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Friday, 22 November 2013

Jega loses in Anambra

Jega loses in Anambra
When the gubernatorial election came up in Anambra State last Saturday, not only the party candidates were contesting.  The  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also in the race.  The organization, as represented by its National Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, was contesting for our acclaim, our approbation and applause.  It was an election that was poised to position Jega as some sort of national hero.
How did INEC come out at the end of the day?  The election was so shambolic and topsy-turvy, that instead of approbation, the electoral organization got opprobrium. In place of acclaim, it got obloquy, and in place of beauty, it got ashes.  In fact, the Anambra election showed us that Maurice Iwu was still well and alive in our electoral life.
The statistics of the inconclusive exercise speak for themselves.  Number of registered voters was 1,763,761.  How many were accredited to vote?  A miserable 451,826.  More than 1.3 million people could not find their names on the voters’ register, and had been disenfranchised.
How many votes were eventually cast?  Total of 429,549.  Of that number, only 413,005 were considered valid, 16,544 were rejected, and 113,113, were cancelled.
At this point, the issue is not who becomes the governor of Anambra State among the legion of contestants.  When such a person emerges clean and clear, we shall congratulate him, and also encourage the losers to take hearts, and try some other time.  But first, the process.  It must be seen to have been free, fair and worthy.  How can the electoral body give us such disordered, jumbled and bemusing exercise, and then we say everything is okay?  It cannot be okay until it has been seen to be okay.
There were two frontrunners among the top five candidates in the election: Willie Obiano of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC).  The eyes of Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora, were on the two candidates, and how they would perform.  And suddenly, everything went fairly well in the strongholds of Obiano in terms of accreditation, supply of election materials, voting and collation of results, but in the strongholds of Ngige, everything that could ever go wrong did.  Voters were completely denied the rights to exercise their franchise, and as later admitted by Jega, there had been deliberate sabotage by the electoral officer in charge of the area.  He has since been arrested, and is undergoing investigation.
This is the third straight week I am writing on the Anambra elections.  And you would think I had a favourite candidate?  Not so.  My candidate was fair play, a free and fair process.  After that had been served, anyone could emerge governor, and I would have congratulated the person.  But he must have been seen to have emerged through a process that is largely unassailable, unimpeachable, unblemished.  Definitely, not the kind we witnessed last Saturday.  It was the shame of a country.  And what a country!
I have questions for Professor Jega, because though he may not be the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra, the buck ultimately stops at his table.  What happened to the voters register?  The document was displayed before the election, and majority of registered voters found their names on it.  But on election day, another version was rolled out, in which out of 1,763,761 voters, only 451,826 found their names.  What happened? Who doctored the document?
Again, before the 2011 elections, INEC told us it was putting together a database of voters in the country.  It asked for, and got about N100 billion.  Was such money spent only for us to get the humongous confusion that ensued in Anambra last weekend?  With such development, we would be correct to shout:  ‘Professor Jega, where is our N100 billion?’  We know the professor is a honourable man, but we still have the right to ask for our database, don’t we? And if there is none, then where is our money?  We need answer, and desperately too, before we shout louder.
And then, the electoral officer who sabotaged voting in areas where Ngige was quite strong.  Did he work alone?  Was he in cahoots with other people within and outside INEC?  Was he induced?  If yes, what are the facts of the case?  We need answers from both INEC and our security agencies. It is not really about Ngige, or any other individual. He has got the shorter end of the stick today, it can be anybody else’s turn tomorrow. Injustice to one, as they say, is injustice to all. If it had happened to Obiano, Ifeanyi Ubah, Tony Nwoye, or Godwin Ezeemo, I would have raised the same queries, and shouted as loud as I’m shouting now.
If INEC could not conduct acceptable election in an isolated state, under the gaze of the entire country and the international community, what right do we then have to expect anything better in 2015?  Would the dogs and baboons not then be soaked in blood after the exercise, and that in a country where blood already flows daily like water? Surely, we can do without further cataclysm.
Friends, Nigerians, countrymen!  We have reasons to be apprehensive.  If INEC made a mess of eating an egg in Anambra, how then can we dare hope that it will do better at national elections in less than 15 months? Big puzzle.
Beyond the bungling and blundering of INEC, however, there are some other things to note about what happened last Saturday, which are germane to our democracy.
First is that no single life was lost in direct association with the election.  It was quite comforting.  An election of such magnitude, with high decibel tension, and no flare of violence?  Despite the provocations by INEC’s inefficiency, the people still held their peace.  It was quite salutary, and something to applaud after all.  The security agencies played their part, the electorate did their bit.  May we continue to have decorum and civility in our national life, despite whatever shortcomings there might be.
Again, it is never over till it is over.  Have you seen the performance of Tony Nwoye of the PDP in the results released so far?  He came into the campaigns less than a week to voting.  And for now, he is actually the runner up, even ahead of Ngige.  When I wrote last week that he could possibly be a winner, I know that you laughed.  Now, see who is laughing last and possibly laughing best.  Obiano of APGA has 174,710 votes, Nwoye, 94,956, Ngige, 92,300 and Ifeanyi Ubah of Labour Party, 37,444.  The lesson?  Never rule anybody out till the last blast of the whistle.  It is never over till it is over.  What if Nwoye had then had months to campaign and prepare for the polls?  PDP could have got Anambra State back.
Another revelation from the election, as shoddy and shabby as it was, is that ethnic sentiments are well and alive in Nigeria, and may forever be.  All the candidates are of the Igbo stock, and you expect the electorate to see them as one members of a large family.  Not so.  You found sub-ethnicity within a larger ethnicity.  Ngige hails from Idemili area, and that is where he has his largest votes.  Idemili North gave him 7,135, and 9,539 in Idemili South.  In other places, he got just a couple of thousands.  Ifeanyi Ubah is from Nnewi, and his Labour Party got an unprecedented 18,014 votes in Nnewi North, leaving mere crumbs for the other candidates.  In Nnewi South, he got 2,214.  In other places, he got votes in just hundreds, and a sprinkle of thousands.  And in Anambra North?  Obiano and Nwoye hail from the place.  They simply shared the votes between themselves, with the larger number going to APGA.  The submission?  Primordial sentiments of ethnicity and religion may never be divorced from politics in Nigeria.  People will still continue to vote based on tenuous considerations like the dialect the candidate speaks, the church or mosque he attends, is he candidate of a home grown party or a ‘foreign’ party etc.  Nigeria will never change, at least not for now.  Each region may therefore do well to hold its turf tight.  I am sure the scenario will play out in 2015, with the Yoruba largely going with the APC, the far North also with APC, depending on who the presidential candidate of the party is, while the South east, South
-south, and part of North-central may go with the PDP.  And all these will not be due to any fundamental reasons, other than this is the party/candidate that speaks my language, belongs to my religion, or hails from my geographical area. Nigeria we hail thee!
Back to INEC.  When Professor Attahiru Jega was appointed in 2010, I wrote a piece under the headline, ‘Jega, beware of jagajaga.’  And I take my counsel for him today from that piece again: “Will Attahiru Jega fare better (than Maurice Iwu)?  By the time he finishes the job he’s about to take, will his famed integrity still be intact?  Will we still salute and applaud him, or usher him out of office with missiles and projectiles?  Will the beautiful name, Jega, have tuned into jagajaga (confusion, absolute chaos) by the time he leaves?  May God forbid…  Jega must learn from the shipwreck that Maurice Iwu made of the job at INEC… if Jega makes the same mistake, it can only end in jagajaga.  And that would be tragic for a man who has been so well rated, and so highly recommended.”
Well, Anambra last week was jagajaga.  But Nigerians are not writing Prof Jega completely off yet, though there are calls for his resignation here and there.  He lost the battle last weekend, he should ensure he wins the war.


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