Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has spoken about his exprience before and after tthe last general elections in the country.
Speaking Live over the weekend on EbonyLife TV’s “Afternoon Tea with Professor Attahiru Mohammed Jega”, the INEC boss addressed the rumours that made the rounds during the period.
First of all, he revealed that he was never threatened or asked to proceed on leave or retire by anybody or authority, before or after the elections. He added that it was just the work of rumour mongers who did not want anything good for the country.
He said: “In our country, anything is possible. Frankly, the rumour mill in our country is incredible; a lot is manufactured, circulated and assumes a life of its own.
“Sincerely, I did not feel that I was under any threat, nobody threatened me and at no time was my security detail withdrawn.
“Even as I was sitting down at the collation centre, I even got text messages that my security men had been withdrawn, and they were there around me. So there were a lot of things that were said that weren’t true.
“The same thing was said that I was asked to go on retirement or proceed on leave. A lot of rumours about me being asked to proceed on leave were not true.
“Nobody or authority asked me to proceed on retirement or go on leave, and I never contemplated going on leave because I knew there was a job to be done.
“So I thought it was inconceivable for anybody to think that the leadership of INEC was contemplating leaving at that time.
“There were a lot of stories then that were untrue but that doesn’t mean we were not careful. Again, knowing the nature of our country, we have to be very careful at any point. Personally, I had to assume the worst and prepared for the worst but we thank God it did not come to that.”
During the interactive session, Jega added: “Nigerians believe in democracy, struggled for it and have been repeatedly frustrated, so it is the responsibility of every Nigerian and the government to see that these hopes and aspirations are realised.
“The challenge now is to keep on doing our best to ensure the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians are realised.
“Nigerians believe in democracy, they have struggled for it and have been repeatedly frustrated, so it is very important that the window of opportunity which now exists for the satisfaction of the aspirations of Nigerians for democracy is best utilised.
“Therefore I want to thank you for this opportunity given to me, and for thinking that we have done well for our country. I believe that we took the job at INEC as a duty to contribute to a reformed process.
“That process, I believe, has just started and there is tremendous hope for moving forward, for improving upon it and for it to impact positively on the governance process in our country. And everybody has a role and a responsibility to play in the process,” he added.
The INEC boss gave an advise to youths present at the interactive session: “I think that part of the challenge is that the people have been disconnected because of the frustrations and challenges of governance in this country, and we have to remain incurably optimistic about the future of our country, and from that optimism, we have to keep on doing our best under any circumstance so that that dream of a better Nigeria can be realised.
“So the young people here cannot afford to be disconnected. As a vice-chancellor, I interacted with a lot of student unions. When you sit with them, they say, ‘We don’t want to hear that we are the leaders of the future, as nobody is giving us the opportunity and thing are being destroyed in the country, among others.’
“To them it’s a basis for disconnection, and nothing is motivating them to do their best. But we have to do our best in any circumstance. We can’t wait for opportunities to be given to us, we have to create opportunities for ourselves, and we can only do that through positive engagement. So I really appreciate this opportunity to say these things,” he said.
When quizzed further on his future endeavours, Jega promised to continue serving his country in any capacity saying: “I will continue to serve this country until I can do it no more. So I am not running away from public service, I can work and contribute anywhere. But the only thing here is that I have done five years in INEC and I need a break.
“I also believe I didn’t do it alone, I achieved that with people and those people are still there, and each one of them can do his or her best if given the opportunity.
“I never thought I could do this job, I was just asked to come and do it. In fact, my friends and family were saying ‘don’t do it because you have some integrity, and you are going to be messed up’, but I told them that what is integrity if it cannot be tested?
“Although I tested it, it was a though test. I firmly believe that we have done our best for our country, and any opportunity to serve our country, we will do so but for now, let somebody else come to INEC and do the job.”