Despite Several Assurances And Promises Prof Attahiru Jegaed Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, made to Nigeria on its readiness for the month's general election, the brusque cancellation of the exercise yesterday actually amplifies INEC unpreparedness.
Few hours to the poll's commencement, Prof. Jega had boasted to an expectant nation that everything was set. So his announcement the postponement of few hours after accreditation of voters had begun in some states caught many unaware.
According to Jega, late arrival of result sheets where candidate's scores would be recorded informed the poll shift till tomorrow. At about 1pm when the INEC chairman was making a life radio and television broadcast to the nation, electoral materials were yet to arrive many polling units across the country.
Just before Jega's broadcast, former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu in a telephone chat complained of non-arrival of voting materials in the entire Abia North Senatorial District. In some parts of Lagos State ad hoc staff of INEC made of National Youth Service Corps NYSC members which INEC hired for the exercise arrived late to voting centres. For instance, in Ikorodu Federal Constituency, voting materials were nowhere in sight at about 10.30a.m.
A supervisor at one of the distribution centres attributed the late arrival of material and personnel to absence of policemen to accompany the items to various destinations. The materials were eventually taken to different locations in the town in hired commercial mini-buses unaccompanied by policemen or any other security agents.
The question then arises where are the 350,000 policemen which the authorities said were deployed for the exercise?
Perhaps, the worst case was in Taraba State where materials distributed were that of April 16 governorship election. In different parts of the country, there were reports of mix-up and glaring lapses in the whole arrangements.
About two weeks ago, INEC had announced discovery of thousands of multiple registrations courtesy of the Direct Data Capturing DDC machine. But curiously, some fictitious names were reportedly found in some voters list.
Unconfirmed reports have it that INEC decision to call off the poll mid-way to its take-off might actually be a last minute move to save its face and keep its integrity intact. Before Jega's announcement, a source had hinted on its possibility.
According to the source, reason was the conspicuous absence of Labour Party logo on the ballot paper. Such omission would have rendered the entire poll a nullity. The Electoral Act 2010 provides that logo of all political parties contesting an election shall be displayed on the ballot paper. It was also learnt from another source that there are two logos bearing broom as symbol on the ballot paper.
One is AC and the other ACN, that is, Action Congress and Action Congress of Nigeria. It would have been disastrous for a commission which Nigeria and indeed the whole world is expecting much from to come out with such a flawed ballot paper. In order to sustain the poll sanctity, INEC had refused to publicly display a sample of the ballot paper which is a pre-election formality.
With the large turn-out of Nigerians for the last voters registration exercise, it showed that Nigerians are determined to get it right this time around. It appears however that the high hopes most Nigerians had invested in the process had been dashed. For a commission that has faltered from outset, many are wondering whether Jega and his men can get it right in subsequent elections. Another pertinent question being asked is whether it is actually possible for INEC to put right whatever it was that went wrong between Saturday and Monday which is the new date for the National Assembly poll.
For the nation, political parties and indeed candidates, the cost of INEC action is enormous, considering billions of naira that have gone down the drain. Some analysts contend that Jega-led INEC is over-pampered, hence he has no excuse to fail. Twice, the Electoral Act was amended, at least, to the knowledge of Nigerians to enable the commission have enough legal elbow room to operate.
Extra-budgetary allocations were also made each time Jega asked for more money, all to ensure the success of the general election.