PROFESSOR ATTAHIRU JEGA AND ELECTION 2011: A MINORITY VIEW
When Professor Maurice Iwu the former INEC Chairman was soft landed out of office tongues wagged in loud ovation as people accepted it as one of the best political decisions of President Goodluck Jonathan. But unlike most cases, the removal of Iwu did not produce an immediate successor. GEJ therefore kept everyone in suspense as to the quality and caliber of the person who would succeed the former Hench man. Months after, tongues began to wag again suggesting that the president would appoint a stooge, a PDP loyalist, an Obasanjo boy etc. the president kept mump. When it was finally announced, Prof. Attahiru Jega became the choice and the man.
Across the country Prof. Attahiru Jega is the new name in the lexicon of most. His name has been torn to shreds irrespective of the side of the divide you belong. There are as many views and opinions as there are group discussions. But to those who knew the man from his clan - the University where he piled his trade, opinions were united that here at last is a man we can trust in a politically disorganized country as Nigeria. From the Civil Society group, there was little cry given the man's antecedence as chronicled by many who knew him well. But from the political circle, the group where he would spend most of his time, diverse views emerged. Trust Nigerians, to most he was a PDP unofficial member but surprisingly, the opposition did not quake as expected. I guess the reason was that any which way, whoever replaced Prof. Maurice Iwu should be certainly better than the former night mere. But the appointment was lopsided. Only Prof Iwu was removed in the house of corruption doctored heavily by the former president. All those with whom the yoo jobs of typical electoral malpractice were done remained, were not touched, transferred or redeployed to other ministries or parastatals despite the promise made to the effect to date.
Prof. Jega therefore inherited a rotten INEC which could not be trusted given all the failed efforts despite being given the best operating system possible. Hence the law courts had to decide cases like those of Governors Adams Oshomole, Chibike Amechi, Fayemi, Aregbesola etc. Before Iwu, Babangida and Humphrey Nwosu had organized and cancelled several elections and each time rather than apologise to the people, they justified same and went on to criminally annul the world acclaimed freest and fairest election in 1993 won by late Chief M K O Abiola. Then enter the 2007 Wuruwuru which gave the mildest critic of Jega only a chance to fail. But the decay which brought about the failure of Saturday April 2, 2011 began long ago with the scrapping of the national carrier – the Nigeria Airways! What is the connection here between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and National General Election people may ask? But wait a minute.
Since Saturday last week, hardly had any group of two or three persons focused on any matter other than the success or failure of INEC, but the most surprising to me, has been the fact that the likes of CNC Vice presidential candidate and the ACN are stoutly through their comments in support of Prof Jega's mode of operation. It is not in the culture of Nigerian public office holder to apology for anything. But here we see a man who did not only accept responsibility but also felt really very sorry in a national broadcast! I thought that most Nigerians would have been satisfied with the explanations given by the chairman. So because round the nation, indications have shown that the Hench man had prepared well. With N87 Billion in his kitty, he has conducted and concluded the voters' registration exercise and registration of party candidates at all level of the elections in the first instant. For the election proper, INEC employed at least 400,000 personnel excluding the 30,000 Police Officers, the Army and others security agencies. Amnesty International and other civil right groups in their numbers have been given free hand to pick and choose where it mattered most for them to position their officials; international monitoring groups and observers from the United Nation, ECOWAS, OAU etc have all been contacted and given prime positions all these efforts for just a little less than 1000 seats being gunned for by over 4,000 candidates and all with a view to ensuring that the election is seen to be free and fair as well as at least justify the chairman's claim.
But was it not in Nigeria that Chief Obasanjo said blasphemously that even Jesus Christ cannot conduct free and fair election? I am not bothered with the failure of last Saturday not because it was not a monumental disappointment as some see it. People only refused to see things the way they are due to their parochial interests and because everyone refused to see from a deeper sense of reasoning. Anything put on nothing fall in to nothing that is garbage in garbage out in computer language. Nigerian leaders have been heaping loads of nothingness on the empty bowel created by them and expecting the system to adjust to it. Nothing works that way. Who ever told us that the quake in faraway Japan would affect and distabilise the ever so important election here? Why is it that we have refused to see the hand of God in all these or at least acknowledge that it is the system that failed Jega not lack of preparation?
Nigeria in the 70's and earlier once had a flourishing Ministry of Aviation with several Air Crafts and Airports to its credit. All over the world Nigerian travelers were proud to fly the Flying Elephant (ever imagined an elephant flying) the nickname of the national carrier. Then the several military governments came with their reforms which never reformed even themselves. The nation was too big for them to understand and so down sizing became the order of the day. With that came indescribable level of corruption which produced sales of various assets of the government by extension the Nigeria Airways. That deed of over twenty years ago therefore, became the bane of our today's' failure in our quest for a successful election and is to our hurt. How? Would any one other than Nigerians determine the destination of a Nigeria Airways Aircraft where we to have our national carrier with such a national assignment? No nation has ever distributed security and sensitive documents in chartered taxi. A Taxi driver is only loyal to his immediate boss who pays higher price. In developed countries, all materials irrespective of its destination, has an effective distribution system. Heavy materials use the rail and over night delivery method others by air, sea, road and even tram for intra city services. Why would politicians cry wolf? Are they not the same people who ran the country aground? How come small countries like Cameroon, Ghana Kenya South Africa etc have effective airlines all of which jostle for Nigeria air space and her travelling population for survival? Would Air Ghana ever divert her aircraft for any other than national assignment if and when the need arise? What has our own Civil Aviation Ministry been doing all these years? What about the National Assembly Committee on Aviation? What were they committeeing on? Servicing other nations Aircraft with bogus Hangers and playing big brother?
Nigeria is over grown to be mentioned in some ways on certain issues but we have deliberately refused to grow. Viewed from a different perspective, have we not seen the gains of the failed process with arrests, violence and deaths across the country? Have we not seen how with heavy hearts some of those who had planned havoc are confused after hatching plans which couldn't see the light of the day? Who says God is not passionate on issues concerning this country? Professor Jega was programmed to fail in fact he has already come up with a total of almost four Billion Naira (N4Bln) hence his tripod had only two of the three legs; but the man has been determined to succeed. Recognising the environment within which he has been operating, he needed no one to inform him that his closest friends within INEC are his worse enemies. The choice before him therefore, was, is and remains to be his own man. He knew that his success to a large extent would, depend on how much or less he would divulge sensitive information to his subordinates who, without regards would sell same for money. With the cancellation of the National Assembly election therefore, Jega sent a very instructive message to all and sundry that no attempt to reproduce any of the electoral material would yield the desired result of the planners as the election may be cancelled in nick of time. After all, President Goodluck Jonathan has informed anyone who cared to listen that his election is not worth the blood of the voting public.
Today, it is INEC's debacle. How are we making efforts to take advantage of this seeming negative experience to better our next challenge? Wouldn't it worth the while if this challenge produces the return of the Nigeria Airways in what ever name in this millennium? We may soon face the education, industry and other sectors just as we are fighting in the power sector with dragons providing us with substandard generating sets.
Finally, a friend told me a joke common among Europeans in recent times. It goes like this; leaders of all African countries in their quest to understanding God queried why God gave Nigeria so much and the rest of them so little. Nigeria has Oil, Gold Agriculture, Intelligent citizens, many sea and air ports every good thing any nation can ever wish for. But they, have been left with drought, and all visible elements of hunger etc. but God looked intensely at them as though to give them alternative and asked them Don't you see the kind of people l gave them? Would you rather be as confused as they? The obvious answer can be heard in loud silence even in Nigeria!
Within this month of April 2011, we have all been given the time, chance and opportunity to choose our representatives. The current scenario has reinforced the belief that we can begin the process for the first time in a long while by voting massively. Lets not speak only on the pages of the newspapers or street corners, but go out and vote. Pastor E. A. Adeboye has prophesied “Nigeria evil men will never rule you again” lets key into that prophesy and all will be well.
Mike O. Akpati writes from Port Harcourt