The Transition Resurgent Group (TRG),a committee of committed patriots who are committed to a free,fair and credible election that can see our country landing safely after the voting processes.We have followed with keen interest the needless tension that we have just passed through over what commonsense should have seen us do without much ado.
We are of the firm belief that there are different ways of getting to power in any given society among which are:
1 Staging a coup.
2 Fighting a guerrilla war.
3 Democratic elections.
The third option is what we are currently operating in Nigeria and on the basis of which contest for power in 2015 is about to be organized.If we were convinced that there are basic principles of democratic elections which must not be observed in the breach,we should not have had any issue over moving the elections within the time allowed by the law in order to avoid a situation where millions of our citizens would have been disenfranchised due to ineptitude or plain mischief by our election managers .
It was a surprise that supposed democrats carried on as if the whole election was being organized as an insurgency against the electorate who should be the No1 consideration in all electoral matters.
What we witnessed was a scant regard for the voters who are seen by a section of our political class as being of no better value than the ballot boxes which hoodlums can hijack to pervert the electoral process.
Failure To Admit Lapses By Jega Worries
TRG is worried by the failure of INEC chairman,Prof Attahiru Jega in his Saturday night media to take responsibility for the obvious lapses that characterized the shoddy preparations for the now rescheduled polls.He rather went ahead in his boisterous claims that the commission was better prepared to conduct the 2015 elections than it was in 2011 but for the insistence of security forces that they could not guaranty safety.It is a clear sign of gross irresponsibility for the INEC boss to say that his inability to "distribute" 23m voter cards(minus the unknown numbers that have not collected their cards from the 45m he claimed he has "distributed) represents a better preparation!
Much more surprising was the gusto with which he rolled out the high percentage of distribution of PVCs in insurgency ravaged states in the North East:Borno(68%),Gombe(78%),Yobe(79.4) and Adamawa(80.9%).Reasonable people are bound to wonder what magic Jega performed in war zone that he could not do in Lagos where PVC collection is at a ridiculous 38.39%.
Whereas Jega had been making wild claims about improvements in card delivery,our investigations reveal that not a single new card has been delivered to many of the collection centers in Lagos in the last two - three weeks.There have also been claims of deliberate denials of cards to owners based on subjective factors which suggest deliberate plans to disenfranchise certain categories of voters their cards in the state due to the voting patterns in the 2014 elections.
That Jega has no apology to offer to millions of voters who have been thronging the collection centers for months without being able to collect their cards smacks of galling arrogance and insensitivity.Among the millions he has failed without any remorse are prominent Nigerians like the Sultan of Sokoto,the Soun of Ogbomosho,Lagos State Governor,Charly Boy, Dr Amos Akingba,Otunba Gani Adams etc. He has added salt to injury by saying that the millions who have been denied their right to vote by sheer ineptness of the commission was not enough to put off the elections.Is Jega aware that voting is a right and not a privilege at the behest of any arrogant official??Perhaps we need to commend the words of President LB Johnson when signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965 Jega:
"To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.
Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure that right"
We are not under any doubt that with this inconsiderate disposition,Prof Jega lacks the capacity to right the wrongs he has not admitted due to a large ego or pure mischief.The country may therefore not witness much difference in the situation if we do not hold Jega down to the responsibilities of his office.
Damning Allegations Hanging.
We are not also impressed by Prof Jega's arrogant waving of weighty allegations that challenge his suitability to conduct free and fair elections by prominent Nigerians from North and south in the last few days.First was the Credible Alternative Alliance(CAA) led by former Kaduna State Governor,Alhaji Balarabe Musa which accused Jega of skewing PVC distribution in favor of a particular candidate.A report of Thisday of 5th February on the allegation said inter alia:
"According to CAA, South-East has (3,287, 530) , South West (7,411,205), South-South (3,844,370) , North-East (2,429,763), North West (4,835,556), North Central (3,907,849) and FCT(421,559).
On the distribution of PVCs, CAA said it has observed "a criminal gross disparity of voter spread designed to tilt the election to a pre-determined outcome.
The group insists that all the 68.8 million registered voters must be given unfettered access to freely collect their PVCs and cast their vote as provided for in the constitution, adding that it would be forced to take INEC to court if that condition was not met.
"Let us call a spade, a spade. There are two main contenders for the Presidency in this election. The analyzed data above depicts a worrying trend. Voters in the zones that tend to support President Goodluck Jonathan are massively disenfranchised by the application of the so-called PVCs debacle, 40% to 50% of voters in the these regions who are lawfully and duly registered to vote will be denied their right to vote by INEC.
"That is nearly half of the support base of the President, simply nullified by administrative (failure) prior to the election. By comparison, the zones that tend to support Buhari are handed a massive voter advantage, nearly 80% of his support base will be allowed to cast their votes by INEC.
In an election, which many say will be won or lost by a slim margin, to now disenfranchise 26million voters through a questionable and unlawful rule by INEC is not acceptable by any measure.
" CAA condemns in its entirety. This attempt by INEC to undermine our nescient democracy through this criminal enterprise to determine the outcome of this electioneer before the ballot is cast"
Then came the allegations of the Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly(SNPA) against the INEC chairman,some of which borders on criminality which had the signature of a former Vice-President of Nigeria,Dr Alex Ekwueme.
They accused Jega among others of attending meetings with leaders of Northern Elders Forum where plots were hatched to compromise the integrity of the electoral process in Nigeria.The group claimed further that the INEC boss accepted a donation of 100 laptops for each state of the North from the Northern elders which were given to youth activists to compromise the registration process among legions of other charges.
The allegations ,weighty as they were,did not attract any response from Jega until a journalist asked him pointedly at the briefing.For him to respond that he would have gone to court to sue for libel were it not that he was busy with preparations for the election is too flimsy.What election does he want to conduct with a big question mark on his integrity?
We therefore call for a thorough investigation of all the allegations against Jega to ascertain his worthiness to preside over elections whose outcome would be credible and acceptable .
We are of the full persuasion that the political coloration that has been splashed over the failure of INEC has not allowed us to fully address the fundamental issues at stake in the (non) preparation to hold the 2015 elections.There have been too much blackmail and terrible propaganda to paper over the real issues .Now that the elections have been moved by six weeks,we have the opportunity to put things right by beaming a proper searchlight on the issues that have to do with voters right.The extension of time within the law would make no sense if the anomalies that characterized the shoddy plans are not rectified.
The future of Nigeria is at stake and it is dangerous to leave at the whimsical and capricious disposal of one man who may be oblivious of what is at stake for us as a people if we mismanaged this election.
(1) Mr Alfred Ilenre. (2) Yinka Odumakin (3) Comrade Ezike Ibuchukwu
(4) Ibiba Donpedro. (5) Col. Tony Nyiam(Rtd)