JEGA AND THE PRAISE SINGERS

By NBF News
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Everywhere you turn, every newspaper you read, every radio and television station you tune to, one name seems to dominate the news : Attahiru Jega.  Jega is the grey-bearded  professor of political science and vice-chancellor of the Bayero University, Kano, BUK.  You may also call him, if you so wish,  the man of the moment, the man whose sun is set to shine in the Nigerian political firmament. The man who has a date with history and destiny.  Will he live up to expectations or kill our hopes and dream? Will he be a hero at the end of the day or climb down to zero?  Only God and the man himself can answer those questions.

Of course,  we are talking about the radical academic, activist and unionist, not because he has won a Nobel or  propounded any academic thesis, theory or made a discovery that is rocking the globe. But all over Nigeria, especially in the political arena, Jega is being hailed, he's being canonised[even before he has assumed the job]. He is being called the man that will lead us to our electoral el Dorado, the man who will cleanse the land of the stench of  'wuruwuru and magomago', fraud if you like, that has often characterised our electoral processes. The man who will deodorise the political atmosphere Iwu and his people polluted.

Jega must truly be a lucky man. Not many people have the fortune of a cross section of the populace commending their nominations, particularly in a country like Nigeria divided by ethnicity, religion and other base sentiments. Not many people have such high acceptance rating like Jega has since his nomination became public.  From radicals to reactionaries; from electoral puritans to die-hard riggers and ballot robbers,  all seemed to agree that President Jonathan woke up on the right side of his bed the day he decided to give the nod to Jega's nomination. But we can be sure that many of those hailing Jega today are already  plotting how to run rings round him. Nigerian politicians  preach free and fair election, but many hardly believe in it. It's just a precept, nothing more. There lies my apprehension for the man, as he's being celebrated.

You see,  a man celebrated and commended by many must watch it, lest he slips. A man hailed by all and sundry has several snares laid for him except he watches it. So, rather than join the army of his praise singers and those bathing him in superlative terms, and those who would have crowded his residence and office with giant congratulatory cards, I have only sympathy for him. I sympathise with Jega because I want him to succeed. I sympathise with him because I know that many of those who are hailing him are about to lay mines ahead for him. I sympathise with him because he's about to take on a job that could make or mar him; a job that has been the  'graveyard' of many otherwise respectable Nigerians.

Indeed, since the nomination of the Professor by  Jonathan as the chairman-designate of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC,  there appears to be unanimity of views that this time, a square peg is going to be put in square hole, that the cap surely fits the head, that a man of integrity will be charged with conducting Nigeria's decisive  2011 polls, that the man will deliver. From organised labour, the civil society, political parties, the radical students wing to the ordinary Nigerian, the consensus opinion is that Jega is a progressive who would rather die than betray his conscience and the people by engaging in unwholesome acts as INEC boss when eventually confirmed by the Senate of the Federal Republic.

Those who are applauding Jega's choice easily point to his antecedence  as President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, when faced with pressures from the Ibrahim Babangida junta, he stoutly refused to be cowed. He took on the authorities in a bull fight and lived to tell the victory story. His students, colleagues and staff at the BUK also attest to his industry, humanity and integrity in his leadership  The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, says of Jega's nomination: 'By this choice of a neutral umpire, who was a member of the Justice Uwais Committee, the President has clearly demonstrated his commitment to enhancing the integrity of the electoral process.'

While the opposition, Action Congress, AC, will not the share in the optimism that Jega's appointment will trigger credible polls without the necessary overhaul of the decadent system, it however acknowledges that the professor is a man of proven integrity and honesty. And the Jega debate swings like a yo-yo all over the country: is he the man who will enthrone for the nation the much-sought credible electoral process in 2011 and beyond? Will he go the way of his predecessors?

Going by his antecedents as noted above, he has a high chance of breaking the jinx and succeeding. But the questions remain: will they let him succeed? Do they really want him to succeed? These are salient issues that must be resolved before Nigerians lose their heads in the euphoria of a Jega INEC.

Jega is just one man in the 'jungle' of other electoral umpires: commissioners and resident electoral commissioners, many of whom may not be as straight as their leader who in any case is just first amongst equals. By the existing Electoral Act, he can't even fire a commissioner or REC, because he doesn't have such powers. He didn't appoint them, he didn't assign them, he only maintains a flexible administrative supervision over them. So,  Jega may be a good man in Abuja, but he is not the magician who will see to the conduct of a free and fair polls in other parts of the country. When INEC commissioners and RECs are the direct or proxy nominees of governors, ministers and other political stalwarts[as we have learnt],  Jega will only be attempting to chase the wind in his and our desire for integrity of the ballot.

But I agree all the same that leadership at the centre could make significant difference in our search for a credible system. The essential point  I am making is that for Jega's appointment to make sense, he must have the necessary tools to function, which is an enabling law. The adoption and promulgation into law of the Uwais report could be that tool Jega needs to clear the forest of demons in our electoral process.

Also germane in our drive for a clean-up of our electoral system is the collective ownership of the battle. We shouldn't see it as Jonathan or Jega's battle alone.  It's our country. It's our votes. We must vote and insist that our votes are counted and count at the end of the day. We must make the battle cry of Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, the Edo State governor,  of 'one man, one vote; one woman, one vote; one youth, one vote; one godfather, one vote,' our battle cry. That way Jega's burden would have been made lighter. And we can then celebrate with him, clink glasses and say yes, we made it. If we celebrate now, we celebrate too soon,  we rejoice even before the battle is fought.

And the enemies can only scoff at us for our folly and fall.  God forbid.

…Two women who caused the fall of the Deji of Akure!

'Never underestimate the power of a woman!' I first came across that expression on the door post of the Allen Avenue office of the late publisher of the defunct Classique magazine, May Ellen Ezekiel, fondly called MEE. What those words meant for the inimitable reporter and columnist  may have been different, but few men will dispute the fact that underestimating the power of a woman could lead to deep regret and gnashing of teeth.

Indeed, women, whether you underestimate, love or hate them, have led to the fall of otherwise great men.  Samson had Delilah. We know what happened to him. Solomon had a harem and that led to his doom. Herod so loved his daughter and wanted to please her: the young lady demanded for the head of John the Baptist.  It was a done deal.

Come nearer home.  Oyakhilome, a crack cop, a Nuhu Ribadu of his era, who cracked down on drug Czars, fell from his exalted seat. We have his Jennifer to thank for that feat.

Now, a whole first class traditional ruler of the ancient city of Akure, South-West, Nigeria, has kissed his royal stool goodbye. All thanks to two women. One he loved, the other he hated.  Oba Adesina, according to the story, fell in love with the delectable Remi, a widow of the flambuoyant late politician, Moshood Abiola. Then, things were never the same again. His household became a theatre of domestic war.  Drunk on love, he drove his 'cantankerous'  wife[Olori] out of the palace. The woman would not let go without a fight. How dare anyone, a woman at that,  challenge a whole Kabiyesi in his domain?  He thought of teaching the 'stupid' woman the lesson of her life.  He reportedly led a band of tough boys to his ex-wife's residence to beat her silly in the process of retrieving some of his property which she got when the going was good. It was the final show down. The Oba's jeep was smashed, while he was allegedly pushed into the gutter with his crown on the floor.

Abomination. Outrage. A pugilist Oba had brought shame upon his people. Condemnation from every quarter. Why should an Oba descend to the level of an area boy and engage in street brawl? Why should any man, an Oba at that, beat up his wife publicly?  No need for further debate: the Oba has lost his crown, banished from his kingdom and faces prosecution for alleged assault and battering of his ex-wife, who is also demanding over N400m as damages for the assault and humiliation. Poor man. Because of two women, he lost his exalted position. Because of these women who definitely will still have a life after the palace, the Oba goes into the long night and possibly the gulag if found guilty of assault and causing a breach of the public peace.

In his quiet moments, there would be several 'ifs' going through the ex-monarch's mind right now. What if he had resisted the alluring beauty of Remi and lived in peace with his old harem? What if he had controlled his rage and resisted the temptation to teach Bolanle, his estranged queen a bitter lesson? What if he hadn't personally led the assault team? What if he had left his crown and beads at home and avoided the disgrace of a royal fall? Oh, many ifs. But it won't matter now. There's no use weeping over spilled milk.

All men must learn a lesson from the fall of Oba Adesina. Men must never underestimate the power of a woman. Men must  be careful not to 'over-love' or 'over-hate' a woman. Men must learn to thread cautiously with women. Truly, woman, thy name is: woe unto man. Ask the ex-Kabiyesi. Ask those who had fallen on the wrong side of women.  Ask William Shakespeare who lamented that hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. And please, woman,  descend not in your wrath against this writer. Just regard this companion piece as the idle ranting of a columnist, and let there be peace.