Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of Nigeria’s National (now truly) Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) deserves commendation for his efficient and successful conduct of the largely credible and peaceful National Assembly Elections across Nigeria on April 9, 2011.
This is indeed, a momentous development in Nigeria’s chequered history of elections. Jega needs the support of well-meaning Nigerians to sustain the tempo of this revolution.
In spite of reported incidences of violence and fraud in few states, the National Assembly Elections clearly represent a radical departure from the very awful past, and a great improvement on the conduct of elections in Nigeria. In my opinion, these elections stand out, for now, as the freest, fairest and most credible in the annals of Nigerian politics. I therefore, sincerely congratulate Professor Jega and his hard working and dedicated team for their courage, patriotism and ability to overcome the initial setbacks and challenges which resulted to the abrupt cancellation and postponement of the elections from April 2 to April 9, 2011. Understandably, the postponement elicited an outpouring of national outrage and international condemnation.
Sequel to the postponement of the elections, calls came from some quarters on Jega to resign or be removed by President Jonathan. I considered the calls as hasty, thoughtless, irrational, unwarranted, insincere, diversionary and opportunistic. I suspect that most people who made that call were beneficiaries of the old order who had become uncomfortable with Jega’s determination to implement radical reform of the electoral system.
I commend President Jonathan for resisting the pressure to interfere with INEC. That was what an Obasanjo would have considered an auspicious moment to strike. My respect for Jonathan increased with the very mature and statesmanlike manner he handled that admittedly embarrassing situation of postponement of the elections. He has proved his sincerity and commitment to respect the independence of INEC and other institutions. He has also proved that he means his mantra to deliver free, fair and credible elections. To be sure, President Jonathan has repeatedly warned that nobody should rig for him. This is a encouraging.
Security agencies appear to have performed relatively better this time. This owes partly to the synergy among all security agencies and paramilitary organizations involved in electoral security. It owes partly also to Jega tactical engagement of security authorities. The role of the police in hounding the ACN governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State clearly portrays them as partisan. How could the police arrest a man in court premises after he was granted bail by the court over uninvestigated and unsubstantiated charges by the police?
Evidently, Nigerians desire and deserve change and development. But change cannot be engendered through an electoral system that is marred by fraud, corruption and violence. It is such a discredited system that has for so long held Nigeria down, violently suppressed the voices of majority of its citizens, retarded Nigeria’s economic growth and development, and tarnished the country’s image internationally. It is that system that Jega has courageously overthrown in the greater interest of the greatest majority.
I am inspired by Jega’s achievement. He has proved his mettle. He has defended his integrity and vindicated the confidence reposed in his intellectual ability to renew the political space in Nigeria. I am also gratified that Jega has restored power to the people. He has restored the integrity of the electoral process and the political legitimacy of the Nigerian state. He has restored the hope and confidence of the Nigerian people in elections and in the democratic process.
Jega has provided the bulwark for change. He has provided the missing credible, patriotic and courageous leadership that Nigerians have been in dire need of to be able to demonstrate their desire and determination for change, and to take their destiny into their own hands.
Jega has ignited the fire of a democratic revolution in Nigeria. He has restored the people’s democratic right and voice to freely choose their leaders and representatives in an atmosphere devoid of intimidation, violence, manipulation and coercion.
Yet- and predictably, Nigerians were yet again, forced to witness the sordid spectacle of brazen electoral violence and rigging. That was a clear sign of resistance and counter-revolutionary attempts by the beneficiaries of the status quo to roll back this movement of change. Because these reactionary characters have always lived by stealing the people’s votes and mandate, they insist on retaining the old debauched ways. Jega must remain firm and stubbornly resist these undemocratic and corrupt elements and rein them in, together with their cohorts.
Jega has begun to deliver on his avowed and often repeated promise and commitment to conduct free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. But Jega needs- even more importantly- to deliver on his other promise to punish anyone or group of persons found to be circumventing or subverting the process through violence and fraud. This is the only way he can consolidate and improve upon the hard earned gains that he has recorded through tireless effort.
This calls for vigilance on the part of INEC, security agencies and indeed, all democracy-loving Nigerians. Jega must unequivocally make it clear to the few unpatriotic Nigerians who do not yet understand that the despicable era of subverting the popular will has gone for good. They must be made to embrace this new dawn and momentum for change.
During the April 9 elections, some desperate and depraved politicians, undisciplined security agents (some of whom were impostors) and crooked electoral officials still brazenly circumvented and breached the clearly outlined procedure for voting on Election Day. They engaged in electoral violence and fraud despite all the measures put in place to prevent them. This situation cannot be allowed to repeat in subsequent elections. The only way to demonstrate to such people that the times have changed, and that the new INEC is truly committed to bringing perpetrators of electoral misconduct to book is to make a scape goat of some of those identified as having perpetrated electoral crimes during the last elections. This will make them learn the hard way and serve as deterrent against further breaches during subsequent elections.
I know that reports about electoral violence and fraud in my State, Imo State will no longer be news to INEC. But I am constrained to bring to Jega’s attention some of the very disturbing incidents witnessed and reported by concerned Nigerians who were victims and witnesses of electoral violence and fraud in some parts of Imo State. And I will request Jega to order a prompt and full investigation into the cases of breach with a view to ensuring that all the politicians, political thugs, security agents, electoral officials and other persons found to be involved in breaching of the electoral law are brought to book.
We must support Jega by drawing his attention to the things he needs to do to improve. We must avoid distracting him with spurious and unfounded allegations founded on jaundiced motives.