Now that the Presidency has ordered the Federal Ministry of Finance to release N72 billion to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,Â for the compilation a new votersâ€™ register, it is our hope that the electoral body will take the bull by the horns and proceed immediately to produce a new register for the 2011 election.
Reports revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the Minister of Finance, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, to release the money demanded by INEC for the compilation of a new votersâ€™ register shortly before he travelled to Addis Ababa for the Afrcan Union meeting. The INEC boss, Dr. Attahiru Jega, last week revealed that the commission would require between N55 billion and N72 billion for the nexercise. With the provision of the money, INEC no longer has any excuse not to conduct a credible election.
The production of a new votersâ€™ register has been described by critics of the much flawed 2007 elections as the irreducible minimum for a credible election in the country. As attested to by all, including international observers who witnessed the election, lack of a credible votersâ€™ register was one of its undoing.
Many voters who registered at a particular spot could not find their namesÂ where the register was displayed at the polling booths and this caused a lot of problems. Thousands of voters could not vote because they could not find their names in the register. Instead of their names being reflected in the register, foreignÂ names were in the register.
In electoral engineering, a credible votersâ€™ register is the first step towards guaranteeing a flawless election. We donâ€™t want a repeat of what was witnessed during the Ekiti rerun and Anambra governorship elections when thousands were disenfranchised asÂ they were not able to locate their names in the votersâ€™ register. Foreign names like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Nelson Mandela and others were in the discredited votersâ€™ register.
It is good that Jega spoke out earlyÂ on what INEC needs to conduct a free, fair and credible election. The provision of the money will also go a long way in silencing the critics of President Goodluck Jonathan who have accused him of not being ready to conduct a credible election next year because of his silence on the production of a new votersâ€™ register.
By the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Law (as amended), INEC has between now and November 9 to produce a credible votersâ€™ register for the 2011 polls which is expected to start in January. We are appealing to the INEC boss to start preparations for theÂ new register in earnest by placing orders early for the electronic imaging system to be used in registering voters.
This time around, the commission must make provisions for the inadequacies of PHCN by providing an alternative electrticity supply for the registration exercise. We donâ€™t want a repeat of the 2007 situation where most of the imaging system bought by the then INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu were rendered useless because their batteries could not be charged. As a result of this, many would-be voters spent hours at registration centres in order to register while those that did not have the patience simply forgot about voting at the election because they could not register.
We urge the commission to take into consideration the countryâ€™s peculiar situation and specify to the manufacturers what is needed for a smooth registration of voters. Prof. Jega mustÂ pull all the strings necessary to succeed. All the INEC commissioners must allign with the new resolve to conduct a successful election next year.
The INEC boss should also take heed of the criticisms and fearsÂ expressed by the opposition parties and activists andÂ factor their expectations into his preparations for the polls. This is the only way to carry everybody along during and after the elections.
We believe it is not too late for INEC to embark on massive enlightenment campaignÂ to sensitise the electorate on the various steps the commission is taking to ensure a free and fair election. Recruitment of electoral officials and training should commence in earnest to avoid a situation where the commission would engage in ad hoc measures that could backfire. Graduates on National Youth Service constitute a pool of enlightened workforce INEC could deploy to conduct the election successfully.