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Corps Members As INEC Ad hoc Staff: Are Rewards Worth The Risk?

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By Oluwanifemi Babalola

There is an avalanche of knotty puzzles on the heels of the forthcoming elections which are now a few days away. Needless to say, the tension surrounding this season of transition at all levels of Nigerian body politics is palpable and rather than face the facts pointing to the paranoia that threatens to paralyse us before the days arrive with their anxieties, we remain deliberately ignorant, willing that somehow, our apprehensions will relinquish their death grip on us.

In the same vein, the political contestants are assuming their positions, and like an unpredictable football fixture, the underdogs are poised to throw out subterfuge through which their overconfident opponents will be caught by surprise. In all this, we cannot deny the questions that slgnaw at our subconscious and make us shudder.

The Independent National Electoral Commission involved in this game also, is in characteristic manner already set about its duties. Thanks to the initiative of its immediate past Chairman, the honourable Professor Attahiru Jega, it has also leveraged the enormous human resource available to Nigeria in the form of patriotic countrymen and women willing to serve their fatherland by volunteering as INEC ad hoc staff, of which are incumbent youth corps members under the National Youth Service Corps scheme. They are to officiate in the February 16 presidential and March 2 governorship elections, respectively. Praiseworthy as this is because of its direct correlation with the mutual objective of service to the nation, there are worrisome concerns.

However, the current Nigeria is a place where actions contradict words, largely. Take for practical example of the assurance given by the NYSC that corps members are not to be involved forcefully. Who should be held responsible then when at Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, parts of Rivers and Delta states, some allege that corps members are being intimidated with consequences attached to their failure at being involved? Some corps members who prefer anonymity have asserted that the joint front of the NYSC and INEC has threatened to withhold their NYSC certificates of service if they do not “voluntarily” join. Does this betray “volition?”

Perhaps we should talk about the possible cause of this. The seeming intentions of these two bodies – INEC and NYSC – seem to have been laid bare, were this true. It would seem we are left not much than to doubt their hesitancy at exploiting the innocent corps members should they for example, be presented with a meagre, detestable remuneration totalling about N32,000, as rumours have recently suggested. Could this be the subtle reason for the premium placed on corps members than other members of the public who are prospective whistleblowers to the low pay?

Furthermore, it would be a worthy attempt to consider the prevailing disposition among the corps members themselves, assuming we have concluded they truly have no choice. It is unarguable that motive for volunteering as INEC ad hoc staff should be service rather than remuneration. We should ask ourselves however, if the rumoured pecuniary reward is of more harm that good. Is the compensation proportional to the risk of this “devoted service,” assuming that each one is devoted? Or will the infinitesimality of the remuneration predispose these ad hoc staff to temptations of accepting rewards under the facade of receiving tips for a job well done. A job well done in whose standards anyway? After all, it would seem more practical to deliver a ballot box and papers with the least resistance should mischief makers “ask” for it.

Nigeria has the reputation of a country where notions are professed with vehemence but corresponding actions forever delay. At least, the political system is a testimony to this. Against this backdrop then, how should these concerned prospective other ad hoc staff corps members, be sure INEC would ensure they are deployed to safer territories rather than “hot zones” within their states?

Indeed it is easy to say those who volunteer should care more about their tasks in the service of the nation. Does this, however, not suggest the opposite and is this not tantamount to suicide?

Perhaps this is reason behind some corps members’ exercise of their freewill to snub the invitation to be involved in the service of their fatherland. Can and will these puzzles will be solved before February 16 and March 2?

The piece is written by Oluwanifemi Babalola, s serving corps members from Kano

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