The Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega yesterday warned Nigerians not to expect a perfect election in 2011. Speaking as a member of the panel that discussed elections and political transparency in Nigeria at the 2010 Achebe Colloquium, Prof. Jega played down expectations.
“It is a formidable task,” he said, “But it is a doable task.”
He announced that his commission would use members of the National Youth Service Corps as well as senior level students of Nigerian universities as temporary staff.
“We have been inspired by the growing and overflowing positive feeling of Nigerians to get things right,” Prof. Jega said.
He acknowledged that INEC is aware that 2011 election is an important threshold for Nigeria. The former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, promised Nigerians that INEC “will bring a remarkable and substantive improvement that will make Nigerians accept the credibility of the elections.”
In an earlier contribution, the Managing Director of the Guardian Newspaper, Mr. Emeka Izeze expressed confidence in Prof. Jega ability to do the work. But he also warned that it would take more than a good man to conduct a good election in Nigeria.
The veteran journalist said that the disposition of Nigerian politicians had remained the same and that the electorate had not shown that they cared. He decried Nigeria’s culture of preparing for nothing as if preparation didn’t matter.
“The pity is that good luck can carry you so far,” he said. “Good luck cannot conduct good election.”
In his remark, Prof. Richard Joseph of Northwestern University noted that if Brazil, India and Indonesia could conduct credible elections, Nigeria had no reason not to. Quoting Dele Olojede, Prof Joseph said that, “Nigeria is going down an escalator that is moving up.”
He feared that the forthcoming elections in Nigeria were already programmed and reprogrammed to fail.
“Should this coming election fail”, the political scientist warned, “the peace, unity and stability of Nigeria can be compromised.”
Ayo Obe, a Lagos based human rights lawyer, also expressed faith in Jega. But she listed urgent things INEC must do to get things right. She specifically asked that the voters’ register should be published online and for INEC to allow television cameras in the collation centers.
Like other panel members, Darren Kew of McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts called Jega’s appointment as INEC chairman a game changer.
The experienced Nigerian election observer warned about questionable INEC officials at the state and federal level. He mentioned Plateau State and Kano as potential flash points in the upcoming elections.
“The Nigerian police is deeply compromised,” he said about the role of the police in Nigeria’s elections. “In past elections, we’ve seen large numbers of fake police men. “You can identify them because they wear new uniforms.”
Professor Jega revealed that INEC would place the voters’ register online. “I’m determined not to fail,” he said. “I have to say that some people think that we are magicians but we are not.”
Prof. Mobalaji Aluko of Howard University asked the INEC Chairman what his plan B was if he could not meet certain requirements of the electoral laws.
“We have a plan B,” Jega answered, “but it is secret.”
“I know Jega before the election,” Prof Aluko confessed, “I hope I will be able to say that I know him after the election.”