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Jega: Promising More—Delivering Less (PMDL)

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq
Published November 2nd, 2010
Rather than perfecting the electoral process for which he was hired, Jega is busy perfecting the art of blackmail at the nation’s expense and preparing the nation for the ultimate failure of the 2011 general elections. He has succeeded in foisting on the nation a state of inertia where it can neither move forward nor backward until a looming disaster is upon it. He has held us all hostages to his wiles and guiles by subjecting the electoral process to unnecessary contortions, twists and turns.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

The question to ask is this: must Jega be looking for and raising alarm about every imperfection in our national life that could negatively impact on his job as INEC chairman? It is his duty to discreetly manage the imperfections whatever they may be and not to cry and raise alarms on the pages of newspapers. If every head of every agency goes to town complaining and raising alarms about the problems he is facing on his job nothing will get done.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.


Philosophical Constructs

In recent times, probably far back in time, Nigerian leaders have been crafting some philosophical constructs in their deliberate attempts not only to differentiate, but to distance their administrations from the previous ones that had either actually grown unpopular with Nigerians or needed to be rendered unpopular by all means necessary, including demonizing them.

This is considered necessary in order to legitimize their usurper regimes of military adventurers or their civilian counterparts, as the case maybe. The whole effort is usually geared toward securing the goodwill of Nigerians even if only temporarily in order to help stabilize their illegal regimes, at least for the time being, at their most troublous and uncertain beginnings.

Therefore, unlike other more stable nations where regardless of politics, mature incumbent leaders somehow always find reasons to laud their predecessors’ achievements in office even when they belong to opposition parties; crediting them for the success of one development program/ policy or another as it should be in any civilized environment, their Nigerian counterparts are stuck with the habit of distancing themselves completely from the programs and policies of their immediate predecessors, especially in military regimes. Treated like some impressionable kindergartens who could not think and reason for themselves, Nigerians were told by the new strongmen in power that their predecessors’ administrations were headed by devil incarnates.  And as such, their policies and programs were evil and satanic, both in forms and contents, and must therefore be done away with.

It sure would make no sense for a successful coup plotter to be heard lauding the government he had just overthrown to high heavens. On the contrary, he would make sure its legacies were rubbed out completely from the face of the earth, including even badly needed ongoing development projects for which billions of naira had been expended or committed under subsisting contracts. It mattered not to the military junta whether the nation would benefit from the projects or not or wind up incurring severe contract cancellation penalties; all in the name of contract reviews that serve no real purposes than to line their pockets at the nation’s expense.

However, while military regimes acquired notoriety for this deleterious affliction, it is by no means limited to them as their civilian successors found reasons to copy from them. This is one of the bad legacies of the military the present civilian governments must eschew in all its ramifications. And thank goodness, Jonathan seems to be doing just that by continuing with the policies of the late president, Musa Yar’Adua. But Yar’Adua too was guilty of this evil.

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Yar’Adua found reasons to indulge himself in this wasteful past time for two years in regard to several of OBJ’s policies and projects that he inherited, including but not limited to the Nigerian Independent Power Projects (NIPPs), the mega billion naira Mambilla Plateau power project, the railway modernization project, as well as the implementation of the power and energy sectors reform initiatives; all of which were undertaken under the Obasanjo administration but soon abandoned by Yar’Adua. But he shot himself in the foot, for, had Yar’Adua been a little more broadminded and surefooted in governance, he might have left an enduring and tangible legacy of vastly improved power supply by, at least, completing the NIPPs, many of which had reached advanced stages of completion when he took office. The glory would have been his and his alone and the nation much better for it.

Sad to say though that in his rather naïve efforts to please his implacable foes he chose to follow the negative drumbeats of the opposition elements against Obasanjo and wound up achieving nothing tangible in two and a half years before he died. I don’t want to sound uncharitable to the late leader who was understandably weighed down by his debilitating health conditions. But it is fair to say that Yar’Adua died with most of his initiatives still on the drawing board, including his signature program, the Niger Delta Amnesty program, after dismantling OBJ legacies so far as it was within his powers so to do. Those he couldn’t dismantle like the GSM revolution and EFCC, he simply ignored while fiddling endlessly with his so-called 7-point agenda that never got off the ground—a disposition that earned him the epithet—“Yaraslow” from disappointed Nigerians. He was indeed a study in the art of indecision and procrastination.

Obasanjo too caught the flu in 1999 when he came to office the second time and equally abandoned Abacha’s Vision 2010 which the nation had invested in just because Abacha, who had already expired at the time he came to power in 1999, sent him to jail and therefore his enemy number one. Anything Abacha, had to go whether good or bad; the baby had to be thrown away with its bathwater! And his Vision 2010 was interred with him.

While OBJ could be forgiven for dismantling the policy of one who wanted him dead in incarceration like he did to Obasanjo’s former second-in-command, Shehu Yar’Adua, it should nevertheless be made clear that governance is not a personal thing but a public business, therefore the settling of personal scores has absolutely no place in public governance. As such, good policies inherited even from an enemy need not be thrown overboard merely to spite a former leader. If we continue to go down that road the nation is condemned to underdevelopment. The result is a Nigerian landscape littered with abandoned projects with hundreds of billions of naira going down the drain, just like that. No questions asked.

Many of these abandoned projects have had to be re-contracted out by subsequent administrations at double if not triple their original costs, a good example being the defunct Lagos Metroline project undertaken by the Jakande administration and, if my memory serves me well, at an estimated cost of N2.8bn (arguably a lot of money back then). This project was callously abandoned under the Buhari administration and now costing the Tunde Fashola administration a whopping $2.6bn for the first two lines alone of the seven lines proposed for which a down payment N8.05bn is reported to have been made for the Blue Line to be constructed by the now ubiquitous China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Yet this whole Lagos Light Rail project is a vastly scaled down version of the more ambitious Jakande’s abandoned Metroline project. Even if the costs had not gone up this astronomically, the fact remains that Lagosians have been denied rail services for 27 odd years since 1983 when the Jakande administration was booted out of power by military adventurers, no thanks to Buhari—and that, indeed, is the real cost of abandoned projects in the nation—denial of services to the generality of the citizenry to which they’re otherwise entitled in a modern nation/state in the 21st century.

And that should give the reader just a little window to peep into Nigeria’s world of waste created by her callous and unthinking leaders who would refuse to proceed with inherited projects unless the contracts bear their signatures. Yet these leaders are quick to introduce their own pet programs, projects and policies after abandoning the ones they met on the ground and turning the hand of the clock back with similar fate awaiting them after they might have left either voluntarily or forced out. And with that the cycle of waste and underdevelopment continues unceasingly.

However, their sloganeering mantras somehow still live on in the memories of Nigerians though defunct and abandoned by their successors. For Muhammadu Buhari, it was “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI), arising out of the gross indiscipline and egregious corruption that defined the previous Shehu Shagari administration. For Olusegun Obasanjo, otherwise known as “OBJ”, it was “Due Process” and “War Against Corruption” in his second outing as Nigerian leader, arising out of the profligacy and monumental corruption that characterized the previous Abacha regime, coupled with his determined efforts to retrieve the multi-billion naira loot of the bespectacled late general stashed in bank vaults abroad, particularly in Swiss banks. And for Musa Yar’Adua, it was “Servant Leader” and “Rule of law,” arising from the perceived brusqueness and imperial disposition of the Obasanjo presidency.

Seeking legitimacy arising principally from his stiffly contested presidential mandate, the late leader wasted no time crafting some couplet of governing mantras that sought to distance his style from that of his immediate predecessor in office. “Rule of law” and “Servant leader” came in handy to help calm frayed nerves in the opposition even if both meant very little and largely tokenistic in practice. They still remained benchmarks for assessing his administration’s overall performance and leadership style, regardless.

PLDM Paradigm

And lastly but never the leas;, for Goodluck Jonathan it is “Promising Less and Delivering More,” (PLDM), arising from the litany of failed promises in the past, interestingly, including but not limited to Yar’Adua’s failure to implement electoral and the power reforms that he had promised the nation during his inauguration, both of which never saw the light of day and had become incubuses on the path of his administration till his abrupt end.

Confronted with such an unflattering generational record of failed leadership Jonathan decided to flip that paradigm of more promises less delivering and turned it on its head with the following words: 

"I know you are tired of empty promises, so I will make only one promise to you today. The only promise I make to you my friends, fellow citizens and Nigeria, is to promise LESS and deliver MORE if I am elected,” he promised. And with those few words, a new era is born in the nation.

What then is PLDM, the reader might ask? PLDM is a simple construct just like its author, Jonathan, and nothing complicated to understand and appreciate. It is simply a paradigm that simply replaces promises with performance rather than the other way around as we have been used to in these parts of the globe. In Jonathan’s own words written in his Facebook declaration:

“I do not want to win your affections by giving you promises of things I would do in the future which others before me have given and which have largely been unfulfilled.”

"I know you are tired of empty promises, so I will make only one promise to you today. The only promise I make to you my friends, fellow citizens and Nigeria, is to promise LESS and deliver MORE if I am elected.”

At the heart of this paradigm is DELIVERING on already promises made, as opposed to regurgitating the same old promises or adding new ones to them. It is not a promise to deliver either. It is simply delivering without more! It’s a policy that places performance over noise making promises. But that is just words which in and of itself is a promise. What is the practical demonstration of this new paradigm? Here again is Jonathan:

“My team and I made no promises on adequate fuel supply in Nigeria. We simply did what was expected of those who govern, we delivered it, and you are living witnesses to that. We made no promise to revamp the textile industry.

“We delivered a bailout package worth 150 billion naira that is being dispensed as I write. We made no promises of securing the highest U.S Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation clearance, the Category 1 Certificate which enables Nigerian registered airlines to fly to ANY U.S city. We delivered. We made no promise to give Nigeria a brand new INEC under a proven God-fearing and incorruptible leader. We placed Nigeria first and delivered. We made no promises of protecting your loans, deposits and investments in the banking industry over and beyond what is covered under the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Scheme.

“We delivered it via AMCON. Rather than tell you what we could do to improve power, this administration demonstrated it by initiating a brand new national Super Grid as well as launching a concrete Road Map to the Power Sector with realistic goals tied to realistic dates. I understand from some of your mails that there has been some small improvements in electricity supply in some communities. We met an economy that was beginning to slow due to the global recession. Today, the economy has verifiably grown by 7 per cent this half year ending in June.”

Getting on board Jonathan knew that there was nothing else left to be promised that had not been promised by his predecessors in office before, but left unfulfilled. All the promises that needed to be made had been made. He was not going to add another layer of promises to the existing layers. If half of the promises made by past Nigerian leaders were fulfilled Nigeria would have been on the moon by now and basic social necessities like good roads, water, quality medical and educational services, and electricity would be taken for granted in the country. More than enough promises have been made. The only thing conspicuously missing was their fulfillment and that is the area he needed to address. Expectedly that is what Nigerians have been crying for all along! To paraphrase what one American mattress commercial says, “That is what their backs have been aching for!”

That, in a nutshell is the philosophical plank on which the Jonathan administration now rests. However, it is so easy to promise but difficult to fulfill promises made by others. Yet fulfill he must because governance is a continuum and because he has committed himself to that. By so doing he is seeking to change the narrative going forward—a narrative of poor leadership and failed dreams. And by changing the narrative, he is hoping to restore the people’s faith in their government, which has been badly shaken, indeed battered beyond recognition—which is why Nigeria is now a nation of seemingly incurable cynics, skeptics and pessimists. He recognized that a litany of unfulfilled promises had turned a once hopeful, positive and forward looking people into chronic pessimists and self-doubters who do not for a moment believe in themselves much less in their government.

Amid the drumbeat of cynics and naysayers Jonathan is seeking to turn this around and make Nigeria work again for Nigerians and prove the cynics wrong because We are delivering on our promise towards electoral reforms, adequate power supply, and peace in the Niger Delta. On these and other reforms, we will not relent,” said the president on the occasion of his N500m fundraising dinner haul at the Abuja International Conference Centre, (ICC).

But note the words carefully: He is not promising to deliver; he didn’t say he has delivered. He says “we are delivering,” indicating work in progress, not promises.  

Constraints and Limitations

That said, while it may be easy to judge a leader based on the fulfillment or lack thereof of promises made or inherited, it may not be so easy to judge a leader based on his philosophical postulates. The reason for this is because philosophical postulates are intangibles or conceptual objects that are not always amenable to institutionalization. In this sense therefore we must begin to distinguish between mere sloganeering and real development programs or tangible policies associated with particular administrations.

It must be recognized in this connection that slogans are not executable categories but development programs are. Therefore, while some of these philosophical paradigms were programmatic and therefore executable, others were entirely conceptual and border on mere sloganeering. As such, they’re not amenable to institutionalization to make them permanent.

Thus or instance, while OBJ succeeded in institutionalizing his Due Process paradigm comprised in the Due Process Office and the EFCC both of which were able to outlive his administration, others never cared to articulate and institutionalize their governing philosophies mainly because they were not conceptualized as executables in the first place.

For all his failings, OBJ has proved to be one of the smartest, if not the smartest leader Nigeria has ever had, if only for this reason alone. Sensing that his legacies might be rubbished, he took his time to institutionalize some of them, including the war against graft in the form of EFCC and Due Process even before the so-called “third term” fiasco. But for that deft move, Yar’Adua and his AGF, Akaase Aondoakaa, would have made the war on graft and EFCC a thing of the past, just like IBB did to Buhari’s WAI.

EFCC is still around today despite everything thrown at it because it has legal and physical structures that cannot be dismantled and thrown overboard by succeeding administrations without hell being let loose and going through tedious and contentious process of abrogating the laws establishing them.  Yar’Adua’s attempt to whittle down the powers of EFCC through his AGF after he sent its head packing elicited uproarious reactions from Nigerians so much so that the administration had no choice but to let EFCC be as is even though the administration had nothing but death wish for the anti-graft agency that was after its corrupt ex-gubernatorial patrons. 

The same is equally true of the Due Process Office which he likewise institutionalized with the Public Procurement Bill he proposed and sent to the National Assembly before he left office; eventually passed and signed into law by President Yar’Adua in July 2008 as the Public Procurement Act, giving birth to the Public Procurement Bureau.

In point of fact, OBJ himself was severally quoted to have promised that his reforms would be legally encoded to ensure their survival after he might have left office, and that’s precisely what he did. Now, that was a very smart move on his part that I would recommend to President Jonathan.

Taken together, both represent Obasanjo’s anti-graft policies that remain legislative and institutional landmarks after his exit. The point being made here is not to sing the praise of Obasanjo (he has received some knocks already here), but to underline the fact that “Due Process” was not just an airy slogan as Yar’Adua’s “Rule of Law”. On the contrary, it was an executable policy complete with its legal and institutional framework, and so also is the “War on Corruption,” both of which have become national institutions and heritage, just like Gowon’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).  

Other leaders were not so smart as OBJ and had their legacies tanked. Together with Buhari, WAI was one of the first casualties of the IBB coup that swept Buhari and the late Idiagbon out of power in 1985. IBB, whose regime proceeded in earnest to institutionalize corruption rather than Buhari’s WAI, wasted no time disbanding the crude, ad-hoc WAI military structures Buhari had used to terrorize the masses while leaving the captains of corruption untouched, which by the way, was why it was easy for the evil genius to disband them without incurring public outcry as was Yar’Adua’s case with EFCC, because the masses were relieved of laboring under Buhari’s discriminatory, heavy handed, military jackboots that routinely violated their basic human rights and decency.

Similarly, Yar’Adua’s servant leader and rule of law mantra were more of fanciful slogans than well articulated and coherent governing principles and could therefore not lend themselves to institutionalization in such a way that they might become his enduring legacies. And so, there are no monuments erected for them—and no monuments for Yar’Adua either after his demise; in fact his slogans are gone with the wind. And this is because, as earlier indicated, they have no institutional platforms to stand on.

In the same vein Jonathan’s PLDM mantra may not go beyond verbal pronouncements, because it is not otherwise amenable to institutional construct that could outlast his administration. As of today, PLDM is just so many words without structures like Yar’Adua’s “Servant Leader” and “Rule of Law” mantras. President Jonathan needs to translate this philosophical construct into permanent structures that could outlive his administration.  

But even in the absence of that it could still become a potent philosophical force and a compass that not only drives but guides his administration’s goals and objectives if deliberate efforts are made to internalize it on the part of government’s officials, at least. PLDM could be transformed into a potent instrument or tool for focused and purposeful leadership and governance throughout the polity, and it seems to have found a life of its own. Already government’s officials are being asked, in fact, admonished to talk less and do more, the most recent being the advisory from the AGF to the chairperson of EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, to talk less and do more in his reaction to her so-called corruption list sent to the PDP. And what’s more, INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman of INEC, the electoral agency, is similarly being asked to talk less and do more. Gradually but steadily, the message is taking hold and sinking in, one head at a time. And if that happens, it will be a breath of fresh air in the Nigerian polity.

The whole idea is to get public officials to simply perform their duties for which they were either elected or appointed without unnecessary grandstanding or inundating us with empty promises they know will not be kept until they leave office. And all that sickening ceremonies of governors calling the whole world to witness the commissioning of boreholes, taxis and buses or some feeder road tucked somewhere as their crowning achievements must stop. The widespread practice trivializes the art of governance.

If state chief executives have nothing better to do with their time, they have no business being in their states’ executive mansions in the first place. Only the commissioning of major development projects should attract the presence of state governors and the president, for that matter. The commissioning of minor projects must be left for local government officials or commissioners, and that is if they must be commissioned at all before being put to public use. Why formal commissioning before being put to public use, anyway? The practice is utterly wasteful and must be stopped except for major projects as indicated above if state chief executives truly know their onions.      

Odd-Man Out

However, it has become obvious to the discerning members of the public that the chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega, has not been entirely sold on the idea. He is one government’s official in the Jonathan dispensation who has yet to imbibe the administration’s new credo of promising less and delivering more. 

Since his well received appointment a few months ago he has been running his mouth like a canary at every given opportunity in utter disregard for the administration’s disposition of promising less and delivering more. He has instead been promising more and delivering less, and thereby turning the president’s mantra on its head. In other words, he has been talking more and doing less. 

Part of the reason for this could be found in the very name of his agency—“Independent---“ by virtue of which he is not beholden to the directive or philosophical orientation of the administration. He is his own man living in his own world unfettered by the strictures of public service. He gets to set his own rules and goes by his own dictates. After all, he is not part of the presidents’ cabinet. He belongs neither to the executive, legislative, nor the judicial branch. He’s simply independent and towers above all, including those who appointed him and those to whom he cries for money.

As the head of INEC he is expected to show his independence at all times and there is no better way to demonstrate his independence than to do the very opposite of what the administration is doing and that means promising more and delivering less. It seems Jega has discovered that the only way to assert his independence is to talk more and do less. That way, he has succeeded in distancing himself and his electoral body from the dictates of the administration. He has refused to follow the philosophical dictates of the administration and continues business as usual. Pray, how much more independent could he be?

The bearded, publicity hungry INEC chairman has found a cheap and effective means of proving his independence by simply talking, and talking until the elections are over, or rather until the elections are forgotten entirely, while the nation waits for eternity for the award of the contracts for Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, which alone have taken him nearly half a year to award and will probably take that much longer to deliver. And that is if they’re delivered at all. There is always a handy excuse for non-performance right up there in his sleeves. He has plenty of them up there, all designed to suit particular occasions as the need arises. 

Under the barrage of criticisms from both the National Assembly and concerned Nigerians, he has quickly moved to announce the training of those who will operate the yet-to-be-delivered DDC machines. I guess the trainees will use the pictures of the machines to do their drills. It’s all in his theoretical world. As a professor, Jega probably didn’t have access to or need no real machines to train his students. He probably was content with Marxist theoretical postulations in the lecture halls as a socialist academic with no need for machines.  After all, Communism/Socialism needed no laboratories to test it. And if ever there was such a need the tools existed not in Nigeria but in far away China, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union; all outside his immediate grasp. Jega probably still thinks that he’s on sabbatical at INEC doing his lecture rounds with his staffers as students. 

And each time he runs into rough waters he raises high decibel alarms. First it was about the amendment of the Electoral Act for which he was not only duly consulted by the leadership of the National Assembly in the amended Electoral Act and the constitution passed, but his inputs and timelines were duly incorporated in the Act and the amended constitution. The amended constitution was gazetted back in July 2010, and the amended Electoral Act was signed into law by the president back in August precisely on the 12th within just three days after it was presented to the president for his assent. That should pass as one of the fastest presidential assents ever given to a bill passed by the National Assembly presented to the president for his assent.

However, between the consummation of the amendment of the Electoral Act and its transmission to the presidency for presidential assent, Jega cried out raising the alarm that its delay was hampering his ability to prepare for the elections. With the signing of the Electoral Act, into law, however, Jega went to town talking more and doing less. He dredged up another excuse for not doing his job. This time it was funds. A whopping N78bn naira was requested for ordinary computers and scanners just for revising the Voter’s Register alone, again blackmailing the presidency and the National Assembly to sign off on the requested amount else the nation could as well forgot about 2011. His highly inflated figures which were computed on the basis of windfall profit for the suppliers that was questioned by the lawmakers but nevertheless left almost intact by the National Assembly. No one wanted to be accused of standing in the way of Jega and INEC. Whatever he wants he gets. Period! If he wants a thousand human heads to be sacrificed to the gods of INEC to ensure smooth, free and fair elections, so be it. They will be delivered to him in a presidential jet—one of those that were recently ordered. Like a spoilt child whatever Jega wants he gets without question---and without delay too!

But does he ever get enough? He’s always asking for more. Like Oliver Twist he has gone cap-in-hand pleading for financial assistance from EU members who called at his office to ascertain his level of preparedness who went back utterly disappointed at his absolute lack of progress, only for him to use the occasion to again blackmail the National Assembly on the fresh amendments he has requested. This raises the question as to whether Jega will not spring another surprise on the nation about lack of adequate funding. What else is next in Jega’s trick box? But wait a minute:

If the nation thought that with adequate funding and the passage of the Electorate Act as well as the amendment of the constitution, everything was in order, it again got a rude shock when Jega went to town declaring the 2011 elections impossible with the timelines mandated in the Electoral Act and the Constitution which he was privy to in the first place!

Because he was talking more and doing less, he soon realized he had run out of time and therefore impossible to meet the statutory and constitutional timelines for the conduct of the elections. With that declaration he has set the nation up for failure. This declaration has set the political class scampering to find a way out, which invariably translates to another amendment of the amendments that have already been carried out on both the constitution and the Electoral Act.

This man has totally messed up the nation’s constitutional order and the electoral process. The nation’s sacred document is being messed up like a piece of trash; not even an ordinary law has been subjected to this unedifying treatment at the behest an underperforming university professor who is finding it extremely hard to come to grips with the real world.

Now, the worst time to carry out constitutional and statutory amendments is during an election when politics is already thick in the air. Nothing gets done during elections. There is always gridlock during election years in the United States, for example, and although young, Nigeria’s parliament is witnessing similar results at the moment. The senate failed to pass the amendments proposed in the bill before it due to political calculations both by inside and outside forces.  And if the National Assembly is having this difficulty one can only imagine what it will be like in the state legislatures.

However, sensing an opening to dump the blame of potential failure on the doorsteps of the National Assembly, Jega came out flaming on 10/11/2010, warning that delay in the amendments he requested was dangerous to the conduct of the 2011 elections and could return the nation back to square one.  In his words uttered in response to the pleas by the European Union Election observers for him to ensure free and fair elections as reported by The Guardian Newspapers 10/12/2010 edition, Jega had this to say:

“Let me say here that we have faced some challenges which have set us back by two weeks now, in terms of the procurement of the Direct Data Capture Machines. These things are addressed by the so-called 10 per cent rule. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong sometimes. And unfortunately, in spite of everything that we did, something still went wrong and set us back, and we were also very concerned about that. That was why when we were talking about how tight the timelines were, we were worried about that.

“Our worry is not necessarily the new time-frame. We need to have the legal instrument in place and if there are delays from the National Assembly about it, obviously that will also affect how soon we can roll out our plans for the conduct of the polls. We will continue to engage all stakeholders in order to make, particularly the National Assembly members, realise that the faster they are able to conclude the amendment processes, the better it will be because there is no time. If we are going to get the extension and it takes up to November or December, it is of no use or at best I would say, we are perhaps back to square one, because we will need a very clear legal frame-work for us to proceed with our preparations”.

Now, here is a man who has admitted to his own delays in awarding ordinary contracts for DDC machines trying to shift the blame on everybody else but himself and in fact blackmailing the National Assembly about the nation going back to “square one” if he did not get the amendments in October. Here is a man that got his request for funds approved since August and the funds promptly released to the commission. Yet he could not award a simple contract for computers and scanners and waited two whole months before realizing he had run out of time for the elections.

He botched the computer contracts right from the beginning only to begin to run his mouth again such that a fellow academic Senator Adego Efrakeya had to call him to order with these biting words to Jega: “You should talk less because we have heard a lot of reports. You are talking more. One has to be careful the way you talk. If you have fears, why not come to the National Assembly, talk to the Senate President. He is there to listen to you.”

Come to the National Assembly and talk to the Senate President about his fears? Not Jega! The honourable senator doesn’t get it. Jega would not quietly express his fears to the leadership of the senate as advised by the senator. Rather he wants to put the blame for his failures on the doorsteps of the National Assembly. Period. He has carefully set them up as the fall guys to take the blame.

Now, if the award of computer contracts has proved such a daunting challenge to Jega how in the world would the nation and the world expect this man to deliver credible elections in 2011 when such simple issues as contract awards are causing him terrible nightmares? That is the question that the nation must begin to grapple with now before it is too late and before his “back to square one” threat becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

As a Tribune reporter puts it: “If the man continues with the undue grandstanding we have seen since August; if he fails to fix things in the most practical ways, he could be unwittingly returning the nation to the dreaded “square one.”

With due respect to this reporter, we’re already back to square one! We’re back to where we started already. The whole process of constitutional and electoral act amendment is beginning afresh and Jega has not moved one inch from where his predecessor, Professor Maurice Iwu, left off. Which other square one are we talking about, the square one of square one? Anyway, I’ll leave that to the mathematicians to figure out the result of that mathematical formula, because I’m not a mathematician.

What is clear to me, however, is that this man has literarily held the nation by the jugular. He has become the quintessential blackmailer. Rather than perfecting the electoral process for which he was hired, Jega is busy perfecting the art of blackmail at the nation’s expense and preparing the nation for the ultimate failure of the 2011 general elections. He has succeeded in foisting on the nation a state of inertia where it can neither move forward nor backward until a looming disaster is upon it. He has held us all hostages to his wiles and guiles by subjecting the electoral process to unnecessary contortions, twists and turns.

And this is a man who belongs to the class of so-called progressives who were loudest in condemning the former chairman of INEC, Maurice Iwu, who was literarily bundled out of INEC to please the types of Jega in the nation. Nobody cared to listen to the avalanche of problems confronting the electoral body under Iwu. He was singled out for vitriolic attacks on his person by the myopic Nigerian press and its patron saints in the opposition. The result is Jega; the result is the mess that has become the electoral process; the result is the unmitigated disaster that awaits us if no drastic steps are taken to make this man sit up and face his jobs as man, not as a parrot.

If the nation thought Iwu, who successfully midwifed the 2007 general elections was a failure Jega is promising to be a disaster waiting to happen. The man Iwu must be chuckling in retirement. He had told this man, Jega, that there was no need to embark on a fresh Voter’s Register, and all that he needed to do was to update the existing one and sanitize it where needed; in other words to build on the records and achievements on the ground which seemed reasonable and cost effective too. But Jega preferred to rebuild the house from the ground up instead of fixing the leaks in the roof even though he knew he had no time to do it with elections around the corner and the nation in a hurry to get things done. He wanted his own date with contractors. This man preferred to award new contracts; he probably had not been doing so as a university professor and former ASUU president. Now is his time! The lure of multi-billion naira contracts and its many benefits was too strong for Jega to resist and that has brought us to square one.

An indication of this came from the Jega himself during his recent lecture delivered at the Trenchard Hall of the University of Ibadan in which he was reported to have declared that “although he had expected that there were going to be problems on the ground when he took the job of INEC Chairman, he had, however, been astounded at the level of problems facing the commission, such that there could be ‘a crisis of expectation’ at the end of the day,” and adding that “the crisis of expectation could come about when everything wrong had been put right, yet due to some factors and apathy of Nigerians, things  still didn’t work out.” There he goes!

Apathy of Nigerians, he said? What the heck is this man talking about? What apathy? Does anybody still need convincing that this man is preparing the nation for the ultimate fall? Does anyboby need a soothsayer to divine where the nation is headed in 2011? Does anybody need to be told that this man is not up to the job he has been contracted to do? By the way, what were Jega’s qualifications for the job in the first place? Has he held any executive position in the past to prepare him for such a demanding job at a time of great national urgency and expectations? How was he vetted for this job? Was he given the job purely on the basis of his socialist leanings and academic qualifications or on tangible and demonstrable cognate experience in executive functions?

Do you want to hear some more excuses for failure from Jega and his persistent efforts to condition the minds of Nigerians for possible failure of the 2011 elections? Here again is Attahiru Jega in yet another speech raising yet another alarm about insecurity in the nation as reported by the African Herald Express:

“…some recent security developments have now placed security issues on the front burner as we strategize for the 2011 polls. The threats to security are many especially in terms of recent developments in our national life; abductions, and other forms of insecurity. The competing demands on our resources send a sense of trepidation and news reports about arms build-up and arms proliferation is frightening to even the hardened mind”

The question to ask is this: must Jega be looking for and raising alarm about every imperfection in our national life that could negatively impact on his job as INEC chairman? It is his duty to discreetly manage the imperfections whatever they may be and not to cry and raise alarms on the pages of newspapers. If every head of every agency goes to town complaining and raising alarms about the problems he is facing on his job nothing will get done. Must Jega be whining, complaining and crying everyday on the pages of newspapers? Must this man be allowed to disturb our peace all the time by continually raising fears about the forthcoming elections?

Doesn’t that show that he’s not matured enough for the job to begin with? Can’t he do his job quietly and discreetly without dragging all of us into the mix all the time? Aren’t Nigerians already aware of the state of insecurity in the nation? Do they need a Mr. Jega to remind them? Was he not aware of this situation before he accepted the job or is he just finding that out now? What does that say about his maturity and experience for the job?

The public profile of Jega emerging is that of one who has sensed his inadequacies looking for excuses to justify his imminent failure and trying to pass the buck on others. Jega is seeing failure starring at him in his face. And that would explain why he is seizing every opportunity that comes his way to raise alarms and pass the buck on other agencies. To him that’s the only way to absolve himself of blame. But he’s miscalculated. Should our fears materialize in 2011, Jega will not escape the fate that befell Maurice Iwu and all his predecessors-in-office, right from the nation’s independence. No electoral helmsman has escaped that fate, however much he tries to pass the buck. Jega is condemned to reliving similar fate. 

Therefore, while it was politically expedient to remove Iwu at the end of his tenure, it was not wise to do so. Whenever political expediency is allowed to override wisdom, the result is Jega—leading the nation into a dead end.

Those who wanted Maurice Iwu out by all means necessary should be held accountable for the looming Jega fiasco and imperilled 2011 elections. They put us in this bind and must get us out of it before it is too late.

Can somebody help teach the professor the difference between the classroom and the boardroom? Can somebody help whisper these words into his ears: “Welcome to the real world...!” This might just be the missing link. Hey, you never know...!


Franklin Otorofani, Esq.—Attorney and Public Affairs’ Analyst


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