Challenges of Free and Fair Elections

Prof. Attahiru Jega

The declaration in November, 2014 by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, that the era of ballot box snatching in Nigerian elections is over because such practices he said, will render the votes of erring political parties invalid has come to stay. Thanks to the introduction of the Card reader which has made rigging or ballot box stuffing impossible. Jega’s effort in spite of the   pressure mounted on him by the Presidency, the NSA and the Service Chiefs deserves commendation. The interest of the nation is top most in his heart and not any sectional or primordial consideration as some people will want us to believe. This is best demonstrated viewed against the unwholesome attitude exhibited by a Minister of the Federal Republic in person of Godsday Orubebe against Prof Jega but he remained calm and undeterred. An encounter of the type we saw on the screen is most unbecoming of even a councillor not to talk of a Federal Minister. How can Orubebe throw decency to the wind and behave in a manner reminiscent of garage boys. Or is Orubebe a rehabilitated area boy?

With what we have seen in the just concluded presidential election, Nigerians should embrace this new system and other initiatives put in place by INEC so that the April 11thgubernatorial and State Assembly elections will be a hitch-free exercise, even though there is no guaranty of absolute perfection as we are still learning day by day. INEC on its part should endeavour to cover areas it could not reach this time around such as Sabon Birnin Daji in Igabi local government area where eight polling units were left without electoral materials and seven polling units at Anguwar Shanu and Six at Badarawa/Malali all in Kaduna North local government area of Kaduna State. This applies to other communities across the country.

Congratulations Nigerians; you deserve our commendation for been very patient especially in areas where the materials and officials did not show up until late into the afternoon and those who were disenfranchised for no fault of theirs. We congratulate everyone for the sacrifice in making the election a hitch free exercise. We also commiserate with the families of those who lost their lives as a result of the wild celebrations embarked upon by groups and organisations across the length and breadth of Nigeria even before the official declaration of the PRESIDENT-ELECT as the winner.

The security agencies have done well but that is not enough viewed against the background that the next round of election will involve incumbent governors and those seeking to unseat them from office. As such, neutrality is what is expected from the high Command of all the services down to the operative at the polling unit posted to maintain law and order. Security agencies have not done badly during the just concluded Presidential election, as such we urge them to keep the tempo and ensure that the elections are peaceful. Be on the lookout for those amassing dangerous weapons in preparation for the election and let the long arm of the law catch up with them. It is not ideal for the Police or the State Security Service to invite any Aspirant on the eve of elections as this will portray them as being partisan or taking side which has the potential to be resisted by any means necessary.

Incumbent governors have a lesson to learn from outgoing President Jonathan who even before the final declaration was made congratulated His Excellency Gen Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) as the President elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having accepted defeat in the manner Jonathan did show some element of good sportsmanship in him. As such, we at Nigerian Insight urge all sitting governors who are likely losing their seats to popular acclaim of the citizens to please take heart and behave like President Jonathan. It is not a do or die thing. Be exemplary! Don’t impose curfew in your states for fear of losing or stage manage a situation that may provoke the reaction of citizens. The cold blooded murder of two innocent souls at Zangon Shanu in Kaduna South local government on Tuesday 31st March, 2015 by a team of trigger happy Military men in an unmarked White Hilux Jeep is reprehensible. It was done with the intention to incite reaction from the public which was controlled by well-meaning citizens. We condemn this gruesome murder and urge the police to whom the case was reported to fish out the culprits so that examples can be set. Officers and men of the Military are not above the law.

Finally, for the system just adopted by INEC to mature, there is the need for continuity and this means the incoming administration should consider retaining Professor Attahiru Jega to complete the good work he has started. God bless Nigeria.

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