Prof. Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Wednesday, expressed concern over the current developments in the political space, saying he had a lot of fears about what would be the outcome of the 2023 general elections.
Jega, also President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, however, expressed hope that Nigeria would survive the challenges and have a successful poll.
The former INEC chairman who was also a former Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, expressed the fears in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of a colloquium organised by the Director, The Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels, in honour of a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy Development, Prof. Adele Jinadu on his 79th birthday with the theme, “Adele Jinadu and Electoral Democracy in Nigeria: Knowledge Production and Praxis.”
Hamman-Obels described Jinadu as, “an icon of democracy who worked tirelessly in reforming the nation’s electoral integrity.”
Jinadu stressed the need to take action to unlock the heavy fetters placed on democracy and development by the political class, the country’s party system, and the frightening loss of direction in the nation’s pro-democracy civil society organisations.
He expressed concern over the growing vicious attempt to discredit the leadership of INEC in a manner to bring about the reversals of advances towards the routinization of electoral democracy in the country, made under Jega and now under Mahmood Yakubu.
“It must be realized that INEC is not the enemy of democracy but those who are afraid of INEC’s daring attempt to routinize electoral integrity as the core of our country’s electoral process and electoral governance and whom we must expose for their diversionary tactics to shift attention from their undemocratic, unpatriotic agenda,” he added.
Although Jega expressed fears about the outcome of the 2023 election, he believed that the country would pull through.
He said, “I have a lot of fears about the outcome of the election. But you’ll see people like me are, what I call, an incurable optimists about the future of our country. So I remain hopeful that in spite of the recklessness that we see, in spite of the vandalism that we see perpetrated by many of our so-called leading politicians, we are hopeful that people will mobilize and become effectively engaged in the electoral process so that we have a good outcome in 2023.
“We can’t give up hope. We still have to engage because the more we engage, the more the possibility of change happening.”
While describing Jinadu as a beacon of hope for the next generation, passionate about the need to reform Nigeria’s electoral process, he stressed the need for academics to participate actively in politics for the process and development of the country.
Jega said that Nigeria is at a very critical junction when the promises of democratic development are being systemically undermined and eroded.
He said Nigeria was in need of good and knowledgeable people who believe in humanity to address the fundamental need of the people.
Jega said, “He is not just a Professor that busies himself and buries his head in the University system; but he is also very active, in any institutional or organisational platform that can enable him to share his knowledge and experience in order to reform our politics to clean up our electoral system and to ensure that we have good governance in this country.
“So I believe that his example really needs to be imbibed by all of us who claim to be academics, who claim to have the knowledge, we must put that knowledge to good use for progress and development of our country.”
A former INEC National Commissioner, Operations and Logistics, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, said the elections of 2023 will be very important in defining the future of the country.
He expressed optimism that the current happenings in the political space, especially the attacks on INEC facilities would not affect the conduct of the polls.
According to him, the 79th birthday of Jinadu, “will be a good time to reflect on our electoral democracy, specifically his personal contribution to the development of that democracy generally and particularly as a teacher and as an activist.”
He said, “I am not a prophet because I can’t see into the future but I hope what is happening now does not affect the poll. But I think the important thing is that INEC seems to be quite ready. What is important is for Nigerians to realise the importance of this and also for the agencies because it’s not just about Ionic, it’s about several are the agencies that are involved in all this.
“But ultimately, I think the most important thing is for citizens to realise that this is a critical time in history and that the elections of 2023 will be very important in defining the future of the country. And they have to participate as responsible citizens and also for politicians to realize that it’s not just about them personally, it’s about the country’s future, and therefore, that they have a responsibility to act responsibly in that process.”