Delta State Commissioner for Information, Barr. Chike Ogeah has lent his voice to the growing number of voices calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to reconsider the use of card readers in the forthcoming general elections, even as fears and doubts persist over the efficacy of the electronic device in a proper election environment and the poor level of enlightenment which the election body has carried out to sensitize the electorate on the use of the card reader.
Barr. Ogeah, who made these observations during a live programme, Sunrise Daily on Channels Television recently, not only raised eyebrows over the overall preparedness of INEC to conduct free and credible elections in 2015, but also expressed worry that the recent mock test of the card readers conducted by the election umpire in selected states across the six geopolitical zones of the country was not a true reflection of an election environment, particularly given the low turn-out of eligible voters recorded in the exercise.
The Delta Information Commissioner noted that INEC had obviously been economical with the truth when it told Nigerians it had been ready for the elections on February 14, as it had become clear that a lot was still left undone by the election body particularly in the areas of the distribution and collection of Permanent Voters Cards, PVC’s and the proper testing of the card readers, even weeks after the earlier scheduled February 14 date had passed.
Chiding INEC over its less than adequate preparedness for the 2015 general elections, Ogeah, who wondered that Nigerians are actually having a conversation over the testing and efficiency of Card readers in March for an election which it was supposed to have been deployed in February, noted that INEC should have been ready for the elections as far back as 2013, since it had four years to prepare for the polls, adding that even with the outcome of mock test, INEC has still failed to take into consideration, the usually charged atmosphere of an election environment and the resultant chaos that may likely arise in the event of a malfunction by the card reader, which may ultimately put the entire conduct of the elections in jeopardy and nullify its credibility.
Highlighting some of the lapses of INEC, from poor and misplaced distribution of PVC’s, to the delay in printing of huge numbers of the cards by the contractors which has led to its non availability in many areas even till date, Ogeah opined that these problems had stacked up over the period and are now being compounded with the uncertainties over the card readers, even as he advised that Nigerians should be mindful of a situation where we do not run into another evil while trying to run away from existing ones.
Barr. Ogeah, who affirmed confidently that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had been ready for the elections since last year and thus was not afraid of the deployment of the card readers, however, said that INEC should have carried the people along in its plans to deploy the device long before it conducted the mock tests, noting that the actions of the election body had raised doubts and created a potential situation where the entire process would have been put in jeopardy and anarchy could have resulted in the country, if elections had held as earlier scheduled on February 14, 2015.
While calling on Nigerian politicians, especially members of the opposition, to stop politicizing every situation and thus heating up the polity unnecessarily, Ogeah noted that INEC, as an institution, was the body saddled with the conduct the elections, not its chairman and while President Goodluck Jonathan had already made his position clear on the issue of the tenure of INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, what Nigerians should be addressing now was the need to build strong institutions and not strong men whose personalities would overshadow the authority, independence and responsibility of the institutions they head, as the issue with Prof. Jega has been manipulated to become by certain interests in the polity.
He then advised that the conversation presently should be on how to assist INEC come out with the best solution to ensure the conduct of a credible elections, instead of dwelling on the personality of who headed the election body, even as he emphasised that there was the need to still test the card readers in a proper election environment, to correct all the lapses including the issue of any emergent malfunction and also time management of the devise, before deploying it to use in an election of the magnitude of the 2015 general elections.