This general state of disillusionment has been compounded by the fact that the man most Nigerians expected to act as a calming influence; the one they looked up to as a kind of fitting relief to the unfolding horror provoked by the so-called largest party in Africa, has turned out an unspeakable disappointment.
He survived that junta, and as one who knows his way in the bow and scrape politics of Nigerian universities, he lingered long enough to become the vice chancellor of the federal government-owned Bayero University Kano, courtesy of a PDP government. That position effectively made him, just as other vice-chancellors, a political servant of the ruling party and automatically quenched the remaining fire of radicalism in his belly.
Even so, Jega as VC was still well-regarded by the public who keep referring to his five-star performance as a union leader who confronted the military and came out intact. President Goodluck Jonathan and his party were surely not oblivious of the man’s shining reputation and the tremendous respect he commanded among the populace.
So when government was forced, through persistent demands from within and outside, to push out the widely detested Maurice Iwu, another professor who headed the electoral body for more than five years and messed up every election to the advantage of PDP, Jonathan quickly looked in the direction of Jega and found in him an appropriate replacement – a man whose name sits well with the public but will, like Iwu, do the job for the ruling party.
Jega’s appointment as INEC chairman received spontaneous widespread approval cutting across class, ethnicity and religion. Even opposition parties commended Jonathan and flowed with sentiments which hailed Jega as a ‘man of integrity.’ With him, virtually every Nigerian was confident that henceforth, elections would not only be free and fair, they would also be credible.
How wrong they were! Those who anticipated a reprise of that principle of forthrightness in Jega’s new assignment were naive. They forgot where he was coming from; that as VC of a federal university he was already a political appointee, subject to the whims and caprices of those who appointed him.
Always having an eye for a willing tool, the PDP duly found the right person. And to the utter amazement of a gullible public who mistook him for the redeemer of Nigeria’s contaminated electoral process, Jega has steadily lived up to the ruling party’s expectation. The signs were always there in the run-up to the 2011 general elections.
In the end, there was hardly anything to cheer in the 2011general elections. Only the courts in some cases offered a redeeming feature. The whole process was reminiscent of Iwu’s era. All those nasty features for which Jega’s predecessor was severely criticised remain in place in a more ingenious dimension.
Not too long ago, it was on this same sub-region that the world saw a genuinely free and fair election in Senegal where the opposition candidate defeated a sitting president. This is a scenario the ruling party, in an ungodly alliance with a robotic INEC, has ensured will never happen in Nigeria.
And here is the rub: As long as Nigerians continue to allow a sitting president to single-handedly appoint a chairman of INEC whom he would regularly summon like a school boy to his office, or who on his own keeps a habitual date in Aso rock villa to pay nauseating homage to his benefactor, opposition parties will never get justice from the electoral system. And with the level of desperation now exhibited by the PDP, all efforts by the opposition to reclaim victory through the courts will be decisively blocked henceforth. The story of Edo, Osun and Ekiti states has taught them a bitter lesson.
No matter the promises made by Jega or anybody, Nigerians will not witness free and fair elections in 2015. However, unlike Nasir El-Rufai, one would not speculate on what would happen afterwards. Interestingly, not even the INEC boss’ brain wave, which ensured only his professor-colleagues in the universities are returning officers in most of the elections, has lent any credibility to the voting process. Indeed when next another professor is introduced as chairman of INEC, Nigerians must not forget to allow some degree of distrust.
Somehow, there is an inclination to agree with an 18th century European king who said, “The cruellest way to punish a province is to have it governed by professors.” Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States seem to agree with this view in his book, Seize The Moment: America’s challenge in a one-superpower world, when he remarked that with notable exceptions, such as Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the US, great professors rarely make good executives.Virtually all the professors who head government offices in Nigeria today fall into the category of lousy performers Nixon talked about. They lack focus, dwell excessively on how to steal from the treasury, and are pathetically deficient in the resolute principles needed to lift a stagnated society that Nigeria has become.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist based in Abuja and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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