The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday postponed the 2015 general elections till March 28, 2015. This was sequel to the outrageous submission of Nigeria’s military service chiefs that they could not guarantee the safety of INEC staff if the election starts on February 14 as earlier scheduled.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has earlier questioned the rationale for the postponement. We wonder why the military would deliberately pick February 14, the day general elections was expected to start, as the very day they want to commence operations against insurgents in North Eastern Nigeria.
This is an insurgency that started four years ago. What magic do they want to perform in six weeks when in four years they could not suppress the insurgents? Do they have a foolproof plan to rescue Chibok girls who were abducted three hundred and one days (301) ago? Why did our military pick February 14 of all dates? We assert clearly and unequivocally that there is more to the military’s choice of February 14 for the commencement of its offensive than meets the eye.
Today there is palpable fear in the country that President Jonathan’s next move would be the removal of Professor Attahiru Jega, the respected Chairman of INEC. Political analysts have raised this fear and Nigerians are not only deeply concerned but highly agitated.
MURIC cautions the Presidency against such a move. If Jega is removed before the elections, it will confirm the suspicion that this regime is not keen on holding a free and fair election. The press is already agog with the story that President Jonathan is shopping around for a pliant INEC chairman. This is not the best thing for Mr. President to do at this material time. Nigerians will not have confidence in a man appointed few weeks to the elections. It had better not be.
INEC is supposed to be independent and that is implied in its nomenclature. Replacing Jega with another person who is ready to compromise will be the last nail in the coffin of this regime’s credibility. It will be so transparent that the whole world will see that President Jonathan’s wish is to turn Nigeria into a banana republic.
MURIC affirms that the credibility of any other person as chairman of INEC apart from Jega will be questionable. The thought of replacement also raises more questions than answers. When will such a person get to understand the system? Will he be able to operate on the same wave length as Jega? Will he gain the confidence of INEC commissioners? How soon can he acclimatize? Such a replacement can only bring confusion.
Pundits have opined that President Jonathan is eyeing the vice chancellor of one of the universities. Of course we know that a serving vice chancellor is a government appointee whose loyalty to his employer must be 150%. It will be easy for the Federal Government to influence such a man. Nonetheless, we advise Mr. President to drop the idea. Nigerians repose full confidence in Jega. He has taken them through several elections without blemish. They will trust him again. Any new chairman is either a parasite on INEC’s tree of success, Mr. President’s bootlicker or a court jester whose value starts and ends in Aso Rock.
We therefore strongly advise Mr. President to allow Jega to finish what he started. He is doing well. He is a good umpire. Those who nurse the fear of a North-Jega connivance are not being sincere. Afterall he supervised the election won by Mr. President in 2011 and the president’s main contender at the time is the same Northerner and main opposition candidate today.
President Jonathan should let sleeping dogs lie. Jega has pedigree. As the former president of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Jega epitomizes Nigeria’s center of excellence. This has been proved several times as professors have served INEC as returning officers. Thus Nigerians have had no cause to doubt the results of elections apart from Ekitigate.
We believe that university professors were encouraged to serve during elections because of the confidence they have in the system under the leadership of their ex-president. These are highly principled academia, men and women of timber and caliber. They are people who cannot be easily cowed by politicians. They have weathered several storms and emerged stronger.
Any interference with the workings of INEC at this stage will have dire consequences for future elections as principled academia and people of integrity may shun officiating in future exercises.
MURIC solidarises with INEC Chairman. We charge Jega to remain resolute and undaunted. He must not allow intimidation to push him towards resignation. Jega must not resign. He has become the symbol of the resistance of that dictatorial propensity which has manifested lately in the Nigerian leadership. He should not let Nigerians down by resigning.
Finally, we send a strong message to members of ASUU: no professor of real substance should serve in any election organized under any other chairman if Jega is removed. Such an election can only be a kangaroo election and it will smear the image of the academia. We warn that the removal of Jega will rob the elections of any credibility, cause disillusion among the electorate and turn this country into a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
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