While presenting his Report on the outcome of the conference titled NIGERIA ELECTORAL REFORM: BUILDING CONFIDENCE FOR OUR FUTURE held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on March 17-19, 2005, Prof. Attahiru Jega remarked that “elections are among the most important pillars of democracy and that free and fair elections are essential requirements of sustainability and consolidation of democracy”. According to him also, the participants at the conference expressed concerns that Nigeria has had a long history of electoral fraud and competitive rigging, which have contributed significantly to the obstruction of our aspirations for democracy. They expressed concern that although these persistent problems are well documented in many studies and reports, not much has been concretely done to address them.

For a man of Prof. Attahiru Jega who obviously is well acquainted with the ills and lapses in INEC and also known for his fiery and radical temperament being appointed to head INEC; it is expected that our electoral system may likely witness some turning point. As soon as his appointment is ratified by the National Assembly, the first challenge before him as he resumes work is to review all the complaints and persistent lapses bedeviling the national electoral body and roll out competent strategies to surmount them.

Prof. Jega can better be described as a patriotic Nigerian considering his contributions to the struggle for good governance and democracy as President of ASUU in the years Gen. Ibrahim Babangida when he led lecturers on a protracted battle against Babangida‘s administration. It’s no doubt that Nigeria at this critical period of her history needs people like him to nurture our fledgling democratic project. Apart from being a professor of Political Science, Attahiru Jega was also a member of the Electoral Reform Panel headed by Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais which was set up by the late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua on August 22, 2007. Other Members of the panel are:
• Mr. Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais - Chairman• Rtd. Justice Godwin U. Ononiba - Member• Alhaji Ahmadu Kurfi - Member• Alhaji Musiliu Smith - Member• Mr. Olisa Agbakoba - Member• Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi - Member• Sheikh Ahmed Lemu - Member• Prof. Grace Alele Williams - Member• Chief (Mrs.) Toyin Olakunri - Member• Mr. Jibril Ibrahim - Member• Prof. Okon Uya - Member• Prof. Gambo Balaraba Abdullahi - Member• Mr. Ndanusa Alao - Member• Comrade John E. Odah - Member• Hajiya Dije Bala - Member• General Oladapo Popoola - Member• Barrister Festus Okoye - Member• Alhaji Aliyu Umar - Member• Mr. Abdurahim Ujo - Member• Barrister Stephen Dike - Member
According to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, “We believe the President demonstrated courage and statesmanship in appointing someone who is not known to have any partisan political affiliation and a Nigerian that has distinguished himself in his present and past callings.
You may recall that President Goodluck Jonathan, had during his visit to France on May 30, told Nigerian in France that he had forwarded the name of an eminent Nigerian that would replace Iwu to the council of states for advice. As Mr. President puts it; “… from all the information and evidence I have, I have been made to understand that he is going to deliver credible elections for Nigeria and I am going to give him the chance”.

For President Goodluck Jonathan, as he told the world in his last visit to the United States in April, his expectation is that every vote would count in 2011 elections and that is also the expectation of every Nigerian from Prof. Jega. Although his appointment might not go down well with every Nigerian but this is not the time for trading blames and generating logical arguments giving the fact that 2011 is just a few months away. While there is so much task and challenges ahead for the new INEC boss; the political parties has the bulk because it is the candidates that they present to INEC that are eligible to contest the elections. It is the political parties that are constantly and persistently seeking ways and avenues to rig elections and make the job difficult for INEC.

Elue Godwin