C+for Jega & Jonathan, Incomplete for Nwosu & Babangida and an F for Iwu & Obasanjo.
I rarely disagree with Reuben Abati on any of his insightful and informative articles on Nigeria. He is my favorite columnist but I have serious reservations, if not outright disagreement with him on his recent statement that the performance of INEC in the 2011 elections was “Nigeria’s finest moment” If the just concluded election, its outcome and aftermath become our finest moment where is the motivation for future INEC in Nigeria to surpass that record or outcome?
That the PDP’s strangle hold on power has been diminished despite its abysmal failure in 12 years is a good development but that the PDP will still control the Presidency, the Senate and the National Assembly, the majority of the states and governors as well as the Local Governments does not make the outcome of these election our finest moment in my book. That the outcome has also shown how terribly divided Nigeria is as a nation with all of the Christian South and the former Middle Belt voting for Christian candidates and the Muslim North voting massively for Muslim candidates cannot be our finest moment. It would have been our finest moment if Jonathan had won the presidency like he did and his Party has lost either the Senate or the National Assembly which would have signified a big change in Nigeria. As things are right now, very little is going to change as far as I am concerned. The PDP may just buy out the other parties thereby returning Nigeria to where we were. If it is true that Jonathan had spent upwards of 107 billion Naira as reported or speculated 2 weeks to the elections, where is the guarantee that he would not fund carpet-crossing as the Commander-in-Chief with the key to the treasury in his pocket. He is also the man in charge of our oil revenues and allocation of oil blocks?
I am aware that Reuben is first and foremost a journalist. He is therefore not in the business of grading performance or outcome as many of us in the teaching profession do with accuracy and total involvement. I can understand the huge disconnect between his score card and mine because we both have a different background and perspective on the parameters we use for our score card. I only moonlight as an Internet journalist once in a while and I would be the last person to second-guess Mr. Abati on issues relating to journalism but his describing the outcome of the current elections as our finest moment is a hard sell, given all we know about those elections today from the Internet and from eye witness account across the country as covered by the Sahara Reporters one of the unsung heroes in this election, if you are thinking like me.
I started my teaching career way back at Olofin Grammar School, Idanre. I then moved on to Queen’s College, Ede for a short time and then to St. Thomas’s Aquinas College, Akure and finally to Igbobi College, Lagos where I had the privilege of coming in contact or teaching some of the few movers and shakers of Nigerian politics today, men and women of distinction who had passed thru each of those Colleges in their formative years. One of them is Raji Fashola the outstanding Governor of Lagos State who came for his Higher School Certificate at Igbobi College after completing his secondary education at Birch Freeman.
For any student to get an “A” grade in my class, he had to be as smart and as informed as I was in that subject. I recall scoring one of my students at Olofin Grammar School an A+ or 105 over 100 on one occasion because his answers in that particular examination was far superior to any answer I myself could have given, if I was answering the same questions. That student is one Festus Niyi Akinnaso from Idanre who could possibly stumble on this write-up and could issue a rebuttal. Niyi is now a distinguished professor of Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia. I can be very stingy with the grades I give out. It is a different story when I find a student as compelling and outstanding as the one I have just mentioned.
I hate to sound like a Donald Trump, the Clown-in-Chief running for President in America. Donald indulges in blowing his own trumpet to High Heavens if nobody would do it for him. That is not what I am about. I am doing this to merely draw a distinction between me and Reuben Abati in his characterization of INEC performance in the just concluded elections in Nigeria. The elections cannot be “our finest moment” and the remaining portion of this write-up will fully speak to that.
I agree with Reuben Abati, of course, that the conduct of the election is slightly better than any of those we have witnessed since 1983 if we discount some of Professor Jega’s initial pronouncements, avoidable gaffes, repeated postponements, and other foibles that led me into writing my article titled “A vote of no confidence in Professor Jega and his management of INEC” several months before the elections. The learned Professor had made a few statements that should never have come out of his mouth because he appeared to be giving mixed messages or cold comfort to elections riggers in all of the major parties in Nigeria across the board.
He might have been doing it to lower expectations from critics so if Nigeria gets a slight improvement in his conduct of those elections, he, Professor Jega could then look like a hero to observers and commentators like Reuben Abati. If that was his intent, I thought it was a bad strategy that could backfire on him and I said so loud and clear.
I wrote my piece to get Professor Jega’s attention and to possibly get him and his top executives out of that mind set as they get themselves ready to break the jinx of massive election rigging in Nigeria by playing by the rules as neutral umpires and whistle blowers for once in our electoral History. I was particularly concerned by his retention of dubious characters like Madam Ayoka Adebayo as the electoral commissioner he wanted to deploy to Ondo State of all states in Nigeria where the Omoboriowo election rigging nearly led to a French revolution type of outrage on August 16, 1983 by the voters in Ondo State who were bent on taking back their stolen mandate using the only language the NPN election riggers understood at the time.
I could not for the whole life of me understand why Professor Jega, despite his reputation as a straight shooter and fearless umpire, would want to retain Ayoka Adebayo and the top echelon of INEC who had helped Professor Iwu to do all the damage he did in 2003 and which he repeated in 2007 with President Obasanjo looking the other way. Obasanjo, you will recall, once described the whole façade as the best election Nigeria has ever had. To me Professor Jega was beginning to sound a lot more like Obasanjo in his verbiage when he blatantly told Nigerians that not even Jesus, in his second coming, could conduct a completely free and fair elections in Nigeria, and that aggrieved Nigerians should either seek a redress in the Tribunals and the Law Courts or go to hell. Obasanjo knew fully well that most of the Governors and individuals he had rigged into office in 2007 would have served out their full terms before their cases could be resolved by the Tribunals and the Appeal Court in Nigeria. The Tribunals as designed by PDP-controlled National Assembly were deliberately set up to delay and deny justice. The aggrieved losers as Obasanjo called them would have to be spending their own money to get justice while incumbent election riggers would be using Government funds to defend themselves and their stolen mandate.
Of course, Obasanjo was right. Olusegun Agagu using that tactic, had kept his stolen mandate in Ondo State for 46 out of his 48 months looting the Ondo State Treasury because he knew he lacked legitimacy from the “get go”. What Agagu could not do in nearly 4 years, Olusegun Mimiko and his Labor Party were able to accomplish within a year of their reclaiming their mandate. If you don’t believe me take a visit to Akure the state capital and you will get my point. It is the same story in Edo, Ekiti and finally at Osun state where Olagunsoye Oyinlola nearly served out his 4 years using the same strategy.
If you are still wondering why the successor of the old Action Group in the West, the ACN are now back in power not only in the South West but in a few other places in the South East and other parts of Nigeria, you have got the answer. The Nigerian voters have reduced the stranglehold of the PDP on Nigeria in a way that has arguably never been witnessed in Nigeria. Professor Jega’s INEC is a big part of that transformation because he did what he had to do, if not in every state of the country but in a good many of them
Professor Jega was aware of the status quo before he took over at INEC. I thought he should at least have cleaned out the Augean stable by getting rid of rotten eggs like Ayoka Adebayo and individuals like her whose loyalty to Nigeria was very questionable. Rather than fire Ayoka Adebayo or force President Jonathan to do it, I hear Professor Jega’s strategy was to wait on Ondo State critics like this column and others to fight that battle for him. Professor Jega, I am reliably informed, had done that because he wanted to defer to the President and Obasanjo by not rocking the boat or taking out Ayoka Adebayo who is known to be a very close confidant of President Obasanjo. I lost confidence in Professor Jega for those reasons and that was why I chose to call him out on that.
Now that the elections are nearly concluded, I am sure that my readers would like to know if I now want to offer Professor Jega my apologies for being so hard on him, to begin with. I have no regrets whatsoever for being so openly critical of Professor Jega. I don’t belong to a bunch of praise singers in Nigeria who will praise all of our leaders to death by turning them into tin gods overnight. We all must learn to speak the truth to power. That is all I have been trying to do.
That said, I can tell you that Professor Jega, despite his apparent monumental failings in certain areas, has done a fairly decent job that should qualify him for a C+ grade in my book and not a failing grade like many in Nigeria and the international observers have already given to Professor Iwu and Obasanjo for their conduct of the 2007 elections.
It is gratifying that Nigerians would appear to have confirmed these grades when President Jonathan was pressurized to finally fire Professor Iwu to replace him with Professor Jega with a far more credible reputation and track record. The Nigerian voters would also appear to have done the same thing in this elections by returning Obasanjo back to the position he was among the Yorubas and more so his home base in Owu in Abeokuta in 1999 when he was handed a defeat in his own Local Government by Oluyemi Falae who went on to beat Obasanjo in every state in the South West that year.
Obasanjo’s daughter, Iyabo Bello who ran for the Senate in Ogun did not only lose her deposit, she was disgraced out of the National Assembly. So was Obasanjo’s hand-picked Governorship candidate in Ogun State, General Adetunji Olurin who was flatly defeated by Mr. Amosun of the ACN. The same fate had befallen Alao Akala, Obasanjo’s candidate for Governor in Oyo State and Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Omisore in Osun State. The PDP has totally lost the South West in large part due to Obasanjo’s transgressions and perfidy in 2003 and 2007 and his blackmailing of Obafemi Awolowo the greatest Yoruba leader second only to Oodua in our psyche.
I agree that Professor Jega has started something in the political history of elections in Nigeria that future Chairmen of INEC can build upon. I agree with that but the credit for that should not go to him alone. Ibrahim Babangida for all his transgressions in Nigeria can take credit for some of the successes recorded by Professor Jega in this election. The Option A 4 that Babangida has initiated with little modifications here and there is largely responsible for reducing election rigging and polling box snatching and stuffing to a tolerable minimum in this election. Babangida’s decision to create a 2-Party system in Nigeria namely the SDP and the NRC was definitely a step in the right direction far better than the 63 parties that contested in the last election even though we know that most of them were floated to qualify them for Federal grants and nothing more. IBB’s heart was in the right place. He would have gone down as the greatest Nigerian politician and Head of State thru some of the things he did, but could not sustain because of too much greed and the love of power. The determination of voters to ensure that their votes would count, this time around, was also a big factor in this election. Professor Jega cannot take credit for that because he had very little to do with it. Globalization and the Internet phenomenon and cell phone communication and texts, face book technology twitters and blogs also played a part in the ability of INEC to effectively monitor the elections and for party men to communicate with their party Headquarters on what was going on at the polling booths including accurate collation of votes. Contemporary events in places like Ivory Coast and the Middle East also played a part to prick the conscience of Nigerian voters to want to make their votes count this time around.
The refusal of President Jonathan to not interfere or actively micro-manage Professor Jega and his INEC like Obasanjo would surely have done, was another factor. I also give major credit to Professor Jega for the caliber and integrity of the returning officers he has recruited for these elections nation-wide. They were all Professors and University lecturers with credibility. Majority of them, if not all, did a wonderful job. The input of the Youth Corpers in Nigeria to the overall success of the exercise across the nation cannot be over-emphasized or swept under the carpet. I give kudos to all of them and the international observers whose presence in the country had kept INEC on her toes.
That said, I want to emphasize that the INEC still has a lot of logistical problems to resolve. A lot of computer and data machines that were ordered at prohibitive cost to the nation were not eventually put into use because they either malfunctioned or could have caused more problems if deployed. The whole exercise in some respect was penny-wise and pound foolish. There were too many computer glitches and errors that could have been avoided with more adequate preparations and anticipation on the part of Jega and his boys.
Appointing a northerner to the position of Chairman had proved to be a very smart move this time around. The violence and the hooliganism that trailed the elections in some parts of the North would have been worse off, more intense and devastating if INEC was being led by a southerner. The money that the Legislature was ever so willing to appropriate and release for the conduct of the elections would never have been done in a timely fashion like we saw.
The North would have totally rejected most of the results that did not favor their preferred candidates. The mayhem that trailed the elections in the North would have been more widespread. It is bad enough that many Nigerians lost had their lives and could still lose their lives in the re-run and the postponed elections in Imo and some parts of the North, but the carnage would have been more terrible. Now the INEC has a chance to adequately deploy Law Enforcement agents to minimize the violence in the few remaining elections.
I said all along in all of my previous articles that all the Nigerian voters were hoping for in this election was a change in whatever shape or form it could be achieved. I think we got a little bit of that in this election. It is not going to be business as usual for the dominant party, the PDP which controlled no less than 28 states out of 36 before this election. Given that scenario,The PDP had no motivation to want to perform better or do things differently. Now they do. The jinx of northern domination has been broken forever in Nigeria. The northerners can no longer claim it is their birth right to continue to lead Nigeria. A southerner can now aspire to the presidency and be elected President without let or hindrance.
In a way you have to give the credit to Olusegun Obasanjo for laying the foundation for that unintended or intended consequences by some of the policies he had set in motion and some of the actions he had taken, for better or for worse, in his close to 12 years as President, and the only southerner to ever do that.
The era of staging coups that permanently favor or terrorize a half of the country against the other half is now a thing of the past in Nigeria in large part because the International community would not welcome it and because all of the military bases are now scattered all over the country like is done in more civilized countries around the world. Nigeria is one hell of a country that does not want to know how many mouth she is feeding because she is scared to death that a factual or a near accurate census will upset the apple cart or finally establish beyond any doubt the demographic rule that more people live around the coastal areas of all countries than in the desert areas as the case of Libya has clearly proved to all and sundry.
Libya is by far one of the largest countries in Africa by size alone because it is far bigger than Nigeria but it is far less than 5 million in population compared to Nigeria’s population of close to 150 million the last time I checked. Awolowo made that case before but the North blocked their ears to it. The same Awolowo made the prediction in 1983 that the minority Ijaw or a southerner is going to be President of Nigeria some day and that has come to pass.
The total number of votes recorded in every state in each of the recently concluded elections could offer a good road map or index to a more realistic census in Nigeria in the foreseeable future whether we like it or not. That is where we are headed in Nigeria. Professor Jega by conducting these elections is helping in a way to get Nigeria to where she needs to be as a developing nation. This election is one small step for Professor Jega as the current chairman of INEC but a giant step for Nigeria in our march to nationhood and stability
I give Professor Jega an overall score of a C+ for conducting an election we all can live with for now. I owe him no apology for criticizing him but I thank him and I think the whole nation owes him and his INEC a debt of gratitude for doing a better job than all of his predecessors combined That much I can gloat about..
I rest my case.