IT was a story of condemnation, chastising, anger, despair, discouragement and depression when Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission first announced the postponement of the National Assembly elections.
The INEC boss was given names. Some Nigerians called for his removal, while not a few saw every reason why he should be given the boot. I almost joined Jega’s critics when I realised that all the funds requested by INEC had been approved.
It is interesting to note that INEC had earlier argued against its N45.29 billion budget, submitted to the National Assembly by the Budget Office. This led to the figure, being increased to N52.18 billion, plus an additional N9 billion, for logistic support for the general elections, as listed under the Service Wide Votes. Therefore, INEC has no excuse not to deliver, I reasoned.
As a further boost, the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman had earlier disclosed that development partners, consisting of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the European Union and the Canadian International Development Agency offered support to INEC.
The Professor of Political Science, during a press briefing, in a statesman-like manner, apologised for the postponement, citing logistic problems, specifically, the late arrival of electoral materials, for the delay.
Nigerians, being what we are – very impatient, quickly called for Jega’s head. He was labelled as incompetent, unscientific, ineffective and not proactive, to lead the electoral umpire.
No doubt, the people’s yearning for change, good governance and a better nation energized their participation in the electoral process as they trooped out in large numbers to exercise their civic duty, despite all odds.
Senior citizens, the physically-challenged and those who have decided to stay aloof, going by the outcome of prevoius elections defied all odds to exercise their civic duty, as good citizens.
Despite pockets of violence and technical hitches as occasioned in some parts of the country, the NASS elections eventually held on April 9 and results came in on time and simultaneously with a great upset to the chagrin of political permutators.
A major casualty of the process, described as the freest and fairest, after the June 12, 1993 presidential election (which was latter annulled by the militar junta), were the big wigs, the heavy weights and the who-is-who in the political terrain.
From the results released by INEC, big names have been humbled by the ultimate power of the people, made possible by the Jega-led electoral body.
It was a rude shock when the likes of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Sabur Bankole; some former governors – Dr. Olusegun Agagu (Ondo), Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Senator Isiaka Adeleke (Osun) and Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu (Abia) were voted out.
To date, the 86 Senate results declared by INEC show that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is leading with 55 seats, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, followed with 13 seats, while the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, is third with seven seats.
The House of Representatives results also have the PDP leading with 49 seats, ACN 23 seats, while the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, placed third with six seats. Elections have been postponed in 15 senatorial districts and 48 federal constituencies and will now be held on April 26.
The conduct of the elections has been commended by all and sundry. Notable local and international observers have given the entire process a pass mark. There are a few lessons we could learn from the April 9 exercise.
Firstly, the people could be responsive if they believe in a system. The Nigerian Project is gradually coming alive as the people have shown by taking their destinies into their hands and bid farewell to political enslavement. On that day, the electorates really took charge by guarding their votes, jealously.
Secondly, things can work with good leadership. Fixing Nigeria entails putting the right people at the right place and at the right time. What we witnessed may not have been possible without a focused, purposeful and dogged public officer like Jega, who, in this case is a square peg in a square hole. We cannot easily forget the ugly past of the tenure of the previous leadership of the electoral body.
Thirdly, our youths could be highly reliable, committed and patriotic, going by the input of the corps members. That rekindles my hope that a bright future lies ahead with these young chaps, for the nation.
And for Professor Jega and his team, they must realise that it is not yet uhuru until the work is over, at least for now, with the inauguration of a democratically-elected government, come May 29.
BY ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.