On Your Marks, Get Set, INEC!

A Look At The Perennial Unpreparedness Of Constituted Authority

by Emmanuel Joseph

On Your Marks, Get Set, INEC!

When we were children, it wasn’t uncommon for our teachers to admonish us with the famous Nigerian examination prep quote:

“He who has not planned to succeed has planned to fail”.

This is derivative of a quote attributed to the uber-successful former American president, Benjamin Franklin, but you may insert your favourite (or least favourite) secondary school teacher for your imagination. Considering how early this information is drummed into the skull of the average Nigerian, you would have thought the good men and women of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would have received the memo, but as D-day would have it, to say they were caught with their pants down would be an understatement.

You have one job, INEC, one job. To ensure that elections are free, fair and smooth. To do this, one would have expected that you enlist a host of well-paid staff, instead, youth corps members were forced to operate under conditions fit only for animals. You don’t have to surf far into the web to find pictures of young Nigerian citizens sleeping on the floor and in the open, at the mercy of mosquitoes and rodents. We are talking about young people drafted in a compulsory scheme to serve their government. Does their treatment in itself not speak volumes of the regard (or lack thereof) which the government has for them? But never mind that, the election was still cancelled, and there was not a word about remuneration for their inconvenience. Instead, they will be summoned again in a week’s time to go through the same ordeal.

From the point of businesses, Friday already passed as a day to be half-cocked at work. Citizens used the freedom to travel to their various registered local governments; a practice with questionable functionality as some countries consider digitising the election process to cover more ground. Businesses, many operating with bank loans at outrageous interest rates thanks to a sleeping economy, have lost a day of work. I am talking about logistic companies, airlines, restaurants, and many more. But of course, these are not matters of concern to a state only moved by power and the direction it may swing to.

From a social perspective, think of the weddings, birthday parties, child naming ceremonies and just about any other event that allows Nigerians tap some enjoyment out of the stress that life here can be, postponed once more. Oh well, guess it’s going to be two quiet weekends in a row. Perhaps, much needed space to meditate on the state of the nation.

Come next weekend when the election might finally hold (if it does, that is), there is already the possibility of reduced participation as the citizens that travelled, probably after taking time off work, will be unable to make the trip again. There are also people with alternative plans to consider; the scope is just limitless. We have had fires reported to have destroyed certain voting centres, strange cases of pre-filled result forms, and logistic nightmares of switched ballot boxes—one has to ask, can things really have gone any worse than they did?

But this isn’t the most important question. The most important question is “what do we do with the people responsible?” Surely, if the president can sack the Chief Justice in a constitutionally debatable manner, should this level of incompetence not require a bit more than being merely “disappointed”? Surely, it might not be in the president’s capacity to deliver the sack, or as was done with the Chief Justice, an arrest. However, it cannot be beyond him to recommend some sort of discipline, at least. As it stands, the message being delivered is the same old tape; you will be forgiven for your incompetence, maybe with a warning and the wag of a finger.

This manner of operation by the leadership and the silent compliance of the citizens continue to remain the "normal order of things", with shallow social media activism fast replacing the space for any sort of revolt. If Nigerians want better, we would have to demand it. As things are, they continue to fall apart from a centre that cannot hold.