Under normal circumstances, we rejoice over the baptism of our brethren. We jump and reach for the heavens when it happens. I apologize ahead to our Muslim brethren, but our happiness dates back to Jesus's happiness when John the Baptist did Him the honor. So baptism is normally a happy event. We look forward to it in churches, and sing, dance, clap, and even speak in tongues when it happens.
Recently, however, we witnessed a different kind of baptism. What we witnessed was a baptism without God. It is grounded in religiosity -- political religiosity -- but is not Christ-like and is without holy water. It is a baptism of the devilish order. Like any other devilish challenge to God, it is a mimic by Satan, and, as with all modern satanic mimics, it is anti-Christ. It happened in Delta State between January 6 and January 7, 2011. It is the baptism of Professor Attahiru Jega. The sulfur is still in the air -- we can smell it even as far as in the U.S.
Several months ago, Jega was picked to chair the election commission in Nigeria, INEC. His ascension came with the downfall of Iwu. He was supposed to clean up Iwu's mess. He was billed as a man of honor and repute because he once chaired the protests of the Nigerian academia. He was noted to be incorruptible -- a man of integrity and high dignity, a noble professor, and the modern-day savior of Nigerian politics. So we all rejoiced. We longed for his miracles to begin. We listened to his sermons. He went about and beyond. He held meetings and even reached the modern-day Mount Zion of democracy, America. He preached to the choir about election reforms in Nigeria. He had a sizeable following. I was one of his listeners, though I was still cautious to be a follower.
Then there came the first test. It came in the form of a miracle from God to Delta State -- the fruits of the eleven-and-half years of prayers by Deltans for deliverance from the bondage of rigged-in pretend governance. Jega was at a crossroad. As the dignified professor and savior so-projected, the road led to a clean, free, and fair election that would unshackle the citizens of Delta. Nigerians at-large turned to that road and, with borrowed binoculars, peeped ahead for signs of better things to come in the national polity. The second road led to nowhere but the cul-de-sac of the status quo ante -- to the sorrows of Satan -- the satanic Eldorado of thieves, election-rigging, Iwu's style of closed-door forgery of "winners," the Naira-induced disconnect between polling booth results and collation center results, ballot prostitution, decadence, state-imposed servitude, and the syndrome of premature gratification.
Throughout the wait for Jega's move at the crossroad, hope remained in him. As we cheered him on (Jega, Jega, Jega!), he began scaling down our expectations, but we knew better. Some of us called him out on it, and others asked us to remain calm until he made his move. Then he took two foolish steps towards the wrong road -- his INEC attempted to hide the voter registers in Delta State, and, worse, gave registers to PDP to forge. We shouted louder, and he back-peddled, but some of us were not convinced. We saw his wrong moves as malicious and the signs of bad things to come in both the Delta State re-run and the 2011 general elections. He begrudgingly released the registers in Delta State, and so we needed to watch him closely. Then he took three good steps towards the right road -- INEC announced that voters would be counted, certified, and their numbers announced at polling stations for all to hear, agents of political parties would be there to monitor the results, and results would be announced loudly then and there for all to hear. We all cheered loudly. This is it. We are finally heading towards a democratic Nigeria. Then came election day, the day of Jega's baptism.
Just so it is clear, except for those few who worked for, or benefitted from, PDP's Uduaghan, no one in Delta State wanted him back to the Government House. Even his erstwhile mate, Augustine Ovie Omo-Agege, wanted him gone. Clearly, Pa E.K. Clark, a PDP heavyweight and a hero in Delta State, wanted him out. Most believed that Uduaghan had been a terrible tenant of the Government House; in fact, the court declared him an illegal tenant, having acquired the tenancy by force and/or false pretenses. In criminal law, it meant that he committed theft offenses, which ordinarily carried prison terms in civilized societies. To make matters worse, he had failed to develop Delta State, was too closely associated with Ibori, and compounded the post-traumatic stress disorder that Deltans suffered from Ibori. The court, however, failed in its duties to go further and ban him from the re-run or, better yet, imprison him and order restitution to the Delta State people. So he ran again, but the mood was against him.
Most people wanted Great O. Ogboru, the perceived Barack Obama/Bill Clinton of Delta State. The affinity for Ogboru in Delta State touched everyone and reverberated everywhere. My Yoruba brothers and sisters called me to offer their support, my Igbo brothers and sisters sent in their strategic thinking, and my Hausa, Fulani, Tiv, Ibibio, and Annang friends were on hand cheering for Ogboru and Deltans. Better yet, PDP folks decamped temporarily to work for Ogboru's election. It felt like the campaign for Barack Obama in 2008. Change we could believe in was in the air. Even some people chanted "Yes, We Can," and they did not sound corny. So the only thing between Deltans and change was INEC. Not to worry, Jega was there.
Then the election day came. There were soldiers, police, and even Navy ship to provide security. I was elated. You see, several weeks before, I had advised Jega on Saharareporters to focus on security and install cameras at polling stations. When the security forces arrived in the State, I was big-headed to believe that he followed my advice on security, although I had a nagging suspicion and a conspiracy theory about the massive security presence in the State, particularly the Navy ship. I hoped it was not to intimidate Uduaghan's opponents, instead of protecting all voters and voting materials. Worse yet, I hoped that it was not to intimidate the en masse backlash that could follow any rigging -- a guilty-conscience preparation -- for I knew that no Navy ship was needed to control the celebration that would follow Ogboru's election. My hope was quickly dashed, and my conspiracy theory became a reality.
On election day, the preparation of Jega's baptismal sulfur began with ballot-snatching and the intimidation of voters. The focus of the security forces was lackadaisical. In several areas, the Nigerian Police officers stood by while PDP thugs intimidated opponents, and, in other areas, they helped thugs snatch ballot boxes and other election materials; they escorted thieves of election materials. The election was, therefore, riddled with the snatching of election materials for PDP's private use. In the swampy areas of the State, those who were supposed to provide the logistics for delivering ballot boxes snatched the boxes instead and/or delivered them to PDP rigging chieftains. As in Iwu's era, thugs voted in private houses. It was an animal kingdom. But not to worry, there was still hope that Jega would not allow those votes to count.
As I watched closely, however, Jega began his baptismal dance as news spread that the election was being rigged. Jega's dance was a dance of legitimacy. As the man of honor, the riggers needed his dance to legitimize the rigging. The idea was to neutralize the perception of the misdeeds, not the misdeeds themselves. He flew over in a helicopter, and landed in some neighborhoods for a photo-op. He spoke in a lawyerly manner: "Well, Your Honor (in Nigeria, my lord), although there have been reports of 'isolated incidents' of ballot-snatching and voter intimidation, we are confident that the election is going well and is free and fair. We are taking every step to ensure that the problems will be corrected." Those who ignored the writing on the wall believed him and still cheered him on. After all, a "whole" INEC Chairman himself visited polling stations. But we were not fooled.
Jega's baptism and initiation into the other side of Nigerian politics concluded in Asaba, Delta State. It happened with the aid of thugs and the complacency of the Nigerian security forces. The final ceremony began the moment INEC closed its doors to observers. It was a multi-station ceremony, with its headquarters in Asaba. Jega stopped being Jega when his INEC, with partisan thugs in hand and guns pointed, stopped the media, citizens, and the political parties other than PDP from observing the collation of the election results. Before then, Jega was still two-third Jega when the results were being called at the polling stations/wards and the media houses were announcing the results as they were called, before the so-called collation. But the moment Jega began the pre-baptismal prayer of "no one can announce the results other than INEC," notwithstanding that INEC officials were calling the counts at the stations/wards with party resident agents watching, I knew that Jega's baptismal sulfur was ready and he was about to enter the other side of the Nigerian world. He entered that world sometime between 8:00 p.m. on January 6, 2011 and 1:00 a.m. on January 7, 2011. It was no longer a conspiracy theory.
Before 8:00 p.m. on January 6, 2011, the announced counting showed that Ogboru had won in 18 of the 25 local government councils that were ready, which meant that he won the election as a whole, because he needed only the majority of the councils. In fact, Deltans began celebrating and some even dreamt of fireworks as far as in Atlanta, Georgia. I knew better, however. I pleaded for calm to see what Jega would do the next day. Sure enough, Jega emerged transformed. Even before he came to the media, by 1:00 a.m., the media had begun changing their announcements. Of a sudden, Uduaghan won 9 of the 16 local government councils being announced by INEC. Uduaghan, who hitherto had lost at the polling station where he voted, suddenly had 48,659 votes against Ogboru's 470 votes in Warri North; he had 48,629 votes versus Ogboru's 8,195 votes in Warri South, and even won in Ethiope West, Ogboru's backyard! In Ndokwa East, which is inaccessible by motor vehicle and even Okada because Uduaghan failed to construct roads, Uduaghan "won" massively.
Jega thinks that we are stupid. We know that given the thunder that followed Uduaghan's removal by the court and the wave of goodwill that followed Ogboru everywhere in Delta State there was no way Uduaghan won 12 of the 22 local government councils declared. We know what happened. Jega's INEC allowed the election to be rigged. Its officers (1) allowed political parties other than PDP to be intimidated away from the collation centers, (2) accepted ballots from thieves of election materials, and (3) conducted the collation without the media, cameras or other observers. Again, they rigged the election -- they had the motive, opportunity and means. The moment Jega signed off on the results of the rigged election, his baptismal transformation was complete. He sold his soul to the devil, and became a wolf that was not even in sheep's clothing. He now has no credibility because we all know what happened. We know that at the crossroad of Delta State he took the wrong turn. The Navy ship, after all, was to show force to those who threatened violence as a rigging consequence. What kind of men do not have conscience?
What is worse than rigging the election is the further slap in our face by Jega's pretense that what happened was remotely better than Iwu's conduct. He claimed success in conducting "a good election." As I predicted earlier, he began immediately to use the otherwise criminal conduct of INEC in Delta State to call for the redundant need for competence in the upcoming general elections. He believes that an admission of incompetence excuses the blatant criminality of his INEC. He is wrong. No one is fooled. Just because his INEC cooked the books to give the election a competitive look does not mean that we are fooled into believing that it was not rigged.
We are not stupid. We now know what to expect in the general elections. We know that Jega cannot conduct a free and fair general election because he is not the same Jega that we trusted and cheered. He is not the same Jega that was in Washington, DC preaching the sermon of electoral reform. He is not the same Jega of ASUU repute, the honorable professor, the professor's professor, or a man of integrity and high dignity. He is the double-talking Jega, the Jega that his former ASUU colleagues would barely recognize today, and the one who has imposed the sorrows of Satan on the citizens of Delta State. He is the baptized Jega -- baptized in the indelible sulfur of democratic malpractice. As I said, this is a baptism that we must mourn because it is without God, and it is of a man who gave us so much hope before now.
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