For those who do not know, this radical professor of Political Science will superintend the general elections starting in just a little over 50 days. Jega took over the administration of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) from the terribly maligned Professor Maurice Iwu in June 2010 and has thrown himself into the job like his life depends on it.
In a sense, Jega’s life, his reputational life that is, depends on how much sense he is able to make out of the mess that the country’s electoral process is. At the end of the general elections next year, he would only be judged by what results those elections present. Neither the relative transparency of the 2011 elections, nor the qualified success that he has posted in a number of staggered gubernatorial and legislative by- elections would be enough to hold his image as an honest administrator together if things go awry next February.
Unfortunately the odds against him are far too many. To start with, Nigerian politicians are bad winners and bad losers. When they win, they gloat about it until they irritate everyone. And when they lose, they never lose fairly. Someone must have cheated them out of the game. They would complain and grumble and fight until our ears are sore. You would hear all sorts of narratives, “oh the man who won must have cheated.” “He stuffed ballot boxes”, “he was aided by the electoral body with photochromic ballot papers which allowed for easy manipulation”, all sorts! What is even worse is that for 2015 elections, every interested party is threatening to turn our lives upside down if anything near a loss happens to their camp. Meanwhile, we can only have one winner. So how Jega go do am?
Taking the job is in itself akin to embarking on a suicide mission as historically, none of those who have held that office in the history of Nigeria has earned a thank you from Nigerians. The man who got close to that, Humprey Nwosu got messed up by the duplicitous General known as Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Not even the reverred late Justice Ephraim Akpata and Justice Victor Ovie Whiskey who occupied the office about 20 years earlier sparkled at it. It is just one impossible task in this country.
Unfortunately for Jega, the inefficient way in which his commission has handled some of the prerequisite exercises to 2015 or any general elections for that matter has further accentuated the level of discontent with INEC’s preparation for a free and fair process in February. From the display of voters registers to the issuance of Permanent Voters Cards to eligible voters, the organisation has continued to dab itself in petrol before the Nigeria politician who is waiting to set it on fire, helping the hand of the arsonist!
But I am convinced that Jega understands the Nigerian politician better than to allow the recent shoddy performance on the part of his commission affect the credibility of the 2015 elections.
Jega would surely not want to see the disenfranchisement of any Nigerian and would as a result see to it that everyone who is registered for the elections is able to vote. One also hopes that the biometric details of voters already taken by INEC) would help forestall double voting and all such malpractices. He must also work with security agencies to ensure the safety of lives and property while protecting the sanctity of the INEC choice of the majority. These would, at least, help restore public confidence in the commission.
Whatever Jega does however, I hope he prays. So much about Nigeria’s future depends on these elections and so does what will remain of Jega’s reputation after the elections. Where Jega is today, I am persuaded to suggest that only God can help him out. I am praying for Jega, are you?
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