There were no reasons to expect the incompetence and seemly deliberate stultification of the current voters registration exercise in the south east, given Jega’s vociferation to the press in recent times, in which he opined knowledgeability of the Nigerian electoral dynamics.
“From 1996 when the already existing polling units were created, there had been an exponential growth in the country’s population, and severe demographic shift resulting from new settlements in major urban areas. The rise in population with corresponding increase in the number of eligible voters was clearly manifested during the 2011 voter registration. At the end of the exercise, having subjected the data gathered in the field through the Automated Fingerprint Identification Software (AFIS) to detect and eliminate duplicate registrants. These developments have given an average voter density of 590 persons per polling unit.’
One, therefore would have expected someone equipped with such information to be better prepared to conduct the eligible voters registration, especially in the south east, where there has been exponential growth, and improved density of urban populations, swelled, more remarkably, by the Igbo population drift of three Million from the conflict zones of the North east to the south east in the last two years. In Imo State, it has resulted in the creation of additional Autonomous communities, the development of more schools and health facilities to tackle the problems of increasing urbanization.
The anticipated and probable exponential growth with its increase in eligible voter’s increment ought to have prepared Jega and his commission to its statutory duties pursuant to section 16 of the Electoral Act 2010.
The Electoral Act as amended is the law that regulates the conduct of elections in Nigeria and the compilation of the voter’s registers across the country. Indeed the compilation of the voters registers across the country for all the INEC polling units remains the commissions most important assignment in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections in the country inspite of growing reservations that, AFIS, meant to detect multiple registrations will not detect under age registrations in the North or be enforced there, so as to sustain decades of electoral fraud and imbalances.
Thankfully, INEC has bowed to public criticisms and shelved its plans for the creation of additional polling units across the country which was designed to tilt an advantage in favour of the North whilst the entire South East, shared, almost equal number of booths with the emerging settlements of the federal capital territory. Nonetheless, the embattled INEC has shown its lack of preparedness to conduct free and fair elections across the country by its conduct of the voter’s registration exercise across the country, especially, in the south East where the exercise revealed marked dexterity to undermine the south East ability to determine, the leadership of the country by seemly deliberate acts of sabotage through under registration of its people.
This is coming in the backdrop of the unsolicited support for GEJ by a prominent Igbo, Socio cultural organization, to deliver the south East, which has positioned the region, without known benefits, to antagonism from ACF led North which is likely to be happy with South East electoral marginalization. This socio cultural Organization was clearly invisible and irrelevant throughout the conduct of the voters exercise and never made any representations on behalf of the south East to the presidency or INEC.
The voters exercise commenced across the south east like the rest of the country; but unlike the North and the south west, there were marked and deliberate delays, symptomatic of ill preparedness and or perhaps a deliberate attempt to undermine the entire process after years of preparations and funding by the federal government. At the end of the exercise, less than 49 % of voters in the geopolitical Zone had been captured, inspite of the public sensitization by the various governments in the region, particularly, by the Imo State government. No thanks to INEC’s faulty machines, badly trained staff and poor logistics.
The first day of the exercise saw the late arrival of INEC officials with allegedly malfunctioning; equipments which miraculously, commenced performance after the south east lost a day calculated to undermine and under register the geo political region. The computers started functioning, after reported malfunctions, without formatting, upgrade, replacement of parts. There was complete lack of logistics in the entire exercises. There were no provisions made for mobility, and the movement of INEC personnel and materials, in the south east where the exercises took place inspite of the enormous funding running into billions of naira; more than the annual budget of most west African countries.
INEC officials, mostly, youth corps members, were stranded, and wandered around looking for Bike Taxis to convey them to their places of primary assignment. That made it possible for party thugs to criminally appropriate voter’s cards and materials from these INEC officials for reason that remain unclear but nonetheless sabotaged the exercise in many locations in the south East. These developments ensured the late arrival of these officials to their various wards, midday to their commencement of voter’s registrations, unprepared and poorly equipped.
This is in contradistinction to the North and many parts of the south west where registrations went smoothly with over available materials and personnel to promote the anticipated results of the exercise in those Areas.
In the south East according to the surveillance carried out by law and society, the INEC organization failed to make provisions for the power generation for the entire exercise and limited the hours for the entire exercise to the battery power of the computers used. Power generation for the old computers used for the registrations, which has limited power supply for two hours or less at most, for the day long exercise frustrated efforts to register many persons especially in Imo state on the first day. However, Our, competent Governor, Owelle Anayo Okorocha, had made provisions for logistics, when, he provided fifty thousand to each autonomous community to help sort the possible deliberate oversights of the federal government or its agents committed to a policy of under registration of the APC led Imo state government.
Many communities, therefore had to resort in renting generators for INEC whilst, one question remained unanswered, as to how INEC expended its funding from the federal government which ran into billions in the last year alone.
A major complaint remains, the seemly internal marginalization of APC strongholds like Orlu in the south east where, a seemly deliberate effort at under registration was carried out by INECC officials in collusion with disgruntled and foolish politicians to undermine the power base of the Governor. Inspite of the huge turn outs, due to high sensitization, and public awareness, officials of INEC failed to register more than thirty voters in each polling unit on the first day; most times fighting with their tools and equipments whilst making unreasonable demands from autonomous communities. The uses of Youth corps members, who are poorly equipped to type, spell and enter data appropriately added to the pain. Many of them cannot spell English, Biblical and local names and many of the new voters cards came out with spelling errors and rejectable. No thanks to our educational system which is turning out unemployable graduates, who are the products of sorting, and sex for marks, and more particularly, the product of Jega’s industry, intellectual and generational incompetence which finds it a difficult exercise to register citizens of a country to vote.