ByÂ Daniel Idonor & Ben Agande
ABUJA â€“ President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, stated that himself, Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman and Professor Barth Nnaji, Special Adviser on Power, had a rare opportunity of changing the face of public governance in the country before the expiration of the present government on May 29, 2011.
He said: â€œI believe that Prof. Jega, Prof. Nnaji and myself have work to do for our dear land. And, in the remaining months between now and May 29, next year, let us tell Nigerians that this is a different government.â€
Jonathan gave the charge while administering the oath of office on the new Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, and INEC Commissioners.
The President also brought on board the administration, Prof. Nnaji as his Special Adviser on Power and three others
Those sworn-in as National INEC Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioers were Nuhu Yakubu, Yobe; Amaga, Gombe; Gladys Nwakwo, Abia; Ismail Igbani, Rivers; Therma Eremere, Delta; and Lai Olorode, Osun.
The Special Advisers were Ima Niboro, Media and Publicity; Senator Isaiah Balat, Special Duties to the Vice-President and Hussaini Jallo, Special Political Affairs to the Vice- President.
Remain a radical in INEC, Jonathan urges Jega
While administering the oath of office on Jega, and theÂ INEC Commissioners, Jonathan said the new INEC boss must strive to remain the radical he was noted for over the years.
Jonathan, who exuded confidence in the ability of Jega to deliver, said: â€œI am happy that a radical is going to INEC to carry out a positive change.
â€œI was quite excited when people described you (Jega) as a radical and I am happy that a radical is going to INEC to do positive things and make sure that you donâ€™t compromise that belief.
”Luckily, you are a professor of high repute; your students are all watching you whether you will stand by the principle you have been talking in the classroom. Your colleagues that you have left are also watching you.
â€œYour responsibility is even more enormous than mine in terms of managing elections. I will be considered as ordinary partisan politician, people will say that probably I will favour my party but you are not one. You are expected to show transparency and honesty in all that you do.â€
Jonathan said the swearing of Jega and the new INEC commissioners marked another step forward in his commitment towards the conduct of free, fair and transparent election in 2011, stressing that â€œthe success or failure of the reconstituted INEC rests upon all of us.â€
He added: â€œWe must act with responsibility towards INEC, in order to retain the trust reposed in us by the Nigerian people. Rules and regulations must be obeyed and electoral misconduct shall not be tolerated irrespective of status or party affiliation. As the saying goes, we are all equal before the law.â€
He expressed appreciation to all Nigerians for the confidence reposed on the new appointees, especially for the almost unanimous endorsement of our choice of INEC leadership, saying that â€œoften trust is the beginning of success.â€
Jonathan added: â€œI, therefore, expect Professor Jega and his able team to meet the high standards that Nigerians and the rest of the world expect of them.
”This assignment is one of the most important jobs in our country and our citizens are keenly interested in its outcome.
”It is true that legitimacy is one of the fundamental building blocks that compel governments to accountability.â€
Jonathan is for credible election â€“ Jega
Responding, the new INEC boss, Jega said President Jonathanâ€™s desire to conduct free and fair election was no longer in doubt, noting that â€œfrom all he (Jonathan) has said and done, he is fully committed to bringing about free and fair elections.â€
While seeking the support of all stakeholders, Jega said: â€œWe also know that, to succeed in this assignment, we need the goodwill, support, cooperation and assistance of all stakeholders within our country and all friends of Nigeria and its development partners globally.
â€œAnd, we trust that Mr. President will work hard to guarantee our impartiality and neutrality as an independent electoral commission. May I, therefore, call upon all other heads of government agencies, especially, the police and security agencies, the armed forces and the judiciary, to please give us maximum cooperation in the discharge of our constitutional and legal mandate.â€
He urged all political parties, civil society organisations, religious, traditional and community leaders, to partner with INEC to bring about free and fair elections, saying that â€œindeed, every citizen, every stakeholder and every friend of Nigeria has a significant role to play and should play it to the best of his/her abilityâ€.
Jega said the new INEC was â€œwilling and ready to partner with all stakeholders who are genuinely interested in contributing positively to bringing about free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria in 2011.â€
He added: â€œWe know very well that this assignment given to us is an enormous and profound challenging one. Nigerians have great expectations for credible, free and fair elections in 2011 and the whole world looks upon us to bring this about.
” We will work tirelessly to actualise this aspiration; we shall, by the grace of God, take adequate steps to ensure free and fair, and credible elections in 2011.
Jonathan advises Nnaji
Jonathan, while advising Nnaji said: â€œFor Professor Nnaji who is the technical person to assist me in ensuring that the issue of power is addressed positively, I also sympathise with you as I can remember very clearly when Bola Ige of blessed memory was first appointed as a minister in charge of power he did mention that he was going to squeeze water out of stone. Unfortunately he could not do that until he was redeployed to the Justice Ministry.
â€œSo, many task forces and committees have been set up by government to address the power issue but Nigerians are still living under a condition they are not supposed to be considering the resources we have in this country. We have gas, we have water and we have coal.
There is no reason why on earth why Nigeria as a nation cannot generate the power that we need today. We are all watching you.â€
Jega promises to make INEC independent
Meantime, Jega has promised that he and his team would strive to make the commission truly independent and charge the staff of the commission to expect a reorganization that would put the commission in a good stead for the task ahead.
In a maiden meeting with the directing staff of the commission, yesterday, Jega, who assumed office at the INEC headquarters at 11:45 a.m. said though he and his team were determined to conduct credible, fair and free elections, the commission needed the cooperation of all stakeholders as INEC alone cannot guarantee this.
He said: â€œThe aspiration of all Nigerians and the international community is that INEC should be truly independent and impartial and should bring about credible, free and fair elections in 2011. I want to reassure you and all Nigerians that I have come to this office with this commitment to do my best and to ensure that these aspirations and goals are actualizedâ€.
He pointed out that â€˜we know that we alone can do our best but cannot succeed without the support, assistance and encouragement of all relevant stakeholders in this country.
I want to use this opportunity to call on all Nigerians and stakeholders to cooperate with us in order to guarantee free and fair elections in this country in 2011.