RE: INEC Chair Appointment: Another Missed Opportunity.

Professor JegaAnd so it was that we awoke to screaming headlines: “Prominent Academic Appointed As INEC Chair”. “Ex ASUU President Named As New INEC Chief”. “Firebrand Ex Union Chief Now INEC Chair”… 

I am also aware of the man’s impeccable academic and Activist credentials. Indeed, for being a very prominent member of the Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Group, the appointment arguably couldn’t have gone to a better person in my view.  However, the issues here are much more fundamental than the ‘man’ himself.

We have had similar discussions on this forum in the recent past. I shall give you ONE example to buttress my point. Nuhu Ribadu is a very graphic example of where you appoint and place an otherwise honourable man into a very defective system/institution. The inevitable result is that the “Individual” becomes overwhelmed by the inherent and fundamental flaws within the system. 

In Ribadu’s case, the President of the ruling party at the time was given the “sole responsibility” to appoint an “independent” Anti corruption czar. That President was also given the right to “hire and fire” the same “Independent” czar. Now when the “Independent” czar turns around to tell Nigerians that despite copious amount of evidence to the contrary, he couldn’t find any evidence of corrupt practices against his “paymaster”, we very naively blame the czar! Cue PTDF and Haliburton. What did we expect the Czar to say? Perhaps, bite the fingers that are effectively feeding him? Not entirely surprising therefore that a truly independent prosecutor thousands of miles away, found OBJ wanting via the same Haliburton dossier that Ribadu “examined” for several months whilst in office but curiously drew “a blank” with regards to his master’s culpability. 

Now back to the INEC Chair. Justice Uwais had a very valid reason when he recommended that the Head of INEC should be appointed by a truly independent body – certainly NOT subject to the whims and caprices of the President. More importantly, a President that in all likelihood would be contesting in the same elections. Fancy appointing “A Manchester United Football Club Director as the Umpire in a football match between Manchester United and Arsenal”? 

Indeed, I am not for one second suggesting that Prof Jega would be compromised in his new role, unfortunately, we have once again as a Nation, set up a totally honourable man to FAIL. When you set out to dispense Justice, you must also ensure that “Justice is SEEN to be done”. The reckless disregard of the Uwais recommendation in the current case further demonstrates that we are yet to learn the bitter lessons from the Ribadu saga. It took Ribadu close to TWO years to put his “life back” together. Even so, irredeemable stains remain. 

Justice Uwais undertook a very thorough job of attempting to sanitise our defective electoral process. After all, it was the late President himself that very publicly faulted that same process…the same process that incidentally brought him into power. He had the presence of mind to commission this Panel. However, nearly 18 months after the submission of the Report of that panel, the “Unedited” version of that report lies in the “In Tray” of our extremely busy lawmakers at the NASS. The recommendations contained in that report have since been “bastardised” surreptitiously via a wide variety of cunning ways. The manner of this appointment is one glaring example. There are other examples abound in the recent catalogue of Amendments to the 1999 Constitution. 

Professor Jega has been dealt a very unfair hand by our current crop of leaders. It is a myopic and needless circumvention of the letter and spirit of the core recommendations of Justice Uwais’ Commission. For all the best will in the world, the manner of this man’s appointment aside, he cannot and shall not be the “Silver Bullet” required to instil confidence in the integrity and fairness of a very flawed process. 

Why do we as a Nation, pick up the very few of true heroes left only so that we can ‘destroy’ them and their reputations? Isha Allah, in just over 12 months from now, we shall be here again, discussing the “tattered” reputation of a once honourable Man.

Verbum Sat Sapienti. (A Word is Sufficient for a Wise Man)

Written by Ken Davidson