It is about 01.23 Wednesday 1st of April 2015, and I can barely find sleep as the events of the day keep reverberating in my head so much that I had to pen this piece in admiration and honour of the new hero of Nigeria’s democracy; Professor Attahiru Jega- INEC Chairman. Following the surprising interruption of result collation proceedings on Day 2 by an agent of the ruling PDP, a dismal show of shame on a national and international platform, Professor Jega’s composure and conduct in managing the intimidation and disruptive outburst from the supposed former Minister of the Federal Republic exudes professionalism and bespoke grooming. Such decorum and wisdom are character traits that define a leader, as well as well-meaning statesmen in the corridors of power. Had Professor Jega taken the bait and reacted, albeit irresponsibly, to the outburst of the PDP agent, I believe that chaos and public unrest would have ensued. An inevitable violence will be unleashed on a fragile polity that is threading on soft grounds at this critical time in her history. INEC under the stewardship of Professor Jega has had the unenviable responsibility of conducting a free and fair election in a volatile country like Nigeria where the leaders are mostly lawless, whip up tribal sentiments for political gain, uncouth and corrupt, and usually adopt the “do you know who I am” clout at every instance when called to order or reason. As tough as the last 72 hours or more has been for all Nigerians, and most especially INEC officials, the shameful hijack of a peaceful collation proceeding was highly unpatriotic and reeks of political grandstanding for personal aggrandisement (typical of political sycophants).
Given that the electioneering process is usually tedious, candidates and supporters are bound to be edgy (and rightly so) but this public display of aggression with intent to cause national chaos was appalling. The PDP agent’s ill-mannered behaviour and arrogant by-pass of structured protocols for election complaint and petition procedure(s) brings to fore the “do you know who I am” syndrome of those in positions of influence in the Nigerian society. To whom much is given, much is expected, as a former Minister and stalwart of the current ruling party, the PDP agent as encapsulated in Professor Jega’s reproach, does know better than to have acted like an inebriated political thug. An action which at best would have been perpetrated by a minnow and not someone of his supposed esteemed status. In a civil society, there are ways and procedures of seeking redress if one is wronged or perceived to have been wronged. The state security apparatus and law courts mostly serve this purpose in general, while with election complaints, INEC has laid down procedure(s) for political parties and civil society to report complaints and file petitions in an orderly and official manner for election tribunal proceedings to commence. This begs the question, why didn’t the PDP leaders advise its agent to follow due process of lodging complaints or grievance? And if the agent acted alone, did he not process the implications of his actions and possible outcome? This brings to mind the incident of the poorly designed butterfly ballots in the state of Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential elections that cost the incumbent Vice President Al Gore (Democrat) vital votes which in turn saw George Bush Jnr. (Republican) become president. Despite the discrepancies and allegations of voter fraud, disenfranchisement and unclear ballots, both candidates and party supporters did not “throw tantrums” tantamount to causing anarchy in public. The integrity of the United States of America was upheld. The nation is bigger than any man, mission or entity. This unruly and thuggish attitude towards unfavourable election results cuts across political parties in Nigeria and should be eschewed for political sanity and national unity.
No doubt, INEC has experienced some glitches and challenges with logistics in the build up to the elections and on the day of election. Without cutting INEC any slack, I think the electoral commission has made tremendous improvement from the last national elections. The introduction of the card readers, among other great strategies, is revolutionary towards the organisation of credible, transparent, free and fair elections in the country. In addition, the issuance and distribution of about 75% permanent voters card (PVC) to registered voters is indeed laudable, more so if you are familiar with the apathy in logistics movement within and around Nigeria. Despite reports that some card readers malfunctioned in some places, the potential of the card reader for future elections is made manifest in this current election. In every process, there are always human and machine errors and ample room is given to accommodate and improve on minor setbacks. Thus, there is massive room for improvement on the malfunctioning card readers and inadequate logistics organisation before another major election. Overall, this is not a bad election debut for the card reading machines in Nigeria.
All INEC needs at this point in time is the overwhelming support of all political parties and Nigerians. The electoral commission has thrown all its expertise and dedication at this watershed election 2015. In the 2011 elections, the ruling party (PDP) retained power and said: “Jega conducted free, fair and credible elections”. So in 20015 (with an advanced technology- card reader), it is rather hypocritical for an agent of the ruling party, with imminent loss of political power in sight, to say: “Jega is Tribalistic”! Lest we forget, power is transient. Being powerful is often an illusion of grandeur. Reality check will definitely come knocking when you least expect. Politicians irrespective of party affiliation should endeavour to serve and legislate on the mandate of the people judiciously, at all times.
Meanwhile, to the man of the moment, in whom we should all be well pleased; Professor Attahiru Jega has shown a remarkable strength of character, resilience and poise in the face of superior intimidation and tasking national service. Professor Jega is experienced and capable in delivering public service as evidenced in achievements during his tenure as ASUU president under the stifling Ibrahim Babangida military regime, where he was able to negotiate good working conditions for academic staff and secure more funding for Nigerian universities. In 2005, he was appointed VC of Bayero University, kano (his alma mater). A position he held until his appointment to the electoral reforms committee in 2007. Assuming the mantle of leadership at INEC in 2010, he expedited the implementation of the proposed reform to the electoral process and 4 years of this painstaking task culminated in the transparent, free, fair and technologically-driven general elections of 2015. Hence, the ingenuity, endurance and sacrifice to enshrine true and fair democratic process in Nigeria should not be underscored by divisive political intimidation, shenanigans of sore losers and war mongers. It is the people, community leaders and politicians who should tow the patriotic line of Professor Jega, and dig deep to identify with the qualities that unite us, and make efforts towards forging a greater nation for all and sundry. The credibility and success of election 2015 is a badge of honour which Professor Attahiru Jega and the INEC team have earned the right to wear with pride.
Congratulations Nigerians! May this dawn bring TRUE change to nooks and crannies of the nation!
Muheez Busari (follow me on @m_careca5)