Jega: Dousing cynics’ doubts

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Attahiru Jega does nothing by half measures. He has established a reputation for approaching all engagements with passion. For this reason, it is difficult to doubt his commitment to his current assignment. His valiant efforts, last week, to disabuse the minds of cynics during the lecture titled “Stakeholders and the electoral process in Nigeria”, organized by the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos is in character.  He used the occasion to celebrate some of his achievements, let us into his plans to tackle identified challenges and douse the doubts of cynics who believe ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tune’.  For him, INEC”s last Osun outing was a success, a verdict which many may disagree with. He also celebrated INEC efforts to reduce the $8 current cost of funding per voter which he said compares favourably with international standard by $1. Here also, many believe such a drain cannot be justified especially if there are other cheaper means in a nation where 75% of the people live below a dollar a day. He also seized the opportunity to announce INEC’s decision to use card reader for the 2015 election.  According to him, “If you buy voter cards, you can’t use them on voting day because the INEC mechanism put in place in every polling unit will detect fraud  and whoever that is involved will be arrested on the spot for electoral fraud and prosecuted.”

He also told his audience that “the consolidation and-duplication of the biometric register of voters has been completed, as a result of which the register of voters  now has the tremendous integrity – much better than the one with which the 2011 election “ was conducted.

But amidst these efforts aimed at assuaging people’s fears, his discussion about the difficulty his body is having about defining what constitutes party expenditure and what constitutes electioneering campaign by the political parties (the electoral law provides only three months for the political parties and their candidates to sell their wares to the electorate) clearly show INEC is haunted by the dictum of ‘he who pays the piper dictate the tune’. And of course added to this was his strident defence of militarization of the electoral process, undertaken by one party to a contest over which he serves as an arbiter.

But before advancing self-evident reasons to support the above thesis, we must observe first that those who operate under the philosophy of ‘there are other means to kill a hen other than slitting the throat’, who sought out Jega for his current assignment merely wanted to exploit his integrity and naiveté. It was not out of a desire for free and fair election. If that were their objectives, Jega’s appointment by an interested party to a dispute as an arbiter defeated that. The Uwais report which was whimsically jettisoned by PDP and President Jonathan would have provided a more credible response to electoral fraud.

Jega’s answer to what he described as  “several security threats that now characterize the electoral process such as physical attacks on INEC staff and facilities, attacks on security personnel on election duty, misuse of security orderlies by politicians, attacks on political opponents” is the deployment of about 75,000 heavily armed security personnel, with a number of them hooded under the control of rabidly partisan minister of defence and his counterpart in police affairs  moving around freely with Chris Ubah, a self-confessed election master rigger of Okija/Anambra fame on election day after opposition members had been driven out of town or to seek refuge in  their mother’s room as was the case of Isiaka Adeleke, former governor of the state.

It cannot be any less depressing that the security men are not under the control of INEC chairman but under the control of those with questionable past who as we have now discovered, went around supervising the arrest of their political opponents in their homes on the eve of election. Jega’s optimism could only have been justified if he were in control of the security men in his capacity as the chairman of INEC whose responsibility it is to conduct a free, fair credible election. Not many are persuaded that those who had used power of state to rig in 2003, 2007 and 2011 will not do the same in 2015 when they seem to have been officially licensed to do so. Their outings in Ondo, Ekiti and Osun have not shown otherwise.

Jega who like his employers share common sentiments that the militarization of the electoral process is dictated by today’s reality has not  told us why the  1993 election considered as the most credible and least expensive in our nation’s history was without violence  or why the 1999 election was relatively devoid of violence. The federal government has similarly not bothered to ask because a mirror cannot see itself. We couldn’t have suddenly forgotten that it was PDP under Obasanjo that institutionalized massive rigging or what he called ‘do or die election’ in 2003 to retain his threatened presidency. The 2003 electoral fraud was to become a preamble to the massive rigging of the 2007 election. Thoroughly embarrassed and scandalized by the massive electoral fraud, the late president Yar’Adua promptly set up the Uwais commission. The President and his party that suppressed the report now want us to accept as an alternative, massive deployment of security forces under their control.

Sadly for Jega, many believe he bought into that crooked logic because he cannot confront those who appointed him. It was for the same reason, Jega will pretend not to know that when President Jonathan, his vice president and the senate president and other PDP stalwarts flew three jets, bought and fuelled by taxpayers to entertain decamping politicians in Kwara, Sokoto and Kano; they had breached the electoral law by embarking on an illegal campaign as well as fraudulent deployment of the nation’s resources to advance their own electoral fortune. For the same reason, Jega and his INEC pretend not to know billions expended on prime-time television slots and in buying space in newspaper by TAN and other shadowy organisations reminiscent of Babangida and Abacha era constitute a breach of the electoral act. We are all waiting for Jega to tell us what to call the on-going rallies across the nation by TAN on behalf of the president.

This is not to doubt Jega’s commitment and sincerity in a nation where even elected leader see themselves as doing the people a favour, where when a president is challenged to act his office as commander-in-chief, he threatened a governor; where admirers of some high-achieving governors like Oshiomhole of Edo, Uduaghan of Delta and Godswill Akpabio of Bayelsa think they should be canonised as saints for routine implementation of their party programmes especially when compared with some of their predecessors who stole their states blind, Jega has done exceedingly well when compared to Prof Maurice Iwu’s disgraceful outing in 2007.  But for the military and PDP that have tried to drag the nation down to their level, we should be comparing Attahiru Jega with his counterparts in other commonwealth countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia. That was the standard by which our nation was rated before the locust years, a golden period of our nation when UCH Ibadan was rated as one of the best three teaching hospitals in Commonwealth.

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