Attahiru Jega: Nigeria's Electoral Captain or Captor?

This post is part of our special coverage Nigeria Elections 2011.

With the 2011 General Elections barely hours away, one man holds the key to the eternal propagation or termination of the social revolution through the ballot box in Nigeria. Parliamentary election is to be held in on 2 April and presidential election will take place on 9 April 2011.

UPDATE 04/03: The nation's election commission just announced that all elections would be pushed back a week, due the late arrival of voting materials.

Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science and head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will determine to a large extent the credibility of the polls within these three weeks.

Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science and head of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science and head of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

INEC had a credibility crisis during the tenure of Maurice Iwu, Jega’s predecessor. In the words of Patrick Utomi (until recently, a presidential candidate of Social Democratic Mega Party):

As is now widely documented and accepted the 2007 election was a farce.  But it was not that it was a farce alone that troubled me. It was the level of evil in the process and the widespread view that to have a place in politics you had to sell your soul, conscience and dignity.  I was convinced there could be a better way, a different way.

It is therefore not surprising that:

… The person who heads the electoral agency must be seen to be guileless, with an integrity that is transparent and also unbiased. It is not just enough to allude to the qualities listed above, it is absolutely essential that the perception matches reality.

Living up to expectations, Jega maintained that he will not morph from an umpire to a biased player in the elections. Get2Central writes that:

Forty-eight hours to the general elections in the country beginning with the National Assembly polls, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, declared yesterday that he was not under pressure to manipulate the electoral process in order to give undue advantage to anybody and that even if such pressure comes from any quarters, he would not oblige them.

The electoral boss insists that:

… With the security features, if a ballot box is snatched and swapped, the commission would know. Also, if ballot papers are swapped or taken to areas they are not meant, the INEC would know. In the same vein, if result sheets are snatched and fraudulently exchanged, the commission would know.

As such Jega has passed the bulk to politicians and lawyers.

For the INEC, I can say categorically and convincingly that we are ready for the election, the question should rather be, are the lawyers and politicians ready? We have put all the necessary machinery in place to not only ensure that the election is free, fair and credible, but to also ensure that a level playing ground is accorded all the contestants. I am doing my best to ensure that all the mistakes of the past are not repeated. …Consequently, the question is not whether INEC is ready, but whether the other stakeholders are ready. Our major concerns at this moment are politicians and lawyers.

These are no mere words, coming from one with such intimidating rich background:

…as former ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) President, a respectable civil society activist and a human rights practitioner.

This post on twitter sums up the expectations of most Nigerians as regards INEC chief and the 2011 elections in Nigeria:

I won't lie. INEC chairman Attahiru Jega impresses me. Hope he delivers on his promises.

This post is part of our special coverage Nigeria Elections 2011.


  • Emelogu Sampson

    I’m happy for the postponement of the election. Prof. Jega took a nice decision to avoid election malpractice.

  • James okwowe

    May I suggest a better way of conducting a monitored free and fair elections in all 36 states and FCT in Nigeria. We can
    conduct elections in the states in two or three groupings to run all the polls ( NASS, Presidential, Governors and Houses of Assembly).

    For instance,since we have 6 geopolitical zones: each geopoloitical zone can be monitored by other INEC officials from other geopolitical zones, international observers inclusive that will run through the weekends ( of a
    month and two weeks).

  • Hamza

    “Enough should be enough” Jega is proving that. But Nigerians, Prayer is the key to…

  • Ahmadu Adamu

    The corrupt will not gonna let Jega conduct free and fair election Jega alone can’t change nigeria but all of us can…

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