Thursday, July 29, 2010

Credible Elections! Credible Elections! Credible Elections - A Must-Do for Nigeria in 2011

Ambassador Sanders with other dignitaries at the high table when I spoke at the Nigerian Institute of Management on "Managing the 2011 Election Process," (July 1, 2010)
I have spent the last few weeks in Nigeria stressing the importance of credible elections with a number of speeches in both Abuja and Lagos on the issue. I refer you to my speeches. I refer you to my speeches at the Nigerian Institute of Management and my recent remarks at the civil society gathering of CODER - both events focused on the road map for election reform and the future of the credibility of the Independent Election Commission, more commonly known here as INEC. INEC is the government body that oversees elections in Nigeria. In 2007, Nigeria and seriously flawed elections and there were rampant negative reports about the role of INEC during that time. There is now a reconstituted INEC with a new chairman who has stated his committment to transparent elections. There is not a single Nigerian who does not believe that the country's 2011 election are a marker for Nigeria's next 50 years. Yes, this is Nigeria's 50th independence celebration, but it is also more than that. Nigerians tell me it is a time for change, a time to move forward, and a time to have leadership that will be by the people and for the people. It does get any better than that when you talk about true democracy. Government must govern by the consent of the people. And, the people of Nigeria want credibility and transparency in their election processes. The U.S. Government is doing its part with help in certain areas of election assistance as are other donors. We have a unique partnership with the UK and are jointly coordinating and pooling our expertise and assistance and other donors are also doing their part. We are primarily focusing on parallel vote tabulation (or what is called SWIFT Vote Count here in Nigeria), which will seek to provide a secondary validation of polling results; training civil society monitors and observers; training INEC staff, encouraging more democratization in political party processes; and assisting with developing time lines for certain actions given what appears to be a short time line between now and when the elections may happen in early 2011 (right now it is unclear whether elections will be held in January or April 2011). This is the most important time in this wonderful nation of 150 million peole and a reported 65 million people eligible to vote. We hope that it will be handled in a way that all Nigerians are clamoring for - with credibility, with transparency, with a commitment at all levels (particularly as regards to political will to end fraud and vote rigging at the polls) of the elections process to make this an election -- the 2011 election -- one that all Nigerians can be proud of as it will certainly be a marker for the future of this great country.