By SaharaReporters, New York
Powerful Nigerians close to President Jonathan are pushing for the removal of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega. They are using last Saturday’s botched parliamentary elections as a convenient peg, and are mobilizing members of the National Assembly to return to Abuja to carry out a speedy trial and removal of Jega from office.
The plot, which has identified the National Security Adviser (NSA), Owoeye Azazi, Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, Chief Anthony Anenih and former president Olusegun Obasanjo, centres on the “disloyalty of Prof. Jega to President Jonathan”.
Presidency sources told SaharaReporters on Monday that at a stormy “Security Council” meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, which was presided over by Jonathan, the NSA and the IGP vociferously railed against Jega’s bungling of the Saturday election.
Jega’s “weakness,” according to several sources familiar with the discussions, is his alleged link with opposition candidates and civil society advocates. It is seen as reflecting his personal and strong desire to remove Goodluck Jonathan from office.
One source said Prof. Jega was summoned severally to the villa to discuss a suitable “election” strategy with which the President would be comfortable, but that each time Jega met presidency officials, he told them that he could not participate in the rigging of the election because the people of Kano, from where he hails, will wipe out his family.
But Jega’s actual undoing has been his laziness, sources told SaharaReporters, stressing that since assuming office as INEC chairman, he has done nothing to dismantle the structures put in place by his predecessor, the disgraced Maurice Iwu.
An INEC source told SaharaReporters that the like of Philip Umeadi, Jnr. and Okey Ndeche, the INEC Operations Director and commissioner in charge of legal matters, have waxed stronger since Jega’s arrival. Mr. Ndeche, for instance, was made the INEC official in charge of “anti-corruption” even though his name featured prominently in the bribery case in the Ekiti election re-run saga which was investigated by the police.
The Iwu cabal within INEC is said to have been running circles around a complacent Jega, a factor which is said to have led to his problems in the running of the Commission. Since coming to office, Jega has presided over a turbulent election in Ondo south and then gone on to the unconvincing performance in the Delta State gubernatorial re-run that was ordered by a court.
The recently concluded registration of voters also put a huge question mark on Jega’s competence. Not only was the register not properly processed, huge numbers hitherto unknown to the public later popped up in it. While he admitted that he had come upon many influential Nigerians that had multiple registrations, he has failed to identify them publicly or prosecute them, thereby granting them protection in effect.
Jega’s incompetence and lackadaisical attitude has become his Achilles heel, but even his worst critics say he is not the rapacious bribe-grabbing personality that Iwu once represented. Jega, a source told SaharaReporters, might be lazy or even naïve, but he is not accumulating wealth. As it stands, Jega’s “don’t-bribe-me-policy” may not matter anymore; hawks within the Jonathan regime want his head and are scrambling to take advantage of the fact that his desire to hold a free and fair election will humiliate the president’s chances of winning on the first ballot.
They had hoped that Jonathan would accept Jega’s resignation at the emergency Security Council meeting, but Jonathan told the chairman not to resign, a smart move because if Jega’s voluntary resignation were accepted, no one would have believed that he wasn’t forced out, and the restless North, which has become Jonathan’s greatest albatross, would refuse to accept.
Azazi, according to our sources, is particularly refusing to relent, and is churning out security reports that portray Jega as a CPC loyalist. One of those reports seen by SaharaReporters contains ridiculous insinuations that Mr. Jega’s blood brother, Mahmud Jega, the editor of the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper, is part of the “conspiracy” to unseat Jonathan.