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Jega in the eye of the Storm
By: Sly Edaghese

Published March 23rd, 2015

Jega's fate is hanging on the balance. He has become an albatross over the neck of Jonathan and his ruling party. His problem is his refusal to conduct the affairs of his Commission as a 'team player'. Most of his actions and even utterances have been as if the Independent National Electoral Commission is 'Independent' of the government that created it! This is where Jega has been making, what seems to me, as a fatal mistake. Apart from trying to take his job too seriously, Jega, I'm afraid, is relying too much on the section of the law that describes the independence of the Commission. That is certainly the height of naivety on the part of Jega! Just because the first letter in INEC stands for "Independent" doesn't mean that Jega should be behaving, as some have put it, like a loose cannon! No, he ought to know the peculiarity of his environment. This is Nigeria. Things here don't get done they way they appear. But I should have expected Professor Jega to know this basic home truth before he took leave of his university job to come to INEC? Those who put him in office, he should expect, would want to see him play the 'good boy'. Yes, they would expect him to know that he belongs to a team and as such all his actions should be geared towards the promotion of the collective interests of that team. After all it's said that he that pays the piper dictates the tune. Certainly!

Yet, Jega wants to be seen as his own man, not as an errant boy to be pushed around or as a schoolboy sitting in front of the headmaster with a pencil in hand taking dictation! Truly, I feel for Jega. How on earth does he think he can succeed without pandering to the wishes of those picking his bills? In fact I see Jega, the way he's trying to separate the interest of INEC from that of the Federal Government, as a man standing in the front of a moving train and shouting on top of his voice that he has the right of passage. I guess we should all pity that kind of man. Surely he will settle his case in the grave!  

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Meanwhile, I can see that Jega is on a collision course with the ruling party. They don't trust him. They don't see him as a disinterested party in the coming elections, the way a true umpire ought to be seen. Rather to them, Jega is a sell out to the APC, the main opposition party. Or if not totally a sell out, at least they see him as one sympathetic to the course of their arch rival.  As a result some PDP stewards have been clamouring for his sack; some have even called for his arrest or both. They berated him in particular for the slant way he had distributed the PVC in favour of the APC and also for creating too many pooling booths/units in the North where the APC allegedly have comparative advantage over the PDP in terms of numerical strength.

Now, what's Jega's fate in all this? Will the PDP allow the elections to hold with Jega, a man they see as an ally of their main rival, as umpire? As long as Jonathan would have loved to fire Jega and get the 'nuisance' out of his way, he won't. He had in fact said publicly that he would not fire Jega . But come to think of it, can Jonathan really fire Jega? No, he can't. Not even by presidential fiat. You see, sacking an INEC chairman is as difficult as sacking, for example, a CBN governor. The process is cumbersome. The National Assembly has to come in to take a vote on the issue. And with the main opposition party, APC, now dominating the House with about 180 members, while the PDP, hitherto the majority party with 208 members in 2011, dropping to around 161, it would be an impossibility getting the needed votes in the House to to get rid of Jega. The only thing that could happen is for the President to give Jega the Sanusi (former CBN governor) treatment: Send him on compulsory leave prior to the expiration of his tenure! That too cannot happen now bearing in mind the time Jega's tenure in INEC is expected to end. Now, even if all these legal hurdles were to be overcome, still it would have been most inauspicious for the President to fire an electoral boss in the middle of an election or a few weeks to it.

The options left for the PDP if truly they see Jega as one that could torpedo their dream of returning Jonathan back to office are, one: make Jega's job as unbearable as possible so he wouldn't feel like staying on; two: tempt him with a sumptuous offer, monetary or otherwise, which he cannot reject, then you would blind him and turn him into a willing tool! Or, alternatively, demonize him, call him all sorts of names, make graffiti or caricature of him on the pages newspapers, the way several paid adverts are already appearing in some national dailies (see the attached advert in the Punch) so he wouldn't have the courage to want to continue with the job!   

Truly, I know how painful it can be for somebody you hired and are paying handsome money to turn around and ignore you at the time you need his favour so badly, especially on matters that have to do with your own political survival! Oh no, it's quite painful!

Memo to Jonathan: Now, please, Mr. President, no matter how much pains you feel from Jega's obstinacy, leave him on the job. Forget about what many would want you do to the recalcitrant fellow. If you sack him now or send him on compulsory leave (if at all any one of these is possible); or if he 'voluntarily' retires or resigns or anything untoward happens to him and the elections are further put on hold, what would follow could be anybody's guess! And you yourself wouldn't be able to bear the heat! So please, Mr. President, remain the gentleman you have always been and allow Jega to be. In fact encourage him to remain on the job. Even if he secretly tells you he wants out, don't let him. Plead with him to stay on and finish the  'good' job he has started. Yes, please, describe him as doing a 'good' job, to spur him on and make him want to continue on the job, even though you know in the inside of you that Jega is doing "Jaga, Jaga job!" Please know for now, Mr. President, that Jega is the man in the eye of the storm. Handle him with care! Give him all the protection in the world. Assign him a battalion of soldiers if that is what it would take to secure his life and keep him on the job . I tell you, Jega is more precious to the country now than anyone else, including even you, and Jega knows that. So please, that nothing goes eerie with the election, allow Jega all the freehand in the world to conduct the pools the way he deems fit. This election must not be allowed to derail.  The survival of our nation is at stake.

Please know, Mr. President, that God is the one who ordains a ruler. See, for example, the way he picked you from obscurity, in your first coming, and placed you on the throne! Yes, God alone has that prerogative   to bring down or raise up! You could yet be the one He wants to keep on the seat, who knows? Or it could be your rival, Buhari, who He wants this time around. Who can query God?  And let me also add this, something you may not have thought about before or that may sound to you as a silly joke. You see, God in His sovereignty can decide to sideline both of you, I mean Buhari and your good self, and raise up a "stone" to rule this great country, if He finds nothing good in both of you! Oh yes, I am talking about God and what He can do! You can't cage Him or dictate to Him. He does whatever He wants!

As I'm writing this short piece now with my handset, I am receiving signal from the set that the battery is "low" and is about to be shut down. For some weeks now running or even months, Mr. President, contrary to all that the minister of power has been going about announcing to the entire world, most communities across the country have been in complete darkness, no electrify, not even a flash for anybody to charge his phone! The situation is that bad!

Now I ask you, Mr. President, how long are we going to continue living like this- in darkness- like cave men? All this, I'm afraid, may affect your chances at the pools unless something urgent is done. Now what can you do for us or promise us about this recurrent issue of light, between now and election day? We all appreciate the way you're currently wiping out anything that can move in the cursed Sambisa forest in Borno State. If you can apply the same zest and wipe out darkness in our communities, I won't lie to you, Mr. President, Buhari will throw in the tower the way he's almost doing now with your ongoing success story in the Sambisa evil forest!


Sly Edaghese is a novelist based in Lagos.

T: 2348028287553

E: peleduku@gmail.com



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