Move begins for credible voters' list, Oct.1 handover

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper- Richard Abu

WHILE the battle for electoral reform continues, another flank has been opened in the war against electoral malpractices in Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan
According to sources, some eminent Nigerians and groups are pushing for the production of a credible voters’ register before the 2011 general elections are held to ensure the Nigerian democracy is not undermined and to prevent a situation in which leaders emerge with questionable legitimacy.. “That is the irreducible minimum if we want democracy to thrive,” one of the proponents told The Guardian.

They asserted that a credible voters’ register would substantially reduce the problems faced by the electoral umpire in the conduct of free polls in Nigeria.

To conduct another general elections with the present register, which has the reputation of the most ridiculous of such registers in the world with names of foreign nationals and even the President of another country on it, they argued, would be a fraud and an insult to Nigerians, who yearn for credible polls.

Granted that the time available for President Goodluck Jonathan administration to produce an authentic register and conduct free and fair elections is short, the proponents are believed to have to concede an extension of the handover date from May 29, which is Democracy Day to October 1, the country’s Independence day, to give the Federal Government at least additional four months to carry out the exercise.

The Guardian learnt at the weekend that moves have been initiated by the architects of the new thinking to petition Jonathan and the international community to press the Nigerian Government to immediately embark on the processes that would lead to the emergence of a credible voters’ register that will be used for the 2011 elections.

A source named one of the arrowheads of the campaign for this acceptable voters’ register as former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is believed to have also initiated alliances with leading lights in the intelligentsia, the political class and with civil society organisations such as the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CODER), National Democratic Movement (NDM) as well as other progressive elements to achieve the goal.

They have particularly planned, the source said, to send a detailed position on why a credible voters’ register is imperative for Nigeria to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant bodies with a view to eliciting the support of the international community for the scheme.

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will review and revalidate the voters’ register, the advocates of “genuine register” insist that the situation on ground goes beyond the regular cosmetic measures called “review of voters’ register.”

The present voters’ register, whose contract was awarded to a foreign firm, with all its contrived inadequacies, allegedly gulped N10 billion.

It is argued by the campaigners that once sincerity of purpose is discerned on the part of the government, especially with Jonathan demonstrating that the extra four months being sought are solely for the voters’ registration exercise and not to perpetuate himself in office, Nigerians will buy into it.

“Nobody will raise an eyebrow even if we should ask for a little more time to do a proper voters’ register once sincerity of purpose is shown by the authorities,” the source said.

According to supporters of the move, Nigerians even tolerated self-styled former military President Ibrahim Babangida, who regularly shifted the terminal date of his administration until he was revealed to be insincere, they will accept the time being sought for the voters’ registration. “A few months will do and if it eventually coincides with October 1 as the inauguration of the new government, then the substance and the symbolisms are just right “once the President is sincere.”

The source continued: “May be, we could even use the opportunity to return to the handover date to October 1. So, an additional four months will not raise any a problem.

“Pakistan registered 80 million voters and there is no single error and no duplication of names and towns or states as noticed in the Nigerian case. The problem with a having a credible voters’ register is due to the insincerity on the part of our leaders, who do not want free and fair polls.

“Even if Jonathan cannot do electoral reform, let him do a proper voters’ register.”

INEC’s Acting Chairman, Solomon Shoyebi, reportedly said recently that the major task before it is the purification of the voters’ register.

Former Chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu, before his removal had said the revalidation would commence by April 19 and end on June 19, 2010. The two-month exercise, according to INEC, would cost N5 billion. It said the exercise would correct the disenfranchisement of voters as witnessed in the Anambra State governorship election of February 6, 2010.

The last voter registration exercise was conducted in September 2002 and following complaints, a make-up exercise was carried out for a week in December 2002. Altogether, 67,892,762 applications were received, and 60,823,022 voters were actually registered.

In 2002, it was said that the old register included multiple registrations, ghost names and other anomalies, a development attributed to Nigeria’s non-adoption of the modern technology to detect the anomalies at that time. In the controversial register, INEC had promised that “everyone entitled to vote will be included, with procedures built into the creation of the register that eliminates malpractices as much as possible.”

But that has not been the case. Complaints have continued to trail the voters’ registration since the 2003 elections.

While some political parties complain that the current voters register is not credible, others said that the register is padded in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Voters have also complained about their inability to locate their names on the existing register. This was the point during the February 6, 2010 governorship polls in Anambra State where persons with voters’ cards were unable to locate their names on the document.


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