My thoughts on the election process so far

After much speculation, the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) set the elections for April 2011 and I think they made the right decision instead of choosing January like some wanted. We have to remember that Jega, the INEC Chairman was only appointed around the middle of last year. The whole electoral body needed some time to put things in order and now with the registration process, we get to see what they can do for the election proper.

The truth is that a lot of challenges will be seen during the elections but I believe that they can be better handled and give us a better result than previous ones. During the voters’ registration exercise, some of the points of interest that came up included that of security, what the parties are doing to sensitize people, the capabilities of INEC, to the role of voters and the ad-hoc staff of the INEC.

INEC was lucky with the financial and legislative support it has received so far but it has to do better. A lot of bloggers reported their experiences and many were not favorable to INEC. While about 80% of them registered, more than half encountered problems that cost them hours and in some cases days even if not outrightly preventing them from registering.

A blogger and NYSC member, also talked about his experience of being a corper and being made to take part in the registration.Similar stories to his may have led to the news about how using youth corpers gave so much problems, from not being comfortable with new DDC machines, to non-payments, dangerous situations etc.

That said, and even though I was not in Nigeria and so could not register, I want to say that I'm happy at the youth involvement in the whole process. During my visit to Lagos last December, I noticed large billboards by the 'Enough-is-Enough' group in several locations. They had their message of RSVP - Register, Select, Vote and Protect. They are also pushing this message on Facebook and Twitter, where they ran some live commentary on the various places/venues to register.

Also, Youth for Transformation, a Nigeria-based NGO will be hosting a unique Valentine’s Day event titled  on the 14th of February 2011. What they have done is to tie together Naija hiphop culture and the elections by making the shows free for registered voters. As INEC has been able to get support to continue the registration, I see that more youths will surely go in to be counted.

So I believe that going forward, INEC has to look for solutions to the problems already manifested in terms of staff and machines. they also have to capitalize on the efforts of non-government agencies, especially among the youth, to give a better outcome to the April 2011 elections.

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