Jonathan and the INEC timetable

Casmir Igbokwe

 That Attahiru Jega is the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission is common knowledge. What may not be known yet to every Nigerian is the fact that some mischievous fellows say President Goodluck Jonathan is actually the INEC Chairman. How? Jonathan Ebele Goodluck Azikiwe (JEGA).

 Trust Nigerians. They are very ingenious when it comes to politics. Some already believe that Jonathan will connive with Jega to manipulate the electoral process. Due to our past experiences, not a few Nigerians will be thinking now that the forthcoming elections in 2011 will not be free and fair. Ask them why and you will hear such answers as ‘the Peoples Democratic Party will rig the election’; ‘some prophets have predicted doom if Jonathan runs,’ etc.

These notwithstanding, INEC, last week, released the timetable for the elections. Conduct of party primaries will hold between September 11 and October 30, 2010. Parties commence their campaigns on October 17, while voters’ registration runs between November 1 and 14, 2010. The elections proper start with the National Assembly elections on January 15, 2011. This is followed by the presidential election on January 22 and governorship/state assembly elections on January 29, 2011.

Looking at the time available, it appears the election is already doomed to fail. The time, as some politicians have observed, is short. Nothing is in place, yet it is just about four months to the elections.

Besides, there are other signs that the elections may be scuttled by those who feel they will not be favoured by the outcome. From the North, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Co. have threatened fire and brimstone should Jonathan decide to run. To them, it is the turn of the North to produce the President. Somebody like Prof. Ango Abdullahi, from media reports, is sure that Jonathan will fail if he runs. How he arrived at this conclusion is not necessary here.

On the other side of the divide are prophets who have made predictions according to what their own gods told them. For instance, Primate Theophilus Olabayo says calamity awaits the land if Jonathan runs. There will be bloodshed which, he reportedly adds, will spread uncontrollably and jeopardise Nigeria‘s democracy. Jonathan, he advises, must listen to God and rule himself out of the contest.

 A near similar prediction was made for former President Olusegun Obasanjo before he ascended the presidential throne in 1999. He was said not to be the messiah Nigerians had been waiting for. He not only ruled for eight years but also wanted to go for a third term. Perhaps, Jonathan’s God will also protect him against the wishes of Olabayo’s God.

The President’s recent actions indicate that he may not brood any nonsense. Those who think he is lily-livered may be thinking twice now with the sudden removal of service chiefs last Wednesday. To replace them are Air Marshal Oluseye Petinrin as Chief of Defence Staff; Air Vice Marshal M.D. Umar as Chief of Air Staff; Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral O.S. Ibrahim as the Chief of Naval Staff; Mr. Hafiz Ringim as the acting Inspector-General of Police; and Mr. Ita Ekpeyong as the Director General of the State Security Service.

Of all the appointments, that of Ihejirika is particularly interesting. It is the first since the end of the civil war over 40 years ago, that an Igbo man will be appointed to that position. Already, some Igbo groups have hailed the appointment. President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, reportedly said it signalled the healing of the wounds of Ndigbo.

However, what is more urgent now is the healing of the varied political and electoral wounds in the country. Many people are governors today by rigging. Some senators and Rep members found themselves in the legislative chambers without adequate preparation; without knowing the needs and problems of their constituencies. Many local government chairmen think that their only duty is paying salaries and sharing of local government allocations. There have been no conscious efforts to train or enlighten the political office-seekers and the electorate on their duties, rights and obligations.

 We blamed the immediate past chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu, for the problems associated with our electoral system during his tenure. We also hailed the appointment of Jega. The hope of every Nigerian is that the new INEC man will conduct an election worthy of emulation. But I’m afraid we may soon turn around to vilify Jega if we do not amend the anomalies inherent in our electoral and political system.

We could start by organising training programmes for all those involved with the process of selecting our leaders. We can take a cue from what the police authorities in Rivers State are doing currently. The command has reportedly set aside every Tuesday for the training of officers and men on the conduct of elections. The Commissioner of Police for the state, Suleiman Abba, was quoted to have said that the personnel were being trained on their responsibilities during campaigns, the public order act, and duties during and after elections.

Similarly, the Centre for Management Development has indicated interest to partner with INEC on training and guidance on how to effectively manage resources allocated to it. Advanced democracies embark on such trainings to sensitise their people and make way for peaceful and free elections. Between March 2002 and October 2003, for instance, the Centre for Campaign Leadership trained young professionals who aspired to run for office in the United States on campaign fundraising and grass root mobilisation, among others.

 In their book, Win the Right Way, Christine Trost & Matt Grossmann said, ”Winning candidates combine ethical campaign practices with effective planning, skilful organising, and a clear message. They learn about the concerns of their community, the nuts and bolts of organising, and the intricate rules of financing…”

We need to also think of winning elections the right way. As I write this, I have just been invited to join the group “Jonathan for President” on Facebook. Soon, Atiku or IBB’s group may invite me too. The contest is hotting up. But my main interest is not joining Jonathan or Atiku or Buhari, but in having my name on the voter register. That is one major way you and I can determine who rules us. That is if the two ‘Jegas’ – Goodluck and Attahiru – smoothen the rough edges of the electoral system.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Abbey Says:

    I consider jonathan & jega as “jay-jay” they have skills, we should tight our that they will not suffer us as Maradona did and destroy his ways of holding any post in nigeria rather a share holder in ” PDP ” Name Goodluck is nothing but what he has done… To me clearly nothing.

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