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Attahiru Jega, the new INEC Chairman (Profile)

By  Funmi Komolafe,  Asst.  Editor

Professor Attahiru Jega (OFR) is Professor of Political Science and Vice Chancellor at the Bayero University, Kano, BUK. He became the Vice Chancellor of the university in 2005. His tenure as Vice Chancellor is supposed to end in October this year.

Jega was born in 1957, attended Jega Primary School, and proceeded to Government Secondary School, Birnin Kebbi. He attended Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria and graduated in 1979.

He had his post graduate studies at Mid-Western University, Everstone, USA and bagged MA and PhD. He joined the Political Science Department in BUK in 1985.

Professor Attahiru Jega (OFR) is Professor of Political Science and Vice Chancellor at the Bayero University, Kano, BUK.

As BUK’s helmsman, Jega, now on the other side of the divide, found himself in contention with his colleagues over similar issues over which he and other ASUU executives had confronted the Federal Government when he was ASSU president. But with the experience he had gathered as a former union leader, Jega skillfully doused the tension and peace reigned at the university. Jega has also been linked with fundamental changes that have occurred so far at BUK, although, critics still accused of him of being slow in taking decisions on some major issues

Jega is an ideologically focused intellectual. He leans towards the left ideologically. To the liberal, he is a radical. He is one of the few “unrepentant optimist” that fought and believed that Nigeria will one day be freed from the shackles of the military; and that democracy will not only prevail but will become a way of life

A calm but resolute negotiator, Jega’s team  recommended the idea that all companies operating in the country should pay a form of education tax. The idea was bought by the Federal Government, eventually leading to the establishment of the Education Tax Fund, ETF, via a Decree in 1993.

Jega was also a member of the Justice Uwais’ Electoral Reform Committee that produced a widely hailed report, which the government is yet to fully implement.

He was president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities during the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. Incidentally, the immediate past chairman of Independent National Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, was Internal Auditor and later Vice President of the executive of  ASUU under the leadership of Professor Jega. Also in the executive was Professor Idowu  Awopetu of the University of Ife who served as  Treasurer.

Jega and his executive worked in close contact with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress. He made several trips to Lagos to address the press on issues which the union felt strongly about.

He was the guest lecturer for the NLC May Day 2010 celebration where he presented a paper titled, 50 Years of Nationhood: Challenges of Good Democratic Governance, Credible Election and the Working Class, held at Labour House, Abuja on 29 April.

Though a Vice-Chancellor, Jega never disconnected with mass organisations. He was at the National Executive Council of the NLC held in Kano, December 2008 where the NLC first made public its demand for a national minimum wage of N52,2000.

Jega can be described as a humble Nigerian. At the NLC,  NEC meeting he waited patiently for the organisers to arrive and  stood to exchange pleasantries with his comrades including journalists he had known over the years.

In 1997, he delivered the annual Kolagbodi Memorial lecture facilitated by Friedrich Ebert Stifftung. The lecture was titled, Leadership Factor in the Trade Union Movement in Nigeria and World Historical Experiences.

During the last ASUU strike, Jega refused to make any comment against the strike.

His tenure at BUK brought peace to the campus. It was free of labour crises.

The General Secretary of the  NLC, Comrade John Odah, who initially insisted on official comments  said, “he is on top of the issues. His pedigree in public service is such that he will not allow anybody to mess up that record. He was a member of the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee. If anything, he is on top of the issues.”

Jega and Odah were members of the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.

In his reaction, Professor Awopetu, said, “If the system allows him to work, he has the capacity, honesty and patriotism that is required to run honest elections in this country. If the powers that be allow him.”

Also speaking, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, Executive Secretary, Kolagbodi Foundation, described Jega as a good choice saying, “Jega is a straightforward person.  One only hopes that he can keep that consistency of straightforwardness and some level of principles that endeared him as a frontline member of the left movement in Nigeria.

We do hope that he will not go the way of some other left members who have turned themselves into state actors and begin to renounce  the very principles they stand for.”

In a pre-May Day Lecture, he delivered at Labour House, Abuja, 29 April 2010, Jega spoke extensively on electoral reforms. According to him, “no doubt, the popular aspirations for credible, free, fair and popularly acceptable elections, which are a fundamental requirement for sustainable democratic development, would remain elusive unless and until we pay serious attention to electoral reforms.

The reforms must bring about a credible and transparent electoral process with equally credible people to supervise these.

“Now more than ever before is the time to begin to get things right, and to stop repeating terrible mistakes of the past. And to get things right, we must deploy the right methods and the right people to use them.

“Luckily, never before in Nigeria’s history has elite consensus evolved on any political issue as it has done with regards to electoral reforms. The Uwais Report has now been generally accepted as a good framework for viable and sustainable electoral reforms, if only the members of the National Assembly and the executive would gather sufficient political will to bring forth requisite legislations.

“Unfortunately, this has not been addressed with the speed required of our unfortunate circumstances. In particular, the National Assembly seems to have subsumed electoral reforms into more generalised constitutional review. Our legislators should be urged to separate electoral reforms (even with its required constitutional amendments) from generalised constitutional review.

“Once we conflate such issues as creation of states and revenue-sharing with electoral reforms, formidable obstacles would arise and cause unimaginable delays, which would affect our readiness for elections in 2011.”


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