Jega must conduct 2015 elections – Punch

No Comments » March 5th, 2015 posted by // Categories: Elections 2015


Jega must conduct 2015 elections

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

AS the wild plot to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, thickens, the Nigerian people and the international community must hold President Goodluck Jonathan responsible for the political backlash such baleful action may provoke. If allowed a free rein, the only outcome that can be expected from Jega’s removal is chaos, which will further thicken the air of uncertainty that has been hanging so precariously over the 2015 elections and Nigeria’s future.

Nigerians must stand resolutely against this sickening abuse and misuse of power. They should rally round Jega as he passes through these troubling times, because, with him, it will never be business as usual again for election riggers. The international community must be ready to apply sanctions against the Jonathan government if it scuttles the democratic process. This is one issue where law and common sense should be on the same page.

Jega was appointed on June 8, 2010 and confirmed by the Senate on June 24, 2010. By law, his five-year tenure ends on June 23, 2015. But his traducers want him out by all means by March 24, insisting that he must be forced to go on a three-month terminal leave. 

Started first as a muffled rumour, the calls for Jega’s sacking have snowballed into an open campaign of calumny. Jega has been accused of incompetence and collaboration with the Northern Elders Forum to produce a president of Northern descent. On account of these allegations, the antagonists of the INEC boss say he should be replaced. Though at the last presidential media chat on February 11, Jonathan denied any plan to remove the INEC chairman, media reports, however, keep exposing his government’s intrigues to send Jega packing before the polls. The latest of such extremely hazardous moves is the plot to provoke a crisis within INEC.   

The signs definitely do not bode well for Jega and the country. At a time when the electoral umpire should be focusing his attention on giving the nation credible elections, he is being confronted with all manner of avoidable distractions and mischief. It is obvious what these Jega-must-go campaigners have in mind – an outright scuttling of the elections. The INEC boss has already reached a stage where he has to go ahead with the elections, otherwise the country is likely to be thrown into a constitutional crisis. Having been in charge of affairs up to this last minute, it is only reasonable that he should carry out the task conclusively. He should not resign.

Notably, the problem with Jega started when the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, at London’s Chatham House, called for the postponement of the elections, even when the INEC boss had repeatedly promised that he was on course to delivering free and fair elections. Just immediately after, there were also stories that he would be sent on compulsory retirement leave, to quietly ease him out and pave the way for a pliable person to take over. So rife was the speculation of his planned ouster that the INEC chief had to come out to clarify the situation by saying that he was not a civil servant and was thus not subject to terminal leave. Jega also refuted all the allegations against him, challenging his accusers to produce a strand of incriminating evidence. None came.

Unfortunately, the President has not done much to allay the fears of Nigerians. When he was pointedly asked the question during his last media chat, which was an opportunity to lay the matter to rest, he only alluded to the fact that he had the power to fire Jega because he was the one that appointed him! So, his later assurance that the INEC boss would not be fired was not reassuring enough. While the Nigerians who are dubiously calling for Jega’s head can be pardoned on the grounds that they are only exercising their constitutional rights to freely ventilate their opinion, Jonathan has notably not come out clearly to dissociate himself from such calls.

In a country where such tales had in the past come out to be true to the last letter, it is not surprising that Nigerians are taking the bizarre and macabre drama unfolding about Jega very seriously. That the elections were shifted for six weeks is an ample indication that whatever starts as a rumour or kite flying in Nigeria has the capacity to become a reality.

Jega has to stand firm and refuse to bow to intimidation. All the innovations he has introduced in the course of these elections have shown that he is about to put Nigeria, once and for all, on the path of developing a culture of free and fair elections. The introduction of PVCs and card readers will for the first time ensure that the votes of Nigerians count. It will ensure that rigging is substantially reduced, if not totally eliminated. And, with about four weeks left before the first round of elections, it is obvious that PVC distribution will reach an acceptable level in all parts of the country. What else does Jonathan want?

It is so dangerous for a government to brazenly convert and abuse state institutions for purely selfish political end the way Jonathan administration has been going about these elections. It is worrying that the President has grown too accustomed to getting his way. But Jonathan’s moves to stop Jega from conducting the elections have crossed the line from hardball politics to wilfully and mischievously igniting a political crisis. He must be stopped.

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