Monday, November 24, 2014 12:05 pm
Professor Attahiru Jega is the National Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. In this interview with AYORINDE OLUOKUN, he spoke about the preparation of the Commission for the 2015 elections, the controversies over the distribution of permanent voter’s cards and creation of new polling units among other issues. Photos: FEMI IPAYE
INEC has been very busy in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. You have conducted quite a few gubernatorial elections among others. What are the lessons learnt from these elections that you think will be useful in the 2015 elections?
As you have rightly pointed out, the Commission has been very busy preparing for the 2015 elections. Since the 2011 elections, we have devoted a lot of time to preparing for the 2015 elections. For example, we developed a strategic plan covering the period 2012 to 2016 and it is to help us to do quite a lot of extensive operational preparations for the 2015 elections as well as to help us become one of the best election management bodies in the world.
And since 2011, we have been implementing this strategic plan and I am proud to say as we get closer to 2015 general elections, we are also increasing the tempo of doing all that it takes to ensure that the elections are successful. Nigerians want to deepen democracy and they want to see remarkable improvements in the electoral process and as you and I know very well, Nigerians have been frustrated by the slow progress in having good elections in our country.
And since we came in 2010 as a new Commission, we’ve been doing our best to keep on improving. Thank God, 2011 was said to be better than any election conducted previously. Our commitment now is to ensure that the 2015 general elections are much, much better than the 2011 general elections. We have conducted eight governorship elections since 2011 elections. As far back as Edo and Ondo [gubernatorial elections], it was becoming evident that things are improving in the conduct of these governorship elections. Of course, we have learnt bitter lessons.
For example, there was delay in one local government in Anambra State and that caused a major uproar, and we learnt bitter lessons from that because even though the election went very well, and the clearest testimony to how well the elections went is the fact that all those who petitioned – who went to the tribunal, the appeal court of the Supreme Court – had their petitions dismissed, but we were still unhappy that there were challenges in one local government in Anambra – Idemili North. But we’ve learnt from that mistake and that’s why we prepared well for Ekiti; that’s why we prepared very well for Osun, and I want to assure you that the pattern that we have in Ekiti and Osun are the patterns that will be reflected even in a better manner come February 2015.
Logistically, we have improved. You know that one of the major constraints or blemishes we’ve had in the electoral process is late commencement of elections, but beginning from Ekiti and Osun, we have seen remarkable improvement in the time of commencement. In Ekiti, by 8 o’clock, over 90 per cent of the polling units had opened; in Osun State by 8 o’clock, over 96 per cent of the polling units had opened and this is a trend that we intend to keep and to keep on improving. Of course, in both Ekiti and Osun, we had to rely on large security presence in order to ensure a calm and stable atmosphere for elections. But the good thing is that that security presence helped to ensure that the percentage of voters’ turnout in Ekiti and Osun was higher than all the previous governorship elections we’ve held.
And so, we learnt quite a lot and we are doing quite a lot to ensure that the 2015 general elections are much better than 2011. I can tell you that, for example, now we are pre-occupied with the distribution of the permanent voter’s cards as well as the finishing of the voters’ registration in the remaining states where we have not done so. I can also assure you that before 2015, every registered voter would have got his or her permanent voter’s card and this is because in the February 2015 elections, we are going to use a card reader to verify who the true owner of the card is and I believe this will be a tremendous addition to the integrity of the process.
People can no longer buy cards and give them to other people to come and vote. People can no longer snatch cards and come and use them. People can no longer go and look for cards of people who have died and come and use them in the election. So we are doing our best and God willing, it will come to pass that the 2015 elections will be the best elections in our country.
On the issue of the distribution of PVCs, there have been calls for your resignation over the shoddy manner in which many believed INEC handled the distribution of the cards. What excuse does INEC have for this glaring failure?