There's been some rumours making the rounds now about what the government will do about Attahiru Jega. The word in the media is that there are plans to remove him before even though his tenure ends in June.
One or two people have even been tipped to replace him.
Legit.ng commentator on political issues, Adedayo Ademuwagun, has expressed his opinion on this issue.
Jega and his team came on board in June 2010 at a time when election management was extremely messed up. His predecessor Maurice Iwu had organised one of the worst sets of elections in Nigerian history in 2007. The elections held that year were simply appalling. Voter turnout was dismal. Rigging was blatant. Logistics were awful and going to a polling booth was like going to a riot scene. People had given up on elections. Put this way, Jega inherited a crappy INEC.
But Jega and his team brought in some fresh ideas and tried to fix the system before the 2011 elections, and they performed remarkably. The system has clearly improved under Jega and the elections they've organised are believed to be the best since the return to democracy in 1999. That's one reason why people are rejecting the idea to remove the man.
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A Punch newspaper editorial said this week, "At a time when the electoral umpire should be focusing his attention in giving the nation credible elections, he's being confronted with all manners of avoidable distractions and mischief. It is obvious what these Jega-must-go campaigners have in mind is to outrightly scuttle the elections."
"The INEC boss has reached a stage where he has to go ahead with the elections, otherwise the country is likely to be thrown into a constitutional crisis. Having been in charge of affairs up to this last minute, it is only reasonable that he should carry out the task conclusively."
The truth is that President Goodluck Jonathan has repeatedly said he doesn't intend to fire the INEC chief and that people should disregard the rumour. Yet the rumour keeps raging and now the situation is pretty uncertain.
The president said this year, "Those who call for Jega's sack may be close to me, but they express their own opinion. More than 80% of those who sponsor messages on our behalf, we don't even know them. People use the reschedule of elections to misinform Nigerians. I've never thought about removing the INEC chairman."
The government is probably not going to fire Jega, but Nigerians have to resist the move if it ever happens. Nigerians have to get behind Jega at this time when his job's apparently on the line. He's done visibly well to make elections better in this country and the Nigerian people must oppose any plot to end his term disgracefully.
The international community must also stand by to take action. The world has to act if the government tries to remove the INEC chairman for any fishy reason, because this situation could set back the political process and spark a crisis in the country. They must be ready to apply sanctions against the Jonathan government if it tries to rig the system.
Jega too has to keep his head up and not let the ongoing situation derail him. He's got to keep his eyes on the goal. He's helped to put Nigeria on the path to electoral success with the way he's run the commission. The introduction of PVC, biometric voter register and card readers are some of the things he's brought in that have made the voting experience more effective and credible. Apparently we will be able to completely stop rigging if Jega's reforms are improved on.
INEC has also shown remarkable readiness to conduct these elections despite the growing challenges. The PVC distribution has been ramped up significantly in the last few weeks and they've begin testing the card readers. Things are going well on INEC's side, and so this is clearly not the time for Jega to resign or let anyone force his resignation. The Nigerian people have stood by him. He cannot afford to let the people down.
Perhaps Jonathan personally isn't plotting to terminate Jega as he's said several times already, but the INEC boss obviously has influential enemies in the president's camp and these people might mislead the president to approve their sinister moves. In the end Jonathan will take the fall for it because he's the one people will hold responsible. This is why he also needs to stand firm and do what's right. He needs to realise that firing the INEC chief will backfire on him and have grave consequences for the country. He must make sure Jega finishes his tenure.
The bottom line is, Jega must stay or Jonathan has crossed the line.