First let me start by congratulating INEC on ensuring that these elections will be holding tomorrow. Despite what we can be assured has been considerable political pressure on Attahiru Jega, the commission has not buckled. But there are some – and given Nigeria’s history with ‘free’ and ‘fair’ elections I would be surprised if this number was not in the hundreds of thousands – who are not so sure that the electoral procedures can be trusted. Just ask the Christians fleeing Kano for fear of a religious backlash during or after these elections.
Let’s face it, even without the specific concerns over religious rivalry, with the shenanigans over the new smart card readers and the new biometric permanent voter cards just a few months ago, and with some suggesting that machines have been cloned, cards issued to the wrong people or stolen, and only 59% of voter fingerprints having been authenticated, these elections are not likely to be anywhere near close to 100% free; and as most people can attest life, itself, is just not ‘fair’.
So while there are few Nigerians who expect anything more than a basically credible process and result out of these elections, they do expect that at least. That means no violence during or after. But, of course, you cannot ask a people to be calm in the wake of the most contested elections they have ever experienced without giving them good reason to remain so.
INEC must do its best to ensure that the orderly voting procedures it has been working on in the run up to the elections are actually utilized. In aid of this the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, has ordered a restriction on the movement of vehicles from between 8am and 5pm both tomorrow and Sunday 11th April, when the governorship and state assembly elections will hold. But IGP Abba is himself clearly pensive — first issuing a directive that all voters must leave polling stations immediately after voting, then reversing his decision and saying that they can stay “to protect their vote”. Not to mention the arrest of one Alhaji Sani Musa by Nigeria’s Department of State Security who – wait for it – is the chief executive of ACT Technologies, the company that makes the smart card readers. I smell trouble in a saucepan.
With the ridiculous queues at banks and petrol stations over the last few days as Nigerians prepare themselves for Saturday, the very least we ask is for INEC to ensure a relatively organised voting procedure and a clear and transparent vote count. The United States Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in Nigeria and so will be unable to solve any legal disputes over vote rigging and other ‘irregularities’ as it had to over the hotly contested Bush v Gore elections in 2000.
For INEC’s own explanation of how it has prepared to ensure these elections are as free and fair as possible listen to Nkem Ifejika’s chat with INEC officials