New voters’ registration for election in April: Same old organisational and political problems
During the year 2011, about 16 odd African states are expected to conduct and or organize general elections. On the surface, this fact might give the misleading impression that governance and government in Africa are embracing democracy and the democratic ethos. Unfortunately however, in none of all these countries that are expected to have their general elections can the working masses and poor expect a true democratic exercise. The almost total failure of the local capitalist classes to develop the national economy has in, all these countries, resulted in gaining and looting government office and contracts being seen as the road to wealth. Thus in virtually all these elections, incumbent governments and or officers would spare nothing to manipulate and rig the elections in favour of those currently in power. For years Nigeria, the most populous African country and the sixth largest petroleum products producer in the world, has offered the most graphic features of the farce usually called elections in this part of the world.
Despite all the promises that President Goodluck Jonathan’s rule would prevent a repeat of the charade and mockery of what were called elections in 2007, the run up to the 2011 general elections has shown that there have been no fundamental changes. Any idea that court decisions overturning some of the most blatantly rigged 2007 results would mean cleaner elections is not being realized.
But this situation was not inevitable. The situation would have been transformed if the Labour movement had seriously taken up the challenge of not just securing free elections but also offering a real alternative to the different robber bands currently dominating Nigeria. Tragically this has not been done and working people, the poor and the critics of the system have no party to represent them at these 2011 elections.
According to the timetable already rolled out by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), elections into the legislative and executive arms of government have been scheduled to take place in April 2011. If successfully completed, this would be the fourth time that elections will be taking place uninterruptedly in Nigeria’s 50 years of post-independence history, during which the military have ruled for almost 30 years. To the superficial capitalist analysts, this fact again may be used to give the impression that democracy, and or democratic ethos, are finally gaining root in Nigeria. On the contrary however, when all the key technical and political issues surrounding the forthcoming election are scientifically analyzed, the distasteful but an unavoidable conclusion points towards the elongation/continuation of the rule by the locusts: that is a continuation of the rule of the capitalist, thieving elites that have been holding down Nigeria and its long suffering people.
Voters registration exercise
Every serious political analyst agrees that a properly compiled voter’s register constitutes a very important link in a chain of processes needed to achieve truly free and fair elections. This is why there exists almost unanimous clamour for a new voter’s register to be compiled by INEC under its new chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega. The voters register used to conduct the 2007 general elections is generally regarded by all shades of political opinion as unreliable, over-bloated and in fact contained a lot of fictitious names. For this purpose, the Jega-led INEC has gotten a whooping sum of N88.5b approved for the Commission by the National Assembly. As we write, the Commission has again requested an additional sum of N6.6b from the National Assembly.
Unfortunately however, notwithstanding the huge sum of money that has been invested, so far, the ongoing voter’s registration exercise has once again underline the fact that the neo-colonial capitalist ruling elites governing Nigeria will forever remain incapable of putting in place a genuinely democratic process any more than its legendary and perennial failure over other socio-economic matters. Despite Prof. Jega’s radical pedigree and his repeated pledges to organize a truly free and fair elections come 2011, the ongoing voter’s registration exercise has revealed the same uncanny pattern that bedevilled all the previous exercises conducted by the bourgeois elites. Originally, the exercise which was to end on January 29 has now been extended by 7 days. As in previous exercises, INEC’s preparations and conducts has been extremely chaotic, slow and in some cases, totally absent. The Sunday Independent of January 30, 2011 in its Cover Choice article titled: "Troubled Voter Registration exercise" captured the situation in this unflattering report:
"Complaints from all parts of the country since it started have, in the views of enlightened Nigerians, shown that INEC did not adequately prepare for the exercise. The exercise has been rife with a cocktail of technical hitches, which brought about serious setback in the process of getting eligible voters registered by the registration officers. There were several cases of fingerprint rejections, breakdown and absence of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines in most of the registration centres, which resulted in delay and waste of time of Nigerians who came out en masses with great enthusiasm to participate in the exercise.
"Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Senate President, David Mark, were among Nigerians who came out at the early stage of the registration exercise with zeal. The zeal was, however, dampened. For hours, officials battled to register Obasanjo and his wife in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. Several attempts made by the officials failed, as the machine could not pick Obasanjo and his wife’s finger marks. Ogun State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Martins Okufolami, and the administrative secretary paced up and down in frustration as they tried to sort out the problem. They brought in an expert before the machine eventually captured the finger marks of the former president and his wife.
"Mark and his wife, Helen, had waited for three hours – from 10a.m till 1p.m – to get registered in Otukpo, Benue State. It was all in vain. The machine had broken down. Obasanjo had blamed the challenges on initial hitches associated with any new programme. "I want to say that whenever you are starting a new programme like this, it’s likely to have hitches, until everybody masters it. Today is only the second day. I believe that by the middle of this week, both the people who are carrying out the registration, the technicians and the INEC at the highest level will be able to make this work smoothly. So, I don’t believe that we should now start to castigate and to condemn. If, of course, by the middle of the week it’s not working as it should be, we will all see and then those who designed it would have to advise us how we’ll go about it. But for now, I believe we should regard this as the hiccup of a new process".
There are a number of pertinent questions that working class elements must pose and demand an immediate answer on the basis of the above quotations. One, why did the machines specifically procured for this exercise at huge cost suddenly turn out to be incapable of performing their functions? On the basis of an estimated 140 million population, 80 million Nigerians are targeted for registration in the ongoing exercise. However, as being generally reported, by the time the exercise was supposed to end on January 29, only about one quarter of this figure is said to have been successfully registered. Due to the huge corruption of the ruling capitalist elites and its newly entrenched "profit first" approach, those responsible for the procurement of the equipment in issue, in order to make the greatest amount of profit possible have in all probability ordered cheap, inferior and or outdated machines, which are generally inefficient and too slow for mass and fast registration exercise. We should therefore ask: how many more eligible voters will be able to get registered in the one week extension that will now end February 5, 2011? If the truth must be told, there cannot be any radical difference from what has been happening in the first two weeks of the exercise.
As if this is not a big headache in itself, the current exercise has also equally been marred by the well-known corrupt antics of the bourgeois politicians. At the moment, there are several reports, and allegations, by prominent members of the ruling parties accusing one another of trying to effect illegal registration of voters which they hope to subsequently use during the forthcoming elections. Of course, anyone that is well familiar with Nigeria’s electoral history will not quickly dismiss these allegations as being unfounded. Here, the point should be stressed that Nigeria’s ruling class age-long inability to organize free and fair elections must never be attributed to any inherent biological defect in the black race as some shallow bourgeois analysts sometimes often concluded. This inability must be squarely placed where it properly belongs: the inherent weakness of the capitalist elements from backward economies, who have largely found their ways blocked by the capitalist elements from the advanced countries from making profit through the conventional exploitation of industrial, agricultural and financial ventures, and as such mostly indulge in treasury lootings.
The main political parties have recently conducted their primaries to elect those that will fly their flags in the forthcoming general election in April. Very tragically these so-called primaries have once again revealed the well-known fact that all the ruling parties are being led by highly undemocratic elements who mainly believe that political parties are mere platforms needed to acquire underserved power and wealth for themselves, collaborators and family members. That why all the ruling parties from the PDP to the so-called opposition parties organised so-called primaries where only the highest bidders won and or those arbitrarily imposed by the leaders. Notwithstanding the numerous, reported anomalies and technical and political problems which dominated the recently concluded voters registration exercise, INEC has subsequently come out to announce that it has registered about 63.9 million Nigerians.
Most importantly therefore, it is the now the central responsibility of the conscious layers of workers and youths to warn and mobilise the vast majority of the working people that this vicious cycle of mass poverty in the midst of abundance and corrupt rules, will continue to be the lot of the masses under the prevailing unjust disorder.
That only a genuine workers’ and poor people government based on collective ownership of the main natural resources and financial wealth of the society under the democratic control and management of the working people themselves can provide a lasting basis for free and fair elections where one person, one vote will truly count! Starting in earnest to build an independent political platform of the working people is therefore the most crucial political test that faces the working masses today.