"And you know the true sign of madness is if you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We’ve tried what they’re doing and it didn’t work. And we wouldn’t get a different result if we went back to it. So we’ve got to move forward, not back." ~ Barack Obama
The irony of the task before Attahiru Jega is that the very government that appointed him, the government that he is supposed to work with to checkmate the fraud that has bedeviled all elections that the INEC has conducted in this fourth republic, is dominated by the masterminds of the fraud that Jega and the INEC have been called on to banish. In other words, Jega was appointed by the chief masterminds of election rigging to checkmate the rigging of elections!
Electoral fraud, as we have witnessed in Nigeria since the beginning of this fourth republic, is made possible by factors that are reducible to the following:
• Absence of a credible voters' register;
• Lack of a quick, airtight method of verification and authentication of registered voters;
• The lack of adequate security for officials of the INEC, voting materials, representatives of the contesting candidates, and voters; and
• Lack of consistent transparency in the compilation of election results at the polling booths, verification of such results by representatives of the contesting candidates, transfer of the results to the collation centers, and ultimate release of the results by the INEC.
With respect to the rerun in Delta State, while voting went smoothly in some polling booths, the overall conduct of the rerun, as is inarguably the consensus of all non-partizan reports so far made of the election, was marred by the maladies listed above.
The INEC brought everything it had to Delta State: security, the press, plenty of officials of the INEC (including Comrade Jega), and plenty of voting materials. All attention was put on Delta State. Yet the people's clearly expressed will was successfully subverted in a most unconscionable manner, not at all different from our previous experiences. Matter of fact, the rigging has become well entrenched and more desperate. Even Jega himself has corroborated this assessment in a recent CNN report of the Delta rerun. Jega's remark on the observed irregularities ran as follows: "No one is voting because in many areas people are taking the law into their own hands. Many of our officials have been attacked, many of our voting materials have been diverted in many of these places you are talking about so it cannot be our fault." I do not have any reason not to believe that the on-coming 2011 elections will be much worse, Jega or no Jega; a new voters' register not withstanding; DDC machines notwithstanding. And by the way, four of the DDC machines stolen earlier are still at large and, as recently revealed by P.M. News, staff of the INEC have not been able to successfully operate the DDC machines seamlessly.
The rerun in Delta State shows that the INEC is not even nearly half ready for the April elections. Free and fair elections do not just happen because we wish them to happen. They happen when adequate preparations are in place to grapple with the ills that make electoral fraud possible. Hope is not a strategy. The response of the INEC to these ills, as was demonstrated in the rerun in Delta State, is grossly inadequate to put the rigging of elections in check. Such manner of response will be woefully terrible in the on-coming 2011 elections considering that the INEC will be dealing with our 36 states simultaneously. Unless Jega is Jesus and has some unearthly powers to manufacture security and the sort of transparency requisite for the conduct of a free and fair election, we are guaranteed to have another episode of the 2007 elections this April. We have to devise a different method of policing elections, one that rely more on technology as suggested by Donald Duke (former governor of Cross Rivers State). Needless to say, the time, political will, and resources to make such a change are not there at the moment. They will not be there between now and the April elections. So the demonstrably bankrupt and doomed method of policing elections in Nigeria will be used once more and the results, sad to say, stand a very high chance of being the same as we have so far known them to be.
Now, what do we make of this? I expect more massive rigging in the on-coming 2011 elections; there will be serious, nationwide intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters; election violence will not be unheard of. These, I believe, are sure to happen and for the most part will be to the advantage of the ruling PDP. But we, Nigerians, cannot and should not retreat, nor should we despair and become politically apathetic. Of course, refusal by Nigerians and all opposition parties to participate in the 2011 elections until the electoral process is fixed could be a very powerful tool in the interest of free and fair elections in Nigeria, the chances are near zero that we would find such a consensus. For this reason, we should be invigorated, shed political apathy, and campaign more vigorously for our preferred candidates. I say this, though, with a caveat: all opposition candidates and their parties should begin now, if they have not already started, to invest very heavily on evidence gathering.
If voting will have any meaning in the 2011 elections, opposition parties must be adequately prepared to document the entire electoral process in video (especially), photographs, writing, etc. Whatever forensically significant piece of evidence, including human witnesses, they can have of the whole process should be gathered and safely preserved. If the INEC is serious, and not being hypocritical about holding free and fair elections, it should do the same. Until the Delta rerun, I had thought that forensic evidence gathering was part of Jega's plan to ensure that the 2011 elections are credible. No opposition parties should trust the INEC or our security personnel. The INEC, on its part, should not trust any of the parties. There can be no such thing as too much evidence in the forthcoming elections. This is the only way voter participation would make any meaning in the 2011 elections.
The elections are going to be massively rigged. Make no mistake about that. Voters cannot stop it. The INEC cannot stop it even if it intends to. Our security personnel will be grossly inadequate and cannot stop it; matter of fact, much of the rigging will be done in collaboration with our security personnel and with officials of the INEC. The gathered evidence would be the only tool available to reclaim any stolen mandate through our courts and for the prosecution of the election riggers and their sponsors. If this is not done, if the gathering of incontrovertible evidence is not at the core of whatever winning strategy the opposition candidates and parties may have, we may vote all we want, the effort will be in vain and the illegitimate dominance of the PDP will continue indefinitely unless there is a plan somewhere to wage a well articulated and sustainable armed struggle against the Nigerian state.