Jega: Winning the battle?

Posted by Emma Maduabuchi | 9 years ago | 3,252 times

Jega: taciturn under attacks

Has Jega won the battle?


Attahiru Jega, Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has been under a lot of heat recently. From different quarters across the country, there have been serious calls for him to either resign his appointment or be sacked. But he has remained taciturn and unmoved.

Last February 26, for example, many youths from the South-south geo-political zone of the country, numbering up to 70, 000, were reported to have marched through the streets of Warri in Delta State demanding the removal of Jega.

In addition, People Democratic Party’s (PDP) stalwarts from the South-west geo-political zone; some Southern Nigerian elders; militants from the South-south geo-political zone; and many groups and individuals have, at one time or the other, joined in the call. Even Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was reported to have added a threat of boycotting the elections if Jega refused to resign.

However, though taciturn, Jega had not been alone. In the midst of the calls, there have been certain individuals, groups and institutions that stood by him, insisting that he must not be sacked or forced to resign. The All Progressives Congress (APC), for instance; Nigeria’s House of Representatives; and some other groups were among those known to have taken the stance.

Instructively, for days after he announced the postponement of the country’s general elections, which was set for February 14, Jega has been facing mild and hash criticisms, badgered from all angles. Up till the present time – about 16 days to the Presidential election, the contestation for his removal have continued.

Reasons for the call for him to resign were many and varied from the individuals and groups making them. One of the reasons advanced, at the initial stages, was the claims that he was solely responsible for the postponement of the elections that were to start by February 14, and yet went ahead to shift the blames to government and security agencies.

Another reason given was the belief that he had compromised his position and the Commission by conniving with some Northern elements and groups to skew the result of the polls in favour of a Northern candidate.

The criticisms actually started building up before he announced the postponement. It was given stridence by a group consisting of South-east, South-south and South-west elders, days to the planned February 15 election. The group, known as Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly (SNPA), was angered because the election umpire was playing pranks with the election. Among its visible members were Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President; Chief Edwin Clark, an Ijaw leader; Walter Ofonagoro, former minister of information; Femi Okuroumu, a former Senator; and several others.

They did not only call for Jega’s sack, they also asked for his arrest. Among the allegations they leveled against him was that he was working hand in hand with a group known as Northern Elders Forum (NEF), with which they were plotting to manipulate the electoral process in favour of a Northern candidate.

On Monday, February 16, leaders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) joined their voices to the call. They argued that the man from Jega village in Kebbi State has failed in the national assignment commitment into his hands, and therefore no longer worthy to continue in the office.

The PDP stalwarts who made the call in a communiqué include Bode George, former military governor of Ondo State; Ebenezer Babatope, a former Minister of Works; Adeseye Ogunlewe,  former Minister of Transport; and Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State. Also in the meeting was Major-General A. T. Olanrewaju.

They were members of the South-west Presidential Contact Committee Group (SWPCCG) of the PDP, who based their call on what they called Jega’s “dereliction of duty” and deliberate partisan complicity in his planning and preparation for the 2015 election. They had risen from their meeting to declare that “In the light of the deliberate, overt and tendentious policies of Professor Attahiru Jega pertaining to his partisan gestures, nuances, conflicting protestations and most especially his overwhelming partiality in the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards to the detriment and marginalisation of about 16 million eligible voters of South-West, we, the South-West Presidential Contact Committee Group, hereby appropriately resolves that Professor Attahiru Jega, having failed decisively in his appointed role of a neutral, non-partisan electoral umpire…” and therefore should be sacked.

Continuing, the group said: “From all verifiable indices, the Independent National Electoral Commission was grossly unprepared to carry out a free and fair election as the published collection of the Permanent Voter’s Cards was deliberately skewed in favour of the North”.

The PDP leaders were not alone in the position they took on Jega, a large number of Nigerians who spoke with Factnewsonline said allowing Jega to organise the next election would be an endorsement of deliberate partisanship.

Among such Nigerians was Eze Eluchie, a Lagos/Owerri based lawyer. He explained that why the agitation for Jega’s removal continued to reverberate, was because “He was pretending that it was security that led to the postponement, when it was certain that he was ill-prepared for the election”.

Eluchie wanted to know how Jega was able to distribute Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in flashpoint states such as Borno, but was not able to do that in peaceful states. He wanted to know also why none of the ad-hoc staff INEC was trained and the system test-run hours before the election.

“This shows every right-thinking Nigerian that a lot of things were fundamentally wrong with the planned election, and these are cogent issues that cannot just be swept under the carpet” he added.

However, the country’s House of Representatives rose from their sitting on Monday, March 2, to expressed support for Jega. The House members did this through a motion moved by Ali Ahmad, an APC legislator from Kwara State. The House described the coming elections as important and critical to the continued existence of the country, for which nothing should be done to upset it. The House therefore warned that Jega losing his position, either through sack or resignation, has the potential to generate crisis in the polity.

Just as the House stood against the removal of Jega, some other Nigerians, groups and individuals, have also stood by him. All APC, the major opposition party in the country has, at various occasions warned that Jega must not be removed from office under whatever excuse. However APC’s current position is a mystery to many Nigerians because only just few months ago, its leadership led a protest in Abuja calling for Jega’s removal.

In a recent television interview monitored in Lagos, a former Chairman of the FCT Chapter of former ACN (a prominent part in the formation of APC) Sunny Moniedafe, wondered what was the haste in wanting Jega out before the election. His words: “What is so urgent that they want to remove Jega and put our democracy in danger” he queried.

Jega was a popular lecturer. He grew to become head of Political Science at Bayero University, Kano (BUK). He was later to become the Vice Chancellor of the university, from where he got the INEC job. Jega got the INEC job on June 8, 2010, and led the commission to conduct the 2011 general elections.

He was a widely accepted choice as he was hailed across the country as a man of high integrity which they said he acquired during his stint as President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria. Then, ASSU under him withstood and fought the military to a stand-still. When the military government finally banned ASUU, many Nigerians agreed that he had fought a good fight. This was a major reason why he became a run-away favourite during the search for replacement for Maurice Iwu as INEC) helmsman.

Today, 16 days to the first election in the series of elections, Jega is still on his seat. Now, the question on many lips is “has Jega won the battle to stay on as INEC chair?”

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