ATTAHIRU JEGA BE READY TO RESIGN
What nobody has said to Jega is that he should also be ready and willing to resign his appointment in the event that his conscience conflicts with external pressures from the powers that be. The reason is simply that existing landmines in the electoral process will explode sporadically to task his patience, resilience, independence and integrity at critical moments as he will soon begin to see.
The electoral process has been so dangerously plagued by man-made deficiencies that it can hardly deliver credible elections as we write. It is an understatement to say that INEC deserves the NFF treatment i.e sack everybody and suspend all activities so that the house is put in order if the time were on our side. Nigeria as a country is blessed with eminent persons from all the geo-political zones who can hold their heads high anywhere in the world including the likes of Jega. As a younger man, I followed the politics of Academic Staff Union of Universities and admired Professor Attahiru Jega's resistance to the military junta that had scanty regard for the sanctity of the ivory tower. Jega was faced with dining with the devil and abandoning the struggle for the upliftment of the quality of Nigeria's university education but he chose Nigeria first. It was a battle for the courageous but he dared the tiger. He stood his ground. He refused to compromise and at the end, he emerged victorious. That victory marked Jega as a man designed for great exploits. That was the true measure of a brave man and this is a great lesson for youths.
After many years of that battle with armed soldiers who were in government and in power, Jega is called upon to replicate the courage that made him a hero in the desert. I agree with Jonathan that his radicalism has become a national asset and that he should remember his students and colleagues he left behind in the university in Kano to do Nigeria proud. But how far Jega can go in this onerous national assignment no one can say for now.
Many have argued that every Nigerian has a price and that Jega may well just fit into a hole for his ilk. The reason according to them is simple. A man who soils his hands can hardly resist any pressure to abandon his strength. Therefore the starting point is for Jega to look the other way when undue and unsolicited favours begin to come his way. There will be land allocations in Abuja and other states of the federation for free. The NNPC may even offer him an oil bloc and open bank accounts to host the returns in his name.
There will be favours available to his wife(s) and children. Some he may know and others he may not. Jega will be offered national honours he never asked for and he may even be required to submit names of his loyalists for appointments etc. Like the devil, the temptations will flow in different directions but the only way Jega can stand firm and remain so is for him to say NO from the beginning to anything that he does not merit. The question today is how many Nigerians in INEC will say no to such favours in a country in search of role models?
Jega is just one man in INEC. Yes that is true. As the chairman, he works with several national commissioners and resident electoral commissioners in the states and he takes full responsibility for the actions of all those under him. There is no doctrine of election, choosing which conduct to absorb and which action to disclaim. Nigerians will no longer accept the Prof Maurice Iwu belated argument that officers posted to various beats to conduct or supervise elections take responsibility for their shortcomings. What Nigerians expect today is that Jega who has the authority to delegate any authority arising from his office to any INEC operative also has the duty to supervise it. Indeed, Jega must be ready to go down if anything goes wrong anywhere in 2011.
However, Jega cannot expect that there will be no infractions in any general election in the various states of the federation. Whenever they occur to upstage the outcome of an election, Nigerians expect that Jega must insist that the law will take its natural course to punish anybody found wanting even if his most trusted commissioner or anybody else is involved. In the past, laws existing to punish deviant behaviours were ignored by Iwu who was not courageous enough to pursue the punishment of any offender. Jega must rise above this and show that those who commit electoral offences pay the price as prescribed by law. It is common practice for the party in power to breathe down authority on the INEC boss but if the powers that be resist change, Jega must resign and tell the world who Jonathan is.
Corruption takes centre stage in the conduct of public affairs in Nigeria. The Presidency, National Assembly, Judiciary, police military, security agencies etc are all institutions that are riddled with corruption and only a microscopic few are clean. INEC is a big cake. It is shameful for national commissioners and the state resident electoral commissioners to lobby and bribe their way to get juicy postings within INEC and the states because of the free money they make from corrupt and evil practices. To these people, their personal interests come first while integrity and national service is secondary. Jega must watch those who work with him. This is beyond dispute and we deeply sympathise with him because the problems will start from his INEC board room.
Nigerian politicians have become emboldened over the years by the recurring failure of existing laws and institutions to punish ignoble electoral behaviours. Election rigging and abuse of the police and security agencies during elections will compound Jega's problem. All the political parties rig elections in Nigeria depending on where they are dominant. They use INEC officers, police, army, JTF, SSS, thugs etc and all these forces may combine to challenge a change as Jega will desire. However, in all cases where this occurs, Nigerians expect Jega to stand up and be counted among eminent men. If the system kicks against it as it did in Ekiti State, Jega should be ready to resign. He must at all times remain a man that Nigerians know him to be.
Jega must immediately undertake a review of the voters' register in all the states because the existing registers are totally falsified, unreliable and incapable of assisting the nation in the conduct of a free and fair elections come 2011. Any voters' registration exercise in Nigeria today can also not be free and fair because the globally accepted methods of checking double registration cannot work in Nigeria by choice. In some states of the federation, the total number of voters is tied to the already adulterated and falsified census figures which, unfortunately have been accepted and those who rig elections begin to prepare ahead of INEC to flood the registers with fake names. Have we forgotten that revenue allocation, creation of states and local governments have at various times been tied to such bloated census figures? This is why Nigeria's voters' registers cannot be accurate and correct. So if Jega's INEC cannot get this preliminary and fundamental issue right, where then is the foundation for a free and fair election? We know it to be true that Jega is not a magician.
Above all, it is up to President Goodluck Jonathan to decide if Jega should conduct a free and fair election come 2011. If he so decides, then he must give Jega a FREE HAND. More important is that only Attahiru Jega can chose the name he will be called. He has the option of electing to be called Attahiru Jega or a thief and an unreliable man.