Nwodo, Jega: In search of national relevance

By Muhammad Ajah
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Owing to the fact that fame seems not to be acquired through hard work in Nigeria or does it last for those who attain it through selfless services to their fatherland, events of today is playing out the very significance of two characters in the country. These characters are not really new in the making of Nigeria in their individual professions. But this time, the task on them is so herculean that critics are watching, noting and expecting.

Both are chairmen of the most sensitive organs of the political machine the nation looks onto for salvation in just few months to come when some citizens will be at one another's neck in a fierce contest over who leads the nation at least in the next four years. Many Nigerians are already questioning the yardstick upon which national honour awardees are selected.

Chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega are the key players to determine the fate of the next year's general elections.

Nwodo recently warned politicians to steer clear from visiting him in his house. Visiting him is not the problem. At least, he had had friends from amongst the politicians of today. But with his present position, any call on him cannot be an ordinary one. Visits of such are mostly accompanied by full-loaded bags of money to influence decisions and seek favour. Whether we accept it or not, as the fact stands today, PDP is the overpowering party in Nigeria. So, Nwodo should accept this responsibility as a national trust from which he can recover the confidence of Nigerians especially against the allegations which came up over his appointment as PDP chairman.

However, this could be the first time a chairman of such indomitable party would absolve self openly of shoddy deals expected to knock his doors throughout the electoral processes in Nigeria in the past. It is wished that the head of the spiritual denomination to which he belongs must be doing a good job of inculcating self restraints from lust, wickedness and extra-ordinary power mongering in his followers. With this public statement, Nigerians are being convinced to believe that he will not collect any bribe from any politician to mar the PDP primaries at the local, state and presidential level.

For this, I pray that the Almighty give him the strength and will to stand firm and accomplish this onerous task. But before then, he must reflect on the past, identify where he has wronged humanity and especially the nation, and then promise his conscience before God that he will make amends. His duty towards the nation and Nigerians in this crucial time must be discharged with the fear of God. Or else Nigerians have reminiscence of the past leaderships of PDP to honour or condemn him.

As for Jega, the task of conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria is just as easy as anything like standing before stubborn and illiterate students. Only patient, humble and broad-minded lecturers can survive and withstand the atmosphere and tension such students create.

He needs not be reminded of the harsh criticism that trialed the performances of the past INEC bosses, and especially his predecessor, Professor Maurice Iwu. Nigerians are stubborn people (students). They are not ready to learn easily. But they are merely reactionary. So, to succeed in the face of this type of people, he needs God's guidance, self restraint and political will.

The funds demanded by INEC finally went up to 87 billion Naira from the initial 54 billion Naira then to 74 billion Naira. INEC is such a well-established entity that has been in existence over the years. For many Nigerians, there is still need for extensive explanation on why the demanded funds were increased from 54 billion Naira (including contingency funds) to 87 billion Naira. Does it expose weakness in the planning system of our establishments?

Moreover, we were told by the president himself that INEC will not be limited by funding problems because, as he put it, added to the funds to be released by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the United States and the European Union have pledged to finance the 2011 elections. The fund provided by the Nigerian government is now known and it 87 billion Naira.

The questions that arise here are: how much is expected from the United States of America and the European Union and any other corporate entities that have interest in ensuring that Nigeria gets it right this time? The countries who claim to be interested in the enthronement or sustenance of democracy in Nigeria should start announcing their donations for the 2011 elections.

Again, are these countries not aware of the many and serious socio-economic problems facing Nigeria? Our educational system is bad, our healthcare delivery system is harrowing, hunger is striking harder on the majority and death is beckoning on the masses. Why is it only during elections that they show extra-ordinary interest?

Secondly, considering the fact that the money quoted by INEC is expected to cater for everything about the elections, what will the donations by these foreign entities be for? Therefore, a candid suggestion should be that the money collected by Jega must be monitored so that it is not an avenue to siphon money for campaigns. This is because the INEC has not made any public statement on what all these increases will be used for.

I do not know whether the two most important figures for the 2011 general elections for now did declare their assets before assuming their offices so that at the end of the elections, Nigerians would know if Nwodo's public declaration that politicians should not visit him at home and Jega's silence over the jacking up of INEC's package had any relevance in the first place.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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