The Nigerian nation, no doubt, is in dire need of sound political leadership culture which can only be attained when public office holders are accountable to the people. It was recently reported that since independence, the nation has lost whooping sum of N600 billion to corrupt leaders. Reason being that political leaders do not see their being in office as the people’s mandate therefore not accountable to them. Political powers can only be returned to the electorates by putting in place a credible electoral culture that will compel public office holders to render purpose driven and transparent leadership. A credible electoral culture can only be achieved through having an electoral umpire whose head has a credible track record and noted for his integrity. This is why the appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega has been lauded by the public though with some mixed feelings as Jega’s personality can only answer 50 percent of Nigeria’s expectations come 2011 and the remaining left to the system. Below are excerpts of the the views of Nigerians on this all-important issue.
Sebastine Tar Hon. (SAN)
Agreed, from his track record, he is a credible person and has been an activist in ASUU. He is quiet, unassuming but very principled. Judging from his personality, we will agree that he is a round peg in a round hole because we need somebody with impeccable record and can be trusted. And given his pedigree, he is somebody we can trust. This answers 50 per cent of the quest for credible election because when the head is rotten the whole body is rotten. When the head is as sharp as we have described him the whole body will be sharp as well.
But conducting credible election in Nigeria is beyond appointing somebody who is credible. We have to conduct some institutional changes. Starting with the amendment of the constitution. The National Assembly has taken some steps to amend the constitution and has forwarded the document to the State Houses of Assembly for concurrence. It is when it is out that we will know the depth to which corrections have been made in the electoral process. If the institutional situation is okay then the INEC Chairman will find it easier to perform his job. But it is still not okay, no matter how he tries, he could only achieve minimal. That is why I left the other 50 percent to institutional framework within the context of amendment in the electoral process. Even the electoral act has to be amended too as a consequential amendment of the 1999 constitution. The authority should also go beyond that by weeding out corrupt personalities from INEC. There should be public enlightenment, and voter register should be updated. These are some of the high points that I wish to add to the fact that Prof. Atahiru Jega is competent person but he needs instrument, the proper documentation, the support of the government and all Nigerians to work and bring out the desired result
Comrade Chika Onuegbu,
state chairman, TUC, Rivers State.
I have my reservations even if I have a lot of respect for Prof. Jega. He was one of those who championed the fight to ensure that democracy was realised. It is my belief that he is still very much in the form. That Prof. Jega of today is the Prof. Jega that we used to know who fought gallantly as ASUU President and that nothing has changed based on the passage of time. If it is that Prof. Jega then I have the belief that he will be able to make some positive impact . But Jega alone cannot take us to the promise land. The reason is this: Prof Jega is just one person out of the whole lot in INEC. He was not the one that appointed the Resident Electoral Commissioners neither did he appoint the directors. I hear that some of these people are card carrying members of some political parties. So these are signals that are not too good for the 2011 elections.
Already there are reports by the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law that politicians have started mass stocking of arms ahead of the 2011 elections. So looking at all these, I think we have a long way to go and we must start by carrying out public enlightenment and the re-orientation of the masses because when we say politicians rig election, can they rig election without our supporting them through either not showing interest in the electoral process or by accepting the bait they will give on the day of election. Nigerians have a duty, if they want this country to make progress, they must ensure that they are properly registered and on the day of election, come out and vote and follow their votes to ensure that they are not howsoever manipulated or subverted. They must also enlighten other people in their age-group, community meetings, churches, mosque, in the market. People should be enlightened on the benefits of having credible elections and having people who truly were elected by us and accountable to us. Our definition of democracy in Nigeria seems to be in terms of whether the person in power is a military or civilian. This is wrong. Democracy should be in terms of accountability to people; credible elections is very important for good governance.
Lt. Col. Rotimi Ajetunmobi (rtd.)
Since Jega is radical, he is likely to have an independent mind to act. But looking at the Nigerian situation, I am not too sure or too optimistic that he can be 100 per cent transparent.
But given his pedigree I know he will give his very best and I pray that he succeeds. The Nigerian situation has a way of messing people up. I recall an American, who was a man of note, came to Nigeria and was given the Managing Director of Ajakuta Steel Mill during the military regime, he was dismissed because of the Nigerian situation. So I hope Jega, having being a Nigerian, knows what it takes to overcome the negative factors that are in Nigeria vis-à-vis the polticians themselves – are they willing to have a free and fair election: what about the electorate – are they willing and if they are, can they work for it? If Nigerians can work for it and the politicians corporate no matter how little, I think he may succeed but without these factors coming in, Jega alone cannot ensure free and fair election. There should be massive awareness campaign to enlighten the people to know that their votes should count. It is when their votes count that those seeking for power will know that they have to work hard.
Alabo Prof. Dagogo Fubara
Jega alone cannot do the miracle Nigerians are expecting. We do have an adage that if the head of the stream is destroyed then the rest of the stream is bad. So a head who in the past has commitment to the philosophy of good leadership and fashion to doing what is right; if he can carry that to INEC then he will be a good leader. But having gotten a good leader to make him work to meet our expectation, forget that we don’t have an accurate censors, we need a reliable voter register so that people can vote and their vote will be counted. Then we need Nigerians, to desire that enough is enough, “I will not take bribe to vote for anybody. I will want to serve as presiding officer, a polling agent or office who will not be bribed. That as a citizen, I will not wait for anybody to give me rice and salt to induce me to vote”. Because it is his money he used to buy the rice and salt, and the greed in him will make, when gets to office, to recover the money he used to buy the rice and salt. He not only recovers that but he will recover more than enough to buy the next rice and salt. So Jega, as a leader cannot do the miracle. I am glad the President appointed him but there are a number of other things that must be done for him to succeed. The political parties must begin to stand for something. What is the mission statement or vision of any political party in Nigeria which aggregates those who believe in that to go there? I don’t see it. They should begin this internal democracy where even among themselves they freely allow people who are capable to be voted for by themselves. If they present good candidate, the candidate doesn’t need to bride anybody to vote for him.
Squ Ldr. N.E. Ordu-Obuah (Rtd.)
Jega as every other Nigerian has a stake in Nigeria. If we give him a chance, without writing him off completely, he might just be the umpire we are looking for. But it is very important for us to know, what kind of working document does he have? Has he been empowered enough to take a decision without having being encumbered from outside? How is he getting funding? Does he have an independent purse? Or does he depend on funding from somewhere? Because it is a common saying that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. To me, it is not just the tune, he that pays the piper dictates the dancing steps, the venue and the spectators that will watch. My reservations about the person, Jega, is that while Iwu was the Chairman he was a consultant with INEC and I also know that he deputised for Iwu once in ASUU. So if you look at it from that angle, you will be looking different fingers of the same hand. I think that Jega as an individual has the responsibility to do what is right so that history can justify him being a Nigerian.
Chief Patrick E. Oboh, MD/CEO, Pobeck Tech. Services Ltd.
I recall the development in the refinery. For a long time Nigeria’s refineries were not working because of the process. When the process or procedure is faulty no matter the man at the helm of affairs, it is going to be faulted. If he doesn’t fault himself, the process will fault him. In the refinery, big operation like that, the approval authority of the managing director is so limited that for so many things he had to go to Abuja to get clearance. And a producing factory where you have a lot of equipment turning, there are things that require immediate attention. So if you have a responsibility without the necessary authority then the system is already going to fault you. Does he have the process or does the procedure make it clear for him to succeed in his job? Does the law back him up; does it truly give him independent. Judging from what has been said of his antecedent, he is a candidate that is qualified to do the job. And everybody is happy about that. And I hope he has the relevant authority. There is an authority you need to operate. If you need to recruit a staff and you don’t have the authority, to the extent you have delay, you are going to fail to that extent. If the system doesn’t give you that authority that you require to conduct your assignment then you are on a way to failure. If he is truly independent and every thing that he needs to succeed is in place, then we will be judged by what he was suppose to do he did not do or what he was not suppose to do and he did. We want to see the process and procedure well published, it shouldn’t be shroulded in secrecy.