After the election won by Chief M.K.O Abiola was allegedly annulled by the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida in 1993, election which was acclaimed to be the freest and fairest in the political history of this forced entity called Nigeria, ever since then, June 12, 1993 the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not had it credible free and fair at the polls.
From May 29, 1999 when our dear country Nigeria finally made it back to civilian rule till date, elections have been characterized by alleged plethora of irregularities ranging from ballot snatching and stuffing, multiple thumb printing, thuggery among other electoral anomalies.
Edo, Ekiti and osun states governorship elections were canceled due largely to unprecedented electoral flaws, and as a result that their governors were thrown out of office by the court and as a matter of fairness and justice the rightful candidates who actually won during the elections were sworn in. And recently also, the 2007 gubernatorial election in Delta State was invalidated by the Appeal Court in Benin, Edo State capital. Even the late President, Umar Musa Yar’Adua sincerely admitted that the process that led to his emergence as the First Citizen of this nation was fraught with irregularities.
It was based on these electoral deficiencies or rather malpractices which generated public outcry that led to the setting up of Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee by the present administration to fashion out ways on how to conduct credible, free and fair electoral exercise, as well as map out punitive measures to deal with perpetrators of electoral fraud. The first phase of the reform process brought on board Professor Attahiru Jega as the current Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who replaced ousted and widely criticized former INEC Boss, Maurice Iwu.
Given the testimonies made on the virtuous qualities of Prof. Jega and now that Delta State rerun is close at hand, the INEC Boss in collaboration with the Resident Commissioner as well as its ad hoc staff should step out of their way to ensure credible, free and fair polls.
No doubt Prof. Jega and his men have a lot of work to do so as to keep their integrity intact or risk being vilified on pages of newspapers if they fail to conduct credible polls. To ensure that electoral fraud is tackled head-on before, during and after elections, here are my humble suggestions.
It is widely alleged and believed that some influential politicians across the federation do have polling centers in front of their houses, close to their houses or hotels in order to achieve their preplanned objectives which is to rig elections. Because of their powerful position, they do have the services of security officers at their disposal who aid and abet electoral impunity. For the above politicians, their houses, hotels and movement should be monitored surreptitiously by undercover security operatives who should be equipped with communication and surveillance gadgets that will assist them capture and report electoral fraud. And for politicians who have polling centers located close to their houses, hotels etc, such centers should be canceled.
The arrival of electoral materials into the state capital as well as local government areas should be monitored round the clock to avoid diversion of materials to unauthorized or secluded places – where voting should not take place. In addition, adequate security, and mobility should be put in place to ensure speedy conveyance of electoral materials to polling centers to avoid late voting. Ad hoc members of INEC such as poll orderly, supervisors etc who have political affiliation with political parties should not be allowed to conduct election as this will enable them perpetrate fraud.
Efforts should be made to prevent ballot stuffing, snatching and multiple casting of votes among other maladies which have been the hallmark of elections in Nigeria. In addition, party agents and the fourth estate of the realm should all play their roles during Delta State rerun election to ensure a credible poll.
Greater blame will be on the INEC Chairman if the process falls short of the expectation of Delta state people and Nigerians as this will be used to gauge what the 2011 general elections will be.
There is no better time for the INEC Boss and Delta State Resident INEC Commissioners to act than now.
Nwaorgu Faustinus Chilee writes from Igboeche, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Mobile: +2348035601312. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org