By Ariyo-Dare Aristotle
As we celebrate the exit of Professor Attahiru Jega, we cannot gloss over a fundamental challenge that looks more like a cover-up and a muddled up process over the 2015 general elections. We have allowed Jega to leave without asking relevant questions about the elections and we may live to regret it. That the opposition won and former ruling party conceded, without approaching the tribunal shouldn’t have stopped us from interrogating the process. We missed it.
It is not in dispute that Jega deserves our commendations for organizing two general elections and other states election within five years. As a matter of fact, we must accept the reality that organising elections in Nigeria, comes with enormous problems. In addition to this, he was the most engaging of all persons who have presided over various electoral commissions since 1960.
Indeed, Jega engaged the political parties, civil societies and other stakeholders by coming up with several initiatives during his time. The journey towards PVC and card readers was commenced with a new registration process in 2011. One significant addition to the 2011 was the ‘wait-to-see-your-results-count’ practice which greatly enhanced openness and firsthand results by voters.
However, it now appears, Jega deliberately evaded and refused to announce or release the data generated for accreditation from the card readers for us to have a significant understanding of what generally transpired during the elections. Feelers suggested that the information from the card readers if released, would have raised serious credibility issue against the elections. But it is for Independent National Electoral Commision (INEC) to prove that the success rate of the card readers’ data if released, may not likely indicate elections gambled with electronic.
The former INEC boss had given the impression that before the announcement of results, the commission would have known the number Nigerians accredited to forestall results inflation that had characterized some elections in the past. The Card Readers according to Jega would assist the commission “to keep record of who has been accredited and also enable us to send that information to a central data base. And if there’s any dispute as to who has been accredited, we will be able to use that information to audit a polling unit and be able to confirm the number of people accredited in that polling unit.”
He had promised to publish the records from the card readers. But before he left, some civil society groups had tried to convince the commission to publish the data from the card readers. Agreed that the card readers became problematic midway into the Presidential/National Assembly election of March 28, 2015, this is not sufficient and neither an excuse not to publish the information on whatever figures the card readers generated for the two elections (including April 11, 2015 Governorship/House of Assembly).
Nigerians must recall that huge taxpayers money in billions was spent on procuring the card readers. It is too early to conclude if the card readers project was bungled; contrived to achieve an agenda as alleged by some groups or a major success if the commission could prove so. However, from what transpired during the announcement of results and other information that later came to public space, if the opposition (then) had lost, the 2015 general elections could have equally been described as the worst in the history of Nigeria and stoutly rejected by the opposition.
It is unacceptable for INEC to keep the data from the card reader secret. The commission should publish it on the merit of a project it used taxpayers money to implement. INEC should be audited by the National Assembly using an independent firm for Nigerians to better appreciate its works.
It may not suffice to say that if Jega had published the data from the card readers, he could have equally attracted as much criticisms. The card reader project remains his unfinished business and an experiment in a major task. Nigerians took a big risk and usual, the Almighty God helped us to navigate through. Nevertheless, he did his best and should not be denied of honour since the politicians have conceded, to what whatever imperfection during the elections.
About Ariyo-Dare Aristotle:
He is a communication specialist and public relations expert. He is passionate about human development and regularly shares his opinion on Twitter via @AriyoAristotle.
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