Feelers that the Federal Government is planning to appoint the Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, came as a surprise to many Nigerians.
The report even disclosed that Akunyiliâ€™s name was about to be sent to the National Assembly for confirmation. Inasmuch as we have nothing againstÂ Akunyili, it is our opinion that appointing her as the INEC boss will portray the government as being insensitive to the feelings of Nigerians on the need for credible and acceptable general elections in 2011. Akunyili canâ€™t be an unbiased umpire, given the fact that she is a card-carrying member of the ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP.
Agreed, Akunyili performed wonderfully when she was the Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, but we think appointing her to supervise next yearâ€™s general election will be laying the foundation for failure. And we have our reasons for this. First, it is no secret that Akunyili is a strong supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan and in fact was the first and only minister to present a memo to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for Jonathan, then Acting President, to be elevated to the position of President and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces of the federation.
With the likelihood of Jonathan contesting next yearâ€™s presidential election, there is no doubt that she might pander to the dictates of Mr. President who appointed her, or even her party. Her loyalty will be a source of worry to all Nigerians.
Secondly, it has been confirmed that Akunyili is a card carrying member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.Â Appointing her as the INEC chairman will confer undue advantage on the party at the expense of other parties.
We agree completely with the main opposition Action Congress, AC, that going ahead to make Akunyili the INEC chairman to supervise next yearâ€™s general election will be a mistake of â€œepic proportion.â€
According to the party, â€œapart from being a serving cabinet member, Akunyili is a card-carrying member of the PDP and a loyalist of President Jonathan.â€ Certainly, these are not the qualities Nigerians are looking for in their new electoral umpire.
It is our opinion that the new INEC chairman must be non partisan, neutral, honest, fearless and imbued with a sense of history. The new INEC boss must be seen to be apolitical and must enjoy the support of all the political parties.
We want to remind the president that the appointment of a new INEC boss is perhaps the most important appointment he has to make in his short tenure before the next election. Therefore, only a credible candidate should be appointed for the position. If he bungles everything, Nigerians will not forgive him.
We think it is time for President Jonathan to put his act together and look at the recommendations of the JusticeÂ Uwais-led electoral reform and implement it. We also want to remind the president that to conduct a free and fair election there must be a credible votersâ€™ register. Already, discerning Nigerians are calling for a new votersâ€™ registerÂ with the photographs of eligible voters in the register as the irreducible minimum if we want democracy to thrive. They argued that a credible votersâ€™ register devoid of all the manipulations associated with the present one will be the first step towards ensuring a credible election next year.
President Jonathan must act fast in this regard and fulfil the yearning of Nigerians to have a credible poll.