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2015: Jega in troubled waters

Published by The Nation on Sun, 21 Sep 2014

Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, reports that more stakeholders, angered by recent creation of additional polling booths, are seeking the ouster of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof Attahiru JegaHis critics say he is no longer the neutral arbiter that he was when he emerged on the political scene as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Consequently, there is an upsurge in the number of those calling on Professor Attahiru Jega to resign his position ahead of the 2015 general election.Tension again heightened recently when it was alleged that he is out to cheat for the North in the coming presidential ballot following the announcement by the commission that it plans to create more polling units in some parts of the country for the elections in February 2015.In the days that followed the announcement, the media was agog with reports of protests and planned protests by different bodies, stakeholders and even individuals against the alleged allocation of more polling units to the northern geo-political zones to the detriment of their southern counterparts.But in all these, the former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, says he is not guilty as charged. Rather, he alleges that the raging criticisms are machinations of dubious politicians who are scared of his commissions determination to ensure an even playing field in the looming 2015 political contest.However, in spite of the many efforts of the commission and Jega to set the records straight concerning the disputed creation of polling units, there appears to be no respite for Jega as the call for his resignation thickens rather than abate.The Nation learnt that the severity of the call may not be unconnected with the fact that the INEC boss may have lost the confidence of the leadership of the ruling party and the Presidency following recent suspicion that he may not be a willing tool in the hands of the party during the 2015 general election.Jegas troubles are not just because he incited the south with the allocation of more polling units to the north. It is more because he has infuriated some power brokers within the ruling party and the presidency with his recent actions that suggests that he may not be un-bias during the forthcoming election.His unending criticism of some federal government directives and actions during the Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections left much to be desired of a man who has enjoyed tremendous support from the ruling party in the discharge of his job.There is growing suspicion that he may either be pandering towards the opposition or listening to the advice of some ethnic propagandists. It is in the light of all these that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as the presidency, are cautious about speaking for him again, a chieftain of the PDP told The Nation.As if to lend credence to the fear that the ruling party may no longer be comfortable with the ways of Jega, the ongoing outcry over the planned creation of more polling units was started about three weeks ago by the SouthEast PDP when, after a meeting in Enugu, leaders of the party in the zone, accused Jega of plotting to rig for the north in 2015.As if taking a cue from the South-East PDP, the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA), eminent personalities like Edwin Clark, former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, and Senator Femi Okurounmu as members, went to town with condemnations of the INEC boss.With the voodoo and arbitrary allocation of polling units, the people of Southern Nigeria and indeed the Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly, view this invidious act as a script crafted for Jega to implement, in continuation of the well-known hegemonic agenda, by the enemies of our hard-won democracy.The people of Southern Nigeria are not only appalled, but also strongly reject Jegas claims and averment, whatever persuasions may have motivated this callous, insensitive, desperate, oppressive and inconsonant decision to give the North a clear political advantage over the South, contrary to the reality on ground.If this concocted manipulation of polling units is his clever design to give undue political advantage to the North, having in mind the 2015 presidential election, we wish to remind him that he has failed in his decrepit mission, the group said.Former Anambra State Governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a pro-Jonathan campaigner, said Jegas plan is akin to a coup against the Igbo in particular and the South in general.The South as a whole has taken a position that Jega must go and we are not changing our mind on that. By the action of Jega, the 2015 election has been rigged in favour of some people, against President Goodluck Jonathan. How can the North-West have over 8,000 new polling units and the entire South-East gets a mere 1,000 units, the same figure for Zamfara and the FCT (Federal Capital Territory). That is impossible, Ezeife argued.In his reaction to the ongoing debate over the fate of the INEC helmsman, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), called on President Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President David Mark to immediately sack Jega, for what it called an alleged plot to destabilise Nigeria.The proposal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create additional polling units in which Northern Nigeria is allocated more than 21,000, while Southern Nigeria is allocated just slightly above 8, 000 is a well thought out political coup to perpetually give Northern Nigeria a political advantage over Southern Nigeria in national elections with the 2015 elections in mind and to deliberately cause instability in the country ahead of the 2015 elections.It is common knowledge that in Nigeria, the more polling units that is allocated to a particular area automatically results in more voting population whether the population exists or not. The case of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with less voting population having more polling units than the whole of South-East is a clear case in point. Also, is Professor Jega telling Nigerians that the North-West has more or equal voting population with the whole of Southern Nigeria'Furthermore, the arrogant posture of Prof. Jega in responding to the call for his resignation by the leaders of Southern Nigeria clearly shows that he is carrying out an orchestrated agenda by vested interest in the North to destabilise the country and the Jonathan administration ahead of the 2015 elections, it said.The South-West Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also dismissed the new polling units by INEC which they described as bogus and unrealistic. The two party said the creation of additional 30, 000 polling units across the federation for the 2015 general election by INEC was heavily skewed in favour of the north.The party said the reasons INEC offered for creating additional constituencies ran against logic and so untenable. The Commission, according to the party, has now portrayed itself as compromising its integrity by taking a pro-north stance on electoral matters ahead of the 2015 general election.The group, led by Chief Olabode George, lamented that the revision of polling units recently done by INEC reflected that while the entire north now has 72 percent of the polling units in the entire federation, the entire southern Nigeria was allotted a paltry 28 percent.Putting up a spirited defense, Jega countered at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, September 10, that he is not a religious or ethnic jingoist, saying the plan is borne out of need rather than politics. He insisted that the new units would not give political advantage to any zone.His words: INECs decision to re-configure the structure of polling units and create additional ones is driven by our collective aspirations as Nigerians to reform and improve upon the electoral process for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections next year and beyond.There is no sectional or parochial agenda in this decision and there will never be any such agenda under this commission.They know my antecedents. I am not a religious jingoist. It is only those who do not want progress, who are accusing us. Nigeria must move forward. We must not allow our fear to imprison us.Though it is left to be seen how those angling for Jegas removal would achieve their intentions given the fact that his position is a tenured appointment that cannot easily be revoked, the days ahead promise to be stormy ones for the University don turned electoral umpire.]]>
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