Many people have been calling for the head of INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, especially PDP members. There have been protest by PDP loyalist group calling for his resignation. Even a PDP sitting governor in Ekiti state, the controversial Governor Fayose, has also suggested same. Following these strong calls to remove the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), before the polls over his alleged bias towards the opposition party, the Catholic Church has moved against President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Rev Fr Raymond Anoliefo, the executive director of the Church’ s Justice, Development and Peace Centre (JDPC), at a press conference in Lagos on Tuesday advocated for the total independence of the INEC.
Speaking on the theme: ‘State of the Nation: Political Logjam Trails Nigeria’s ‘First’ Election in the Fourth Republic,’ Fr Anoliefo demanded that the electoral umpire be separated from the canopy of serving politicians by fully implementing the recommendations of the Justice Muhammed Uwais Commission, which recommended among other things that INEC chairman should be appointed by the judiciary instead by the president.
Anoliefo, who condemned the call by members of the PDP and its supporters to remove Prof Jega for asserting the independence of the commission, said the sack of an INEC boss was neither new nor strange, as “there had never been one since 1960 who was not handed a quit notice by politicians and their followers.”
He said the strange thing about the call for Jega’s sack is the fact that it comes from the ruling party, noting that the call from the employers of the INEC boss was the first of its kind in the nation’s political history.
The JDPC director said it was curious that, unlike in Ghana, Sierra Leone and South Africa, in Nigeria an electoral chief must be an obedient, pliant public servant, who must bend the rules to favour his employers or paymasters.
“How odd it will be that a referee is changed at the middle of a match for reasons that are speculative and largely unfounded. Where were these people when Prof Maurice Iwu was acting as an employee in the presidency? How did the President get the conviction that he can sack Jega handily if he feels that he is not doing well? Did his handlers let him into the constitutional provisions, especially Section 155, 157 (1a) and 158, which clearly spell out the involvement of the Senate in both the recruitment and termination of the INEC chair? Did somebody think that it is easy to dispense with Jega the same way that the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was thrown into the garbage just because he raised concern about the mismanagement of the country’s common patrimony?” he asked.
Anoliefo, who called for the establishment of ‘special courts’ that will be responsible for handling corruption-related cases, said such courts must be independent of any government infringements and super-impositions . The JDPC director said the general elections were not postponed because of security reasons or any other reasons given by the national security adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
“The postponement was one of the fallouts of the 2014 primaries, which caught some of the parties unawares and that it was done to buy time to engage in some sort of damage control,” he said.
According to him, the results of the general polls will be shocking because gone are the days when an octopus party records a landslide victory and gets 90% of the votes and positions, leaving just 10% for other parties to share.
“Whenever the elections hold, the country may likely witness another strange scene that it is not used to at the centre and in the states. Only a few elected executives may garner more than 55 per cent of the votes; meaning that the usual era of landslide victory when an octopus party won 90 per cent of the votes and the seats, leaving the others to share a miserable 10 per cent is over. Again, at both levels, different parties may control different arms of government (the legislature and the executive). These are strange scenarios, which need astute managerial skills, failing which there will be many post-election pressures on the executive to ‘settle’ or be impeached,” he said.
The position of the INEC chairman allegedly has been under a lot of pressure lately, although Jega has insisted that all is well and no one is putting him under pressure.
Any pressure, however, might be connected with his insistence of using the newly acquired card readers for the forthcoming elections, and his alleged close relationship with leaders of the country’s major opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). The APC has expressed strong opposition to his removal from office before the polls.
The PDP for its part thinks the use of card readers for the forthcoming elections will be ineffective in some parts of the country, especially rural areas, due to the intermittent power supplies. However, some Nigerians feel the PDP’s opposition to card readers is part of plot to rig the elections.