Atahiru Jega: The True Icon Of Nigeria’s Democracy
Gradually, the whole world is coming in terms with the principles and tenets of democracy except some few elements who have constituted themselves into nuisances, terrorists such as Boko Haram, ISIS etc. However, the disagreement has always emanated from the other side of the coin which is the economic principle upon which the ideology of democracy is to be built on; socialist democracy and capitalist democracy.
Until 1989 which marked the collapse of Soviet Union this was the cold war that replaced the Second World War and today it’s capitalist democracy that is more pronounced as led by USA.
On couple of occasions, Nigeria’s democracy had collapsed and this was necessitated by military interregnum. Since 1999, which marked the birth of the fourth republic in Nigeria the hopes of the world in general and Nigerians in particular have come alive as it seems that democracy has come to stay and most of the institutions are gradually becoming democratised including the military.
In a democratic setting, every institution is important but personally, I have always believed that, the electoral umpire is the leading most important amongst others. In Nigeria since 1999, we have had dramatical personae who have led this institution at one time or the other and everyone of them had their weaknesses and areas of strength.
Jega had been the most outstanding amongst them as he had laid a true foundation that subsequent leaders of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can truly build a structure that can stand the test of time on.
Barely some months to the general election in 2011, he was appointed as the chairmen of INEC and all he could do was to conduct elections upon the faulty foundation on ground but to a large extent the election was credible as this was generally adjudged by national and international bodies that monitored the process of the election. However, the total figure of those that voted in theelections raised dust and the issue of under-age and mass thump-printing were issues that faulted the elections.
Jega took another four years to settle down, learn and broughta system that was almost perfect. He attended many conferences and monitored many election processes across the world including the last election that brought in Barrack Obama.
Jega introduced biometric electoral system which righted so many wrongs even if not all on ground and gave almost an accurate figure of those who actually voted. The biometric machines did not actually stop ballot boxes snatching and thuggery in some angles and which is the primary assignment of police but those who snatched ballot boxes and papers regretted their action as it was an effort in futility as biometric machine already recorded the number of people who voted and the ballot papers cannot exceed it.
It is regrettably regrettable each time I recall the action of Godsday Orubebe at the national collation center, Abuja, I feel sad because that action would have caused blood to flow on the streets of Nigeria like a might rush of ocean but the singular maturity and leadership qualities of Jega saved the life of our hard earned democracy in its infancy. This is an examplenary leader who even in the face of provocation conducted himself in the most mature manner and this saved the day for us all.
As earlier noted, Jega built a good foundation which means there is need for strong structure to be built on it. Today, he is no longerthere but are we making frantic efforts to build on this good foundation or are we out there to sabotage efforts of people in the past?
Integrity is the greatest asset needed in building this structure because with integrity we can have the strongest electoral system in Nigeria and the questions in this case are; what has happened to conduct of elections in Kogi state, Bayelsa state, Nasarawa state etc? And what will happen in Edo and Ondo later in the year? These are premises upon which we can form integrity which is a great requirement in building one of the most formidable electoral system in Nigeria.
Jega did he only little part in building the nation at least, he laid a good foundation upon which free and fair election could be counduted and forming the driving force and vehicle upon which our dear nascent democracy can thrive.
Osobu Suuru Alexander