The Nigerian factor is a little-known, little-discussed, and little-researched sociological phenomenon that is believed by many Nigerians to be the greatest impediment to their nation's march to progress and prosperity.
In many (let's not use "advanced" here) countries, elections have become so routine that citizens cannot conceive of silly hiccups that would make them lose sleep. Ghana, Nigeria's tiny neighbor and greatest rival in West Africa, has burnished her electoral expertise so much that it is called upon to assist other nations. But in the country that its citizens like to call the Giant of Africa, the simple act (art?) of compiling an electoral list, conducting credible elections, and announcing the winners remains a very serious major production.
Like in most things in their national life, Nigerians officials will wait until the proverbial eleventh hour before rallying themselves from their stupor. Planning does not appear to exist in the lexicon of Nigerian officialdom. Foresight and vision is sorely lacking in a nation that has ambitions to become one of the world's 20th wealthiest countries by 2020.
It was no surprise therefore when the body charged with managing Nigeria's elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that it would require an extension of time if it were to conduct a credible poll in the 2011 elections, originally slated for next January. Ironically, the body (with a budget of US$585 million) whose announced electoral results have always drawn so much laughter of derision has as its motto: "Transparency, Impartiality, and Integrity."
The Commission, in a communiqué issued at the end of its retreat in Calabar and signed by its secretary, Alhaji Abdulahi Kangama, insisted that the time was too short to conduct a reliable voter registration and maintained that it would engage all the relevant stakeholders with a view to exploring all legal avenues for an extension of time.
Nigeria lacks credible statistics, and voter registers, like census figures, are often bloated.
We can lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of British colonial officials who, in order to appease their Hausa/Fulani friends, skewed Nigeria's population in favour of the North. Nigeria remains the only place on earth where arid desert (North) is supposed to compose of more people than space with lush vegetation and rain forests (South). The British gave the North a numerically superior census figure, and it is this crooked figure the country has been using that is the cause of much of the nation's palaver.