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Nigeria’s Embarrasing Electoral Failure

It is my understanding the speech below, was given by Attahiru M. Jega, as he announced the postponement of the Nigerian elections, which should have started today to 4 April.  While I empathise with him and my fellow Nigerians, this is a cock-up of the highest order and could have been avoided. Nigeria, by all accounts is not a poor country. We have the resources and  manpower, which makes it possible for the country to buy quality electoral materials and have them delivered in time, in order to get on with the business of this great nation. According to Reuters, “the decision was taken due to voting materials failing to reach some polling stations in the country ahead of the vote in which 73 million people are eligible to take part.” In my opinion, that excuse is not good enough because they had all the time in the world to get it right. While fairer elections is better than rigged elections, let’s not deny this failure is embarrassing and once again displays our ability to be ill prepared for great things. But Monday is not far away and vote we must. This cannot repeat itself in 2015 or heads will roll.


Since this Commission started work in July 2010, I have repeatedly promised Nigerians that in carrying out our duties we shall always be sincere and truthful with Nigerians. I have always said that this INEC will be upfront with Nigerians, telling you exactly how things are – sharing both our successes and difficulties with you.

This is one such occasion. Indeed, it is an emergency. As you know the National Assembly (House of Representatives and Senate) elections are supposed to be taking place as I speak. You would also have noticed that things have not proceeded smoothly as expected with the elections. The reason for this is the unanticipated emergency we have experienced with late arrival of result sheets in many parts of the country. The result sheets are central to the elections and their integrity. Accordingly, in many places, our officials have not reported at the polling units, making it now difficult to implement the Modified Open Ballot Procedure that we have adopted. Not only do we have to enter the results in the sheets, the number of accredited voters is also to be entered in the result sheet. While we could have proceeded with the elections in a few States of the country, where all the materials are available, such as Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu, among others, in order to maintain the integrity of the elections and retain effective overall control of the process, the Commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the National Assembly elections to Monday, April 4, 2011.

I appeal to all Nigerians for their understanding in this difficult situation. We as a Commission appreciate the profound sacrifice that you have all made not just in turning out today, but also throughout this election season. We are greatly encouraged by you and our appeal is that you remain steadfast in this last lap of this electoral process in the interest of all Nigerians and in the cause of democracy.

The Commission will immediately be contacting all political parties, as major stakeholders to explain the situation. I appeal for their support in explaining the situation to their members and supporters.

May I also appeal to all other stakeholders, particularly national and international observers and our development partners for continued understanding. I realize that they have committed enormous resources to this process, especially in deploying observers in the field. However, we think that what is worth doing is worth doing well.

Finally, while we deeply regret this situation and apologise to Nigerians for the hardship this may have created, I would like to reiterate that we are fully committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections for Nigerians. The decision the Commission has taken is weighty; but it is also a very important step in further ensuring the credibility of the elections.

Professor Attahiru M. Jega, OFR,

Honourable Chairman


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