that INEC is not truly independent. The body is being used by the ruling party to foster its agenda on the nation. Both Federal and State Commissioners of INEC are appointed by the presidency. The allegiance of these commissioners is not to the electoral boss but the man that appointed them. “He who pays the piper dictates the tune”. Prof Jega may be sincere and unswerving but can same be said of his subordinates?  
PDP in its unwritten alliance with APGA has promised to deliver the APGA candidate. APGA in turn will not present a presidential candidate come 2015. APGA will also work to ensure the victory of PDP’s presidential candidate in the South East. Anambra’s Nwoye (PDP flagbearer in the Anambra election) becomes a sacrificial lamb for some else’ presidential ambition. The party, using INEC, will continue to bulldoze its way in other elections. Ekiti and Osun States have to be on the watch out next year. The people may have their say but PDP and INEC will have their way.
Will INEC be able to deliver in 2015? I very much doubt. What happened in Delta Central and Anambra State is a foretaste of what is to come. INEC will continue to be powerless and toothless. Election rigging by the nation’s ruling party will continue to be the order of the day as long as personal ambition cannot be sacrificed for the good of the nation.
For the retreat that I referred to earlier, to be meaningful, INEC has to sit up and perform its duties faithfully and sincerely irrespective of whose ox is gored. INEC’s allegiance should be to Nigerians and no one else. Let it be truly independent.
Prof Jega is truly sincere and incorruptible. The same cannot be said of those who appointed him. The system that he is working in will not allow him to succeed. While he is genuinely doing his best to see that Nigeria organizes and will continue to organise elections that meet international best practices, the system that he works in will try to ensure that he never succeeds. Let him not end up like Tai Solarin that was almost swallowed up by the system that appointed him. The task before Prof Jega is unenviable but one hopes that he will be able to surmount all the land mines laid on his path by the country’s ruling party. If he cannot overcome these, then a free, fair and credible election will be a mirage in 2015.
Eddy Aghanenu ( ).
*Photo Caption - Map of Nigeria showing its 36 states (including Delta & Anambra State), and Federal capital (Abuja or FCT).
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