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            When Prof. Attahiru Jega was sworn-in to replace Prof. Maurice Iwu as Chairman INEC, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief and hoped that, finally, the “wuruwuru” and nightmares that characterized the much derided and vilified 2007 elections were over! Attahiru Jega was roundly welcomed and he proceeded to conduct the 2011 elections in a much more respectable and credible way than his predecessor. The 2011 elections were not perfect, but it renewed Nigerians’ belief in democracy and the seeds of hopes for a well-organized 2015 were planted. The 2015 elections, Nigerians hoped, would be the country’s affirmation of its belief in the democratic process.


            That was the situation until that fateful day, when in the glare of television lights at the INEC Media Centre, a tired INEC Chairman made the announcement that INEC was postponing the elections earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11, 2015. Nigeria’s journey towards its dream elections had hit a road bump!


            Anybody who had been following Prof. Jega all along would confirm that that was not the erudite professor of Political Science addressing the Press. His immaculately white capstan in which he was garbed could not hide his bewildered befuddlement. He approbated and reprobated. “Yes, INEC is ready to conduct the elections,” he said. Yet, in the next sentence he gave a litany of reasons that make the Roman Catholic Church’s Litany of Saints tame which revealed INEC’s unreadiness to conduct the elections. Attahiru Jega had lost his swagger and confidence. He gingerly left the stage after an hour of merciless probing by members of the Press.


            The reactions to this announcement have been a flurry of activities, statements, protests and what have you against and in support of the decision. Somehow, some unanimity was reached about the constitutionality of INEC’s action. INEC, it was agreed, has the right to make such a change, especially, since the change still fell within the window of opportunity established by the Nigerian Constitution. Nigerians held and are still holding their fire.


            Since then, Prof. Jega’s attempts at explaining the issues involved in the decision have been more confounding. The more he tries to explain the critical features of INEC’s arrangements for the elections to “key stakeholders,” the more complex his explanations have become and the more questions have arisen. So, we are left in a worse situation listening to him than before he began speaking.


            From my humble perspective as a Nigerian, three things MUST not happen from now on! First, Prof Attahiru Jega cannot, must not, should not resign or be fired as Chairman of INEC until after the elections are o-v-e-r! His tenure, for now, is sacrosanct.


            Secondly, March 28 and April 11, 2015 are sacrosanct elections days in Nigeria. Nothing, absolutely nothing, must CHANGE those dates. So, INEC must get its house in order. Achieving a 90% PVC distribution in the northern states, including troubled Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, while achieving a paltry 40% in Ogun State is incomprehensible, untenable and unacceptable. If all PVCs cannot be printed and distributed before March 28, then TVCs must be acceptable for the elections. One Nigerian denied his/her right to vote, makes the whole exercise a charade!


            Thirdly, anything that can undermine Nigerians’ belief in the integrity and credibility of the elections must be done away with, in the interest of Nigeria. Already, word is going around, in spite of Prof Jega’s explanations, that the Card Readers, yes Card Readers that INEC intends to use at the polling stations are being deployed for the purposes of sending fictitious data to INEC’s Data Centre, which will then be used by INEC to make pronouncements on the outcome of the elections.


            If the purpose of the readers is to authenticate the genuineness of the card presented at the polling station, I submit that there is no better authentication than those offered by voters at the polling booth. They know each other; 500-,1000 people. They are from the same community. All that needs to happen is for the Polling Officer to indicate that the PVC presented differs from the data in the register of voters in station. I leave the reader to imagine what can potentially happen to such an impostor. So, Card Readers should be returned to vendor or shelved for future and more opportune future use.


            These three issues are potential time bombs for a country already on the precipice of major turbulence. The fault lines; tribal, religious, political, youth, etc., etc.,  are clearly drawn and they are laden with gunpowder. All that it would take to create a major turbulence nationwide is for a simple mistake to be made in these elections: The country should be spared of these dire circumstances. We cannot afford to get out of “wuruwuru” and then move straight ahead into “jagajaga.” So, help us God.

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