The Paradox Of Attahiru Jega, By Charles Onunaiju

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INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

The current campaign of calumny and federal government cum ruling party highly co-ordinated witch-hunt of Mr. Attahiru Jega, professor of political science and chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC is quite intriguing to say the least, if one extrapolates to just four years ago. Just four years ago in 2011 Mr. Attahiru Jega was the consummate poster boy of Nigeria’s “freest” and fairest” election in which Mr. Jonathan Goodluck and his Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) purportedly walloped their closest challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, and his then, nine month old Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC). Even with the scandalous election results returned in the South East and South-South regions, where the CPC did not even have party agents, the Independent Electoral Commission announced with glee and funfair, the obviously fraudulent returns from the two regions and added it to the considerably, whittled down opposition vote figures in the North to arrive at the “landslide” victory of the ruling party and their candidate. Even at the Supreme Court, where the defunct CPC and its candidate requested forensic examination of the ballot papers, INEC maintained along with the federal government and the ruling party that such endeavor would compromise the national security. From the then henceforth, the federal government and the ruling party went on a deliberate campaign to canonize Attahiru Jega to the sainthood of “free, fair and credible election. President Jonathan did not miss any opportunity to tell the world that, that at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he assembled the most credible and impartial men and women that the country can offer and that the 2011 elections was a metaphor for series of credible polls to be midwife by the Jega led electoral commission.

However, it did not and still does not take much of a rocket science to see what actually happened. In most states in the South East and South-South, the total votes of candidates of governorship and state assembly were in most cases less than by half to the total votes cast for the presidential and national assembly’s elections. It is hard to find the science of politics, sociology or even psychology that will lend credence that enthusiastic electors who did not vote for candidates nearer to them and most likely to address their concerns, will suddenly troop out to vote for distant candidates, whose office is unlikely to comprehend the nature of their local problems. Yet in most states of the South-East and South-South, the percentage of voter turnout for the presidential election was almost 100% but less than 50% or slightly above in the governorship and state assembly election. The only way to have unraveled the unique Nigeria Science of electoral behaviour was through the forensic examination of the thumb printed ballot papers. Attahiru Jega’s INEC then lent its weight to federal government and ruling party shenanigans to bury the mystery. However, with benefit of hindsight, it appears INEC did not help bury the mystery with a view to re-enact it. Before the whole world INEC went on a campaign that it would not simply be contented with the success of its 2011 election but would take every measure to improve it. In the euphoria of its ‘landslide’ victory, the ruling party and its federal government did not really realize that Jega’s INEC was living with a troubled conscience as to its surreptitious collaboration to maul the popular will. To be fair to INEC then, it was not supposed to act as CPC polling agents in the South East and South South regions. It simply pronounced the results returned from the areas but it wouldn’t have stalled the legal effort to institute a forensic examination of the thumb printed ballot papers. The main opposition CPC stalwarts then, have naively built their electoral fortunes on simple mathematics that the total registered voters in the North is greater than in the South and that the game was in their favour, without taking into account any other probable variable, including the propensity of the ruling party and its government to simply invent figures.

Against the background of the over-hype credible 2011 election results, a remorseful INEC and a conscienceless regime were on a march to inevitable epic collision. So to understand how Professor Attahiru Jega transmuted from the initiator of Nigeria’s credible electoral process to its most audacious and sinister undertaker in a short span of mere four years is not too hard to comprehend with benefit of a short historical excursion.

When professor Jega and his INEC promised to improve the management and conduct of elections, how did the ruling party and its government understand it. Did they understand it as simply more of the same thing: no price for guessing, please. INEC probably thought that the accolades of its 2011 performance was a burden of guilt for which it must seek redemption through improved, transparent and truly credible discharge of its duties. First, it was obvious that to announce any figures returned from polling units is not the only duty of any electoral umpire worth its name, but rather the figures it announce must derive from actual voting which aggregates the preference of individual voters and translates collectively to popular will.

Returned figures in themselves mean nothing except they carry along with them, the electoral choice of individual voter who has thumbed printed the ballot paper. Therefore the real job of a credible election umpire is not merely to announce figures, but that each figure it pronounced, bear a testimony to the electoral choice of every voter.

– Onunaiju is a journalist based in Abuja

Views expressed are are solely Author’s


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