By Aisha Abdulrasheed Mande-Rogo
Finally, Prof. Attahiru Jega has bowed out of office as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. He handed over to Mohammed Wali, a national commissioner of the INEC from Sokoto State, whose five-year tenure will also expire on August 11, 2015.
When Professor Attahiru Jega was first appointed as the chairman of INEC on June 30, 2010, the decision was lauded by political analysts and other Nigerians alike. The five year sojourn as the nation’s electoral umpire was expected to a tedious one. And of course, it was even more tedious than anyone imagined. The major challenge in Nigeria’s electoral system over the years has been the that of malpractices and electoral fraud marring virtually every election conducted in the country.
The 2011 general elections was the first litmus test faced by the professor of political science turned electoral umpire. I must say that was a very critical period in the life and career of professor Jega as the outcome of the elections, especially the presidential polls did not go down well in some parts of the country. This resulted in post election violence, which led to loss of lives and properties. Prof Attahiru Jega himself endured a lot of criticisms and even threats during that trying period. Although the elections were actually marred by irregularities in certain areas, the allegations of massive and widespread riggings were nonetheless exaggerated.
The 2015 elections presented another opportunity for the former Bayero University Kano don to further and eternally prove his integrity. Jega did not disappoint. Even as he bows out INEC, the commission and Nigerians as a whole will always revere him for the initiation of Card Reader to checkmate electoral malpractice. As a matter of fact, the card reader minimized electoral fraud to the barest minimum that for the first time, Nigerians were confident that their votes will count and it indeed counted. The use of permanent Voters Card in the Nigerian electoral system has thus come to stay after the massive success it recorded during the 2015 general elections.
It is pertinent to say, the use of permanent voter’s card (PVC) and card readers didn’t come on a platter of gold as the INEC Chairman endured a lot of bashings and attacks in his bid to instil sanity to the electoral system. I can remember vividly how protests were staged in some parts of the country before the elections calling for the resignation of the INEC boss for insisting on the use of card readers. Some political parties also insisted that Jega should revert to the use of temporary voters’ card instead of the PVCs whose collection rate was low as at that time.
In all this state of turmoil, Professor Jega stood firm and resilient, insisting on what he believed will ensure credible elections. Even when the elections were postponed, Professor Jega still shouldered large chunk of the blame. Some went as far as accusing him sabotage but man courageously and steadfastly stuck to his conviction. While grappling with the difficulties of the election postponement, another rumour emerged that our amiable electoral umpire will be going on three months compulsory terminal leave that will culminate in the termination of his tenure. Thus, a new chairman will be appointed to oversee the most anticipated elections in the history of the country. There was uproar with regard to this ‘news’ but the tranquil professor was quick to quash any fear in the minds of Nigerians by assuring citizens that he was not proceeding on any compulsory leave at that critical period. The rest as they say, is history, as Professor Attahiru Jega not only conducted credible elections but he conducted an elections acceptable to most.
Jega’s performance and honourable exit did not come as a surprise to many. He had been an activist who rose to the post of national president of Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU. He led ASUU to several battles against the military and he emerged as a principled and credible leader. Thus, the successful 2015 general elections came as fitting icing on the cake of Jega’s credible record of service to the nation and humanity.
*Aisha Abdulrasheed Mande-Rogo, Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano