Congratulations and Condolences! Those were the words uttered by Professor Niyi Osundare, the famous writer,when the news of the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of INEC reached him.
Professor Osundare congratulated Jega because according to him he knew Jega to be of outstanding honesty, integrity and a radical. He also congratulated him because he was happy that Jega would redeem the battered image of professors created by Professor Maurice Iwu.
On the other hand, Professor Osundare condoled with Jega because he thought of how elections were bastardize. He thought of the challenges he would encounter. He thought of the stealing of ballot boxes, the purchase of votes, the political thugs, the corrupt politicians who make elections do or die affair and concluded that Jega would not have it easy.
History has indeed vindicated Osundare.
The recent gubernatorial election in Anambra is a clear pointer to Osundare's lamentation. There has been inflammatory and malicious comments about the INEC Chairman. Frankly speaking, such comments are not addressing the crux of the matter. On a critical look at the person of Jega and the conduct of elections in Nigeria, one will agree that Jega deserves sympathy and understanding. One person cannot change the process of elections in Nigeria to produce the best result. The system is so rotten that many politicians can go to any length to connive with INEC officials and political thugs to subvert the popular will of the people.
After the 2011 elections, Jega delivered a lecture in America in which he described the post-election violence as a crisis of expectation. It is no doubt that Nigerians desired for a positive change in 2011.And to achieve this,they saw the process of the last election as their last hope.
For instance, many northerners were confident that Buhari would emerge victorious. When Buhari lost, they forgot that the CPC lacked the organizational structure to win in the south. The concentration of the CPC was only in the north and votes from the north alone could not yield the desired result. Burying this reality, Jega was made a scapegoat.
In essence, Jega could be described as a victim of crisis of change.Nigerians in their millions are in a haste for a change and belief is that only Jega can facilitate the evolution of such a change through free and fair elections. However, a tree does not make a forest.
The same Nigerians who quest for a change are the same Nigerians who make a change impossible. How many Nigerians will vote on the basis of legitimacy and merit? How many Nigerians are not ready to vote for a meagre amount of money? Can Jega stop the stealing of ballot boxes, the inflation of figures, the harassment of
voters, the connivance with INEC officials?
Though the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as the INEC Chairman was a good step in the right direction considering his proven integrity however, we need more Jegas at the state and local government levels. Most of us are very good at criticising. But we tend to perform more poorly when we find ourselves in a similar situation. For now, we should please understand that Jega is like a general without an army.
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