Does Jega know trust is like virginity?

Like any son, I know my father very well. Chief Emmanuel Amuchie is a very apolitical man, not one to hobnob with politicians not even now that he has all the time in the world to do so, having retired from the Imo State teaching service some years ago. Two weeks ago my phone rang and it was him. A cousin had come to him with an invitation to attend a ward meeting of a political party. I asked him to simply take decision as he deemed fit.

And on Saturday, while I was monitoring the National Assembly election, Chief Amuchie called. This time he sounded frantic. He asked how the election was going on in Lagos and I said so far it was okay. I had not left the house but since I had heard of any untoward event from my telephone monitoring of the election, I felt right in saying that all was well.

But my father said all was not well in our part of Imo State. According to him, people who had gone for accreditation decided to beat up the electoral officer and the local government chairman out of frustration over lack of voting materials in the area. My initial interpretation was that given the intense struggle by two women for the senatorial seat in my area, one of the women being from my part of the state, the people probably felt that there was ploy to disenfranchise them in favour of the other candidate.

Just then, my colleague, John Osadolor called to say that Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was going to make a broadcast to the nation shortly. I instantly felt something was wrong. The man had made a broadcast the evening before urging Nigerians to go out and vote. To make another broadcast 18 hours later showed that all was not well.

It turned out to be a press conference, not a broadcast. Jega blamed an unnamed contractor for the national embarrassment of last weekend. Both Jega himself and all Nigerians who applauded his appointment must now have realized that there is a very wide gulf between labour or social activism and the reality of management.

Jega came into limelight during the military regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida when, as national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), he led Nigerian lecturers in a protracted nationwide strike that culminated into the signing of the 1992 agreement that ended the strike. The admirable way he handled that strike that took place in a military regime earned him the respect of not a few Nigerians.

Thereafter, nothing was heard about him again until he was appointed vice chancellor of Bayero University, the position he was holding before the government beckoned on him to become Nigeria’s chief electoral officer.

Jega took the INEC job with a lot of goodwill, what Stephen Covey in his book Eight Habits of Highly Effective People, calls “emotional bank account.” This emotional bank account that was huge when Jega took the job last year has been depleted so much, so quickly that one will begin to imagine what happened.

In truth, Nigerians were desperate for a replacement for Maurice Iwu, who presided over what came to a shameful desecration of the ballot box in 2007 elections to the extent that one month before the end of his tenure, he was asked to proceed on compulsory leave preparatory to his exit.

Therefore, when Jega came with his activist background, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. Both civil society groups and the political parties felt that the Goodluck Jonathan had got it right. He made promises and condemned all that had been done by his predecessor. And Nigerians applauded. When he asked for N72 billion to conduct a voter register, a few people felt the figure was out of place but majority of Nigerians said no amount was too much to get credible election. I remember asking Alhaji Buba Galadima, current national publicity secretary of CPC in his office in Abuja what he thought about the amount Jega asked for. He said it was worth it so long as we had credible election. Osita Okechukwu, national publicity secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) said the same thing. Other politicians said as much.

But the figure later moved up to N89 billion and when there was a one week extension during the voter registration exercise, Jega asked for another N6 billion, bringing the total figure to N95 billion.

He has never met any timeline for this election. The election that is taking place this month, April, the commencement of which has been further moved from April 2 to April 9 was supposed to have been held in January this year. Jega later said it was not possible and requested it be shifted to April. The National Assembly had to cit short its recess to amend the Electoral Act to accommodate the new time line. Even the date for commencement of voter registration was shifted because DDC machines were not ready on schedule.

Jega has been given everything he needs to give Nigerians a credible election. Never in the history of Nigeria’s democracy has a man who came with so much popular acclaim done so much to burn the goodwill he had going for him. He unilaterally postponed the National Assembly election without consulting with relevant authorities knowing that for election to be held on a working day the government has to declare a public holiday to ensure full participation.

I wonder how he felt with another postponement from Monday to this Saturday. This does not show that someone is fully in charge. His management ability has been called to question. Why will INEC give contracts at the last minute without a Plan B and turn around to blame earthquake in Japan and crisis in Libya? Something must be wrong.

Iwu had just N30 billion to organize the 2007 election, Jega has collected almost N100 billion. In 1983, Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey, the chairman of the defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) that organized the 1983 election organized an election that had poling booths in all the polling units across the country. There were FEDECO vehicles all over the country carrying men and materials but Jega’s INEC did not build any polling booth anywhere in the country. On Saturday, electoral officials were at the mercy of politicians because they had no vehicle to convey them and their materials to polling units yet we have been produced free and fair election. This is after collecting so much money.

The people who beat up electoral officer and local government chairman in Mbaise, Imo State thought they were been denied opportunity to vote not knowing that Jega had not put his act together

As I write this I remember what my friend Kalu Onuma posted on his wall on Facebook “Trust is like virginity. When you’re f**ked once, it goes.” Jega has lost our trust. He has f**ked Nigeria in way that has embarrassed the country so much. His apology makes no sense.

Written by
Max Amuchie
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