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Atsar Terver

Public Commentator
Port Harcourt

more articles by Terver

Why Jega May Fail.
by Atsar Terver

The main impediment to Jega is therefore GJ's ambition. A president who is not truthful enough to honour agreements and is blind to due process in his quest for power cannot be trusted to supervise a free and fair election. On a grander scale, trusting the destiny of the Nation in the hands of such a man should be considered a risky venture.


The appointment of Prof. Atahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has been widely acclaimed as putting a round peg in a round hole. It is one of the rare appointments to be commended by the civil society, prodemocracy activists, human rights groups as well as even the opposition.


His background as trade unionists, an academic with a streak of anti-military activism has placed him in the good books of the public.

The huge trust reposed in Jega has also placed an equally huge burden upon him. Nigerians can be very unkind with people who betray their trust especially on electoral matters. Iwu lost the Goodwill of Nigerians as fast as he got it by toying with their electoral mandate and tossing it to the whims of Obasanjo and his political cronies. One of the greatest sins Nigerians consider IBB to have committed and for which they are ready to crucify him is the annulment of the June 12 elections. Similarly of all the evils Obasanjo did to our national life, his handling of the 2007 election which he declared do-or-die, stands out as unforgivable in the psyche of the public.

Jega can therefore not afford to fail. But can he succeed? I really wish he could, but as the days go by, the ominous signs in the polity point to a different reality. The stage for failure has been set for Jega by the very man that appointed him to office. If Jega must not fall, then the banana peel placed in front of him must be removed. President Good luck Jonathan’s ambition is the banana peel.

One of the cardinal recommendations of what has now been christened the Uwais report is the suggestion that the power to appoint an INEC Chairman should be taken away from the President. The recommendation was borne out of the understanding that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. But this recommendation was not carried onboard in the review of the Electoral Act or the Constitution.

Just a little diversion, it is amazing how the Nigerians can blow hot and cold on national issues. The full implementation of the recommendations of the Uwais report was one of the things, Goodluck Jonathan used to warm himself into the hearts of those who vilified late President Yar’Adua for what they described as doctoring or selective acceptance of the Uwais Report. Now the new man has not even implemented half of the recommendations that his predecessor accepted but surprisingly everywhere is calm. Why have those recommendations that were considered indispensable under Yar’Adua, suddenly lost their worth under GJ?

One very obvious sign that Jonathan would want to twist Jega’s INEC to do his bidding is the fact that on three occasions, he has attempted to change existing rules with the sole aim of furthering his political fortunes.

First was the attempt to revoke the Zoning formula of is party. The emergence of Nwodo as PDP National Chairman was widely believed, and rightly so, to be a precursor to the agenda to foist a Jonathan candidacy on the PDP. Nwodo immediately swung into action but it turned out not to be a smooth sail.  Though he failed to achieve the big agenda, he managed to secure an ambiguous resolution that in spite of Zoning, GJ is free to contest the 2011 elections. Jonathan himself later issued a statement denying the existence of Zoning in PDP as far as the office of the Presidency is concerned. This attempt to deny and twist a fact clearly written in Article 7(2)(c) of the PDP constitution, a pact that is not only known to him but he was a key player and beneficiary portrayed the President as being so dangerously ambitious as to be ready to bend the truth to the whole world provided it suits his ambition.

Another sign that GJ is not ready to play by the rules is his attempt to retain the old practice of making his political appointees automatic delegates to the convention. Though this provision was removed, GJ sought to reinsert it using the opportunity provided by the request for time extension by the INEC. This attempt was unsuccessful because it bore similarity to Obasanjo’s attempt to change the constitution to grant him a third term, and was thrown out in the same manner the Senate rejected Obasasnjo’s third term.

When the Northern Governors Forum met earlier in the year and resolved to support retention of Zoning, the EFCC responded almost immediately by hounding key aides of the Governors who voted in support of Zoning at that meeting. The coincidence was just too remarkable to escape notice. Expectedly most of those Governors have softened their stand on Zoning. If this is not dirty politics, then we need another definition for fair play.

Then recently we had the EFCC Advisory List. The press reported that the EFCC had sent out the now famous list to the Political Parties with the intent of stopping the listed persons from contesting elections. As usual the news triggered an uproar which indicated that Nigerians are yet to forget the evil manner Ribadu , brandishing  a similar list, was used by Obasanjo in the 2007 election. Even before this list, the EFCC Chairperson had been quoted severally as vowing to stop corrupt people from contesting the 2011 election. The AGF sensing an impending infringement on the constitution, cautioned the EFFC chair to refrain from heating up the political space, but interestingly, Jonathan rebuffed the AGF for cautioning the EFCC without the FG’s permission. He further urged the EFCC to continue their ‘work’.

Though the EFCC has denied ever sending such list, Jonathan’s reaction shows, that he would not mind if such a list was sent by the EFCC. It could not be ruled out that his aides may have indeed been responsible for that publication just to test the waters. The rebuff of the AGF by Jonathan further buttresses the fact that he supports adaptation of unconstitutional methods by the EFCC to stop certain persons from contesting the 2011 election. This is yet another sign of his disregard for the rule of law as pertains to the 2011 elections.

Lest they accuse one of not supporting the fight against graft, I need to clarify my stand here. The EFCC cannot declare anybody corrupt without first proving a case of corruption against that person in a court of law. Therefore all the people whose cases are ongoing in the courts are considered innocent until the court says otherwise. It is therefore wrong for EFCC to be threatening to stop innocent persons from contesting elections. The only corrupt persons known to the law are those the courts have convicted and for these people, the EFCC does not need to tell us they are unfit to hold political office because their disqualification is automatic by virtue of their conviction.

And one cannot help but notice the dryness of Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign rhetoric on issues bordering on performance record whether in his capacity as a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and now the President. In fact Jonathan in his declaratory speech actually told Nigerians that he would not make any promises! What then are Nigerians supposed to look out for in a Jonathan Presidency? What should be their motivation to vote for him in 2011? It is apparent that GJ is banking on nothing outside the power of incumbency with which it is believed everything can be achieved including electoral victory.

It is also important to note that, Jega would need more than just his integrity to succeed. He needs an enabling environment and non-interference from his hirer, but from the body language of GJ, he is not likely to get that.

Jega needs a team with integrity whose members are individually, equally as committed as he is to deliver credible polls.  Even if Jega cannot be manipulated, the same cannot be said with certainty about the other National and State Resident Electoral Commissioners among who are malleable characters like Madam.Ayoka of the Ekiti State Gubernatorial re-run infamy; who in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary, declared the PDP winner even after she confessed that her own conscience condemned her and even attempted to resign. There is no guarantee that her likeminded fellows cannot repeat what she did in Ekiti under dictation from a new master GJ.

The main impediment to Jega is therefore GJ's ambition. A president who is not truthful enough to honour agreements and is blind to due process in his quest for power cannot be trusted to supervise a free and fair election. On a grander scale, trusting the destiny of the Nation in the hands of such a man should be considered a risky venture.

In the end, it may appear that Nigerians might have invested too much hope in Jega and are thus headed for yet another disappointment come 2011 because the electoral harvest will be bleak on fairness  



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