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25 July 2010

Professor Niyi Osundare on Professor Attahiru Jega and Dr. Tai Solarin

The 2011 election is already being rigged even before it ever takes place. 

How much power and control can Professor Attahiru Jega have over these government appointees?

The situation Jega is in reminds me very much of my encounter with our immortal Tai Solarin when he was given the post of Chairman of the People’s Bank. I went to him and said "Uncle Tai what is this I am hearing? Those who gave you this Greek gift are trying to destroy you and those who believe in you. Please don’t let them.” He said “Well, I’ve always been for the people. This is an opportunity to serve them." A man of good faith, he meant well. I asked if he trusted the ones asking him to serve the people; how much of the people’s friends are they really? “We know you as a man of integrity,” I told him. But what happens to a sole man of integrity who finds himself in a moral desert? This question pops back into focus as I consider the Jega appointment. I shudder when I remember that Nigeria’s moral roadside is littered with a crowd of “rubbished” professors.

Nigeria has an uncanny way of rubbishing good men and women. In fact, it’s as if this country is a cesspool and whoever is the leader will look at somebody whose clothe is still clean and do everything to drag that person into the mess. You have to have a lot of courage and integrity to be able to say no. I’m afraid, Jega is being put in a position in which he cannot exercise full power, a situation that he cannot control. How will he control the security agents who collude in the snatching of ballot boxes?

We have seen so many instances. These agents are bribeable and easily corruptible. What about the wizards of the computer room who manipulate poll figures and conduct virtual elections? What about pervasive pressures from the ruling party bent on turning Nigeria into a one-party state?

What pains me is that professors have been used to clean up the mess so many times. I think Jega would be about the fifth professor to serve as boss of the electoral commission. The only professor that has left the place untarnished is Professor Eme Awa and he ran away when he saw that he was being subjected to undue pressure. They harassed him, they intimidated him but he told them “I’m an old man; I want to go to my grave with the clean name that I’m noted for. Take your position.” They took their position. Whom did they give it to? It was another professor: Humphrey Nwosu. You remember what he did with it.

Now we have another professor as INEC chair. Professors are not trained to handle political thugs. Professors are not trained to superintend over corrupted electoral officers. How would Jega be able to do this? How many hands does Jega have? How many fingers are in each hand? How many heads stand on his shoulders? How many eyes does he have? The people who should be his eyes in the country, he does not have control over because they were not appointed by him. He has a gargantuan task ahead of him.

Only one election has succeeded in this country: the one of June 12, 1993. All the other elections were designed to fail. June 12 was designed to fail but it became a spirit as it were. It refused to die; it refused to fail. Because it refused to fail, Babangida and his clique killed it; they killed something about this country. Nigeria has not really recovered from June 12.

What about option A4 that succeeded so well on June 12, 1993? I was here, going from one polling station to another. I saw women with babies on their backs, singing, waving their ballot papers. That was democracy about to unfold. Nigeria was poised for progress. Babangida and his clique killed that dream. As I said before in another forum, if this were a true country, people like Babangida would be in jail for crime against humanity and the Nigerian dream. No crime could have been greater than that. He was responsible for the deaths of so many Nigerians, including those that were killed during the June 12 riot. But now he wants to rule again. Such unspeakable abomination!

Comrade Jega will need a miracle to succeed in this task. And I am no believer in miracles.