Why Jega Must Go Now By Ochereome Nnanna

There is an adage which says: “be careful what you wish for; you might get it”. As the tempestuous tenure of former Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, drew to an end, there was near unanimity that his tenure should not be renewed.

Iwu had presided over a presidential election in 2007 which the winner, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, had humbly admitted during his inauguration, that it was “flawed”. Nigerians were looking for a fresh start for our democracy. What point was this to commence if not in the house of INEC, the electoral umpire, regulator and midwife of much of our democratic processes?

One of the names that topped the charts for this job was that of Professor Attahiru Jega, a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.

Most people also felt that since the job of Chief Electoral Officer of the Federation had never been assigned to a Northerner, the position should “rotate” to the North. Still swimming in the pool of public goodwill, and yearning to consolidate his appointment as President of Nigeria on May 6, 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan got the Senate and Council of State to approve his nomination of Prof Jega. The nation applauded.

It is a little over 53 months since Jega and his team assumed office, with another seven months to the end of his five-year tenure. If the question: should Jega’s tenure be renewed for a second term is put before Nigerians in a referendum, the answer is likely to be a resounding “no”.

The reason is simple. Before Jega, chairmen of the Electoral Commission (except Professor Humphrey Nwosu, who staged the June 12, 1993 general elections) were deeply criticised for sloppy preparations and conduct of flawed elections which tended to benefit the incumbents.

Jega has, in his own time, repeatedly demonstrated gross incompetence and lack of acumen in the management of men and materials. Most importantly, he is currently taking Nigeria on a dangerous ride which consequences could reduce the Boko Haram insurgency to a child’s play.

Jega is dividing the nation and setting the North and South on a warpath with each other in the brazenly partial way he is tampering with the sensitive political scales of Nigeria. That is why I am calling for him to either quickly retrace his steps or give way immediately.

We witnessed the harrowing experiences Nigerians went through while trying to register to obtain INEC’s Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, all over the country.

This was an exercise that Jega and his team had all of four years to prepare for and perfect. Yet all we saw was the usual chaos arising from shortage of materials, a problem that has shadowed all the elections that Jega has conducted, starting from the general elections in 2011, down to state elections in Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun. In all parts of the country, INEC was unable to supply enough materials. Millions of Nigerians are going to be disenfranchised, and nobody knows the number of people who will not be able to vote next year.

Disenfranchisement is going to cause more problems next year than it has ever done at any other time in our history. This is because we now have two powerful political parties, each desperate for victory. Each of these leading parties knows where their strengths are. If INEC denies people the opportunity to vote in parts of the country and parties lose on that account, the problems arising from that will be spontaneous and explosive.

Jega’s ineptitude manifested itself almost from Day One after he assumed office and released his log of political programmes. Capitalising on the mass hysteria for credible polls, he tabled a bill of N75 billion before the Federal Government. Nigerians were outraged, but Jega was not done yet.

He came back a week later and upped the amount to N87 billion! Jega has established a track record ofblundering first and struggling like an upended cockroach to correct himself later. After tabling the second amount he issued an ultimatum that the amount must be lodged in the Commission’s coffers by the first week of August 2010, as that was the only way he could provide free and fair elections. The Presidency and National Assembly ran themselves ragged and eventually met INEC’s conditionalities.

Jega had also announced that the general elections would hold in January 2011. Concerned stakeholders advised that the time was too short, but he insisted that the law must be complied with. Much later, Jega discovered that INEC had “missed most of its timelines”.

This is a man who does not see a problem until he walks right into it! He called registered political parties to a retreat in Tinapa, where the Party Advisory Committee, PAC, consisting of 68 political parties prevailed on him to shift the polls to end of March 2011. The poll had to be shifted twice more later.

You will also recall that on Saturday, April 2, 2011, Nigerians were already five hours into the National Assembly polls when Jega suddenly went on national radio and television to call of the election! He blamed the same perennial disease: failure of logistics. He shifted the election to Monday, April 4, 2011.

But once again, it took the wisdom of the political parties to let Jega know that his INEC lacked the competence to correct their logistical failure within two days. He acceded to their advice to shift the elections one full week ahead.

In the end, most people, including international observers, declared the 2011 general elections “a success”. However, Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters went on rampage, killing INEC NYSC ad hoc staff and other innocent Nigerians in the North.

Jega “was led” by stakeholders to succeed in 2011. He was like a pupil whom someone held his fingers to write and pass an exam. He cannot claim to be the one who passed the exam. In part two, we will examine the vexed saga of 30,000polling units.

– First published on www.vanguardngr.com

Articles on www.omojuwa.com are solely authors opinion

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