Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Should Attahiru Jega Get A Pat On The Back?

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral National Commission (INEC) lost my trust when he insisted on going ahead to conduct the 2015 elections on February 14, 2015, even when it was very clear to every sincere human being that the commission was not ready for the elections.


Millions of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) ordered by INEC had at that time not even been supplied, let alone distributed to prospective voters. And this meant that about 34% percent of registered voters in Nigeria stood the risk of being disenfranchised. Yet, Jega was out there telling the world that he was ready for the elections, and that he was only being compelled to postpone them by the information transmitted to him by the security chiefs that within the next six weeks, they would be too preoccupied with the fight to finally flush out the Boko Haram fighters from the North-East, and so would not be able to provide adequate security for the polls.

Not even the card readers which have proved to be a major spoiler in the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections were ready for use by February 14. INEC’s lack of preparedness was writ large everywhere yet in his every speech, Jega was assuring Nigerians that he was set for the elections. But as we have all seen now, despite the whole six weeks extension INEC eventually got, the shoddy manner of last Saturday’s polls is a clear demonstration that had the elections held on February 14 as Jega had stubbornly insisted with the active, enthusiastic support of the All Progressive Congress (APC), it would have been a monumental disaster.    

Unfortunately, while informed Nigerians were dumbfounded that Jega was eager and willing to put the credibility of the commission and the 2015 elections at grave risk by his continued strong assurances in the face of glaring unpreparedness for the February polls, the APC was characteristically spitting fire at those who dared to challenge Jega or try to prove to him that he was clearly unprepared. The party continued to urge him to go on with the polls. And one was left wondering what an opposition political party (which should be insisting that all registered voters should be given the opportunity to vote) stood to gain from mass disenfranchisement of people! Sadly, while Jega’s PVC distribution was efficiently carried out in the North, including the areas ravaged by the dreaded insurgency (several areas enjoyed over 90% distribution), many areas in the South were, reportedly, yet to achieve even 40% distribution. That was the Jega wonder!


As I write now on Sunday evening, the results of the polls are yet to be declared, but no matter the eventual outcome, Prof Jega must be willing to admit that he worked very hard to fuel the strong suspicion that free and fair electoral contest was, perhaps, not his ultimate target in the just concluded polls. He may indeed achieve his cherished target (whatever it is) but at the end of the day, he would, like some electoral umpires before him, consign himself to the wrong spot in our history books as a man who was incapable of appreciating the sacred nature of the task placed in his hands and so squandered the opportunity.   

The use of card readers created needless wrangling in the buildup to the elections. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that there were plans to use the largely untested card readers to disenfranchise its supporters. There were fears that the card readers could cause undue delays where they are even working and deny some voters accreditation. When President Jonathan spoke to journalists in Otuoke in Bayelsa State after voting, a reporter asked him if he was aware that the card readers were malfunctioning only in PDP states and all the areas where the president enjoyed overwhelming support. But President Jonathan impressed even his worst haters with his answer to this question. He assured the reporter that he would like to believe that it was a national problem and not restricted to the PDP states or where he has numerous supporters.

The fact that Jega’s card readers could not recognize even the president and his wife after several trials should be a big embarrassment to the INEC chairman, assuming he thinks that it matters. If this could happen to the president whose voting INEC knew would be watched by the global community, one has no reason to disbelieve the more astounding stories emerging from polling units in several areas in the South where this was, reportedly, prevalent. The local and Western media chose to play down on or completely ignore this phenomenal embarrassment to Nigeria due to entirely self-serving reasons which they have been unable to hide since the campaigns kicked off, but at that very moment when this embarrassing drama played out in Otuoke, whatever Jega stood for as a credible INEC chairman was grossly diminished. And that is, if he is able to appreciate that.

*US Secretary of State, Kerry and Gen. Buhari  

It was reported that Jega later softened his hard-line posture and advised that where the card readers were not working, INEC staff should resort to manual accreditation of voters. Now, when was this information given, and what effort was made to ensure that it was disseminated to all polling booths, because while the voting was on, some eligible voters interviewed by television reporters claimed that they were not allowed to vote because the card readers failed to recognize them. Like someone said, it is difficult to imagine what an Olusegun Obasanjo would have done as Nigerian president if card readers in his polling unit had failed to recognize him (forget all his after-power attempt to package himself as a democrat and noble statesman). But that’s a story for another day.

On Sunday evening, Jega was on television playing down the malfunctioning of the card readers, the insufferably late arrival of materials which may have caused many frustrated voters to abandon the exercise and go home. There were reports about the non-availability of the “incidence forms” for people not recognized by Jega’s card readers. Well, he is free to claim success in the face of crushing failure, especially, in a country blessed with a media that is either too lazy or pitiably confused about its supposed role in society to ask probing questions. Jega should, therefore, go home to celebrate his victory against democracy.

In a normal society, card readers should be a welcome development to strengthen our voting process by eliminating sundry manipulations, especially, through multiple voting. But some Nigerians had thought that INEC should have tried it out on very small elections (like some of the governorship elections that are held alone) instead of experimenting with such very sensitive, nationwide elections, especially, one in which it has worked hard to inspire very strong doubts about its impartiality. By going the way he went last Saturday, Jega was only brazenly abusing the free democratic atmosphere created by the current administration which is presently flourishing in the country. Now, could he have dared to tread such an untoward path under an Obasanjo regime, or even under a government headed by his most active supporters in his present assignment, the APC? And with all the money Jega claimed was sufficiently made available to him, why was the election distinguished by gross logistic problems like, insufficient materials, poor or even non-existent transport arrangements for staff and movement of materials and glaring evidence of inadequate or no training for the ad hoc staff? And what was the measure put in place by Jega to check voting by underage citizens which was, reportedly, widespread in the North? What has been his reaction since the embarrassing pictures of these "babies" casting their votes at various polling units began to circulate on the internet?

On a final note: there were people who were scared by the fear-mongering and threats of violence that flourished in some parts of the country and had to flee to their villages. Why was it difficult for INEC which took the pains and deployed special efforts to ensure that Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) duly voted at their camps to also make arrangements for these people to vote anywhere they were in the country? Should they be blamed for temporarily relocating to save their lives when in times past some super-patriotic and nationalistic-minded people who had chosen to stay back in their stations were brutally killed or maimed and their belongings destroyed after elections like last Saturday’s, just because they were from a particular part of the country, not minding that that may have even voted for the person on whose behalf the killers had poured into the streets to wreak havoc?

In future elections, INEC should acquire the appropriate technology with every person’s data stored in it, and accessible everywhere in the country, so that whoever for whatever reason was not able to be at the location where he had registered for the election should still be able to vote, and their votes added for the polling unit where they had registered.  This may eventually commence the process of making it possible for Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in elections as they have desired for many years now.   

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a columnist with Daily Independent. His column appears every Tuesday on the back page. (

Nobody’s Ambition Is Worth The Blood Of Any Nigerian - President Jonathan

Fellow Nigerians,
I thank you all for turning out en-masse for the March 28 General Elections.

I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure.

Although some people have expressed mixed feelings about the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I urge those who may feel aggrieved to follow due process based on our constitution and our electoral laws, in seeking redress.
As I have always affirmed, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.

I congratulate all Nigerians for successfully going through the process of the March 28th General Elections with the commendable enthusiasm and commitment that was demonstrated nationwide.

I also commend the Security Services for their role in ensuring that the elections were mostly peaceful and violence-free.

To my colleagues in the PDP, I thank you for your support. Today, the PDP should be celebrating rather than mourning. We have established a legacy of democratic freedom, transparency, economic growth and free and fair elections.

For the past 16 years, we have steered the country away from ethnic and regional politics. We created a Pan-Nigerian political party and brought home to our people the realities of economic development and social transformation.

Through patriotism and diligence, we have built the biggest and most patriotic party in Nigerian history. We must stand together as a party and look to the future with renewed optimism.

I thank all Nigerians once again for the great opportunity I was given to lead this country and assure you that I will continue to do my best at the helm of national affairs until the end of my tenure.

I have conveyed my personal best wishes to General Muhammadu Buhari.

May God Almighty continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I thank you all.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
Federal Republic of Nigeria
March 31, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

That Nigeria May Survive The 2015 Presidential Elections

By Nnaemeka Oruh                                          
 A few days from now, we shall be headed to the polls for the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections. Then two weeks later, the governorship and state assembly elections will hold. This year's presidential election will arguably be the most fiercely contested and the closest presidential elections since the history of Nigeria’s democracy. The All Progressives Congress (APC) – the major opposition party in Nigeria, has over the past one year grown to be a robust and influential party which stands within touching distance of taking over from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). Few will argue that this development has engendered a sense of insecurity amongst the ruling party and has ultimately become very healthy for our democracy.  Yet, as we go to the polls, it is important that we be careful and desist from certain acts that may truncate this well-worked out democracy.

*President Jonathan and Gen Buhari

One of the most important things we need to watch out for is the circulation of false information. In this era of social media, several false information have been in circulation either to gain cheap popularity, or simply to cause mischief and advance some sinister objectives. With the nauseating desire to 'feel among', many for the sake of attracting retweets by twitter celebrities have gone as far as cooking up fake stories that they know will pander to the desires of the twitter celebrities and proceeded to tweet such false news to them in order to gain acceptance and appear relevant.

Nigeria: Elections In The Season Of Fear

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
On Saturday (March 28, 2015), Nigerians will once again troop to the polls to choose who among the several contestants vigorously campaigning and scheming out there (mostly for self-serving reasons) would be their president and members of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next four years. In several other countries, including even some of our smaller and leanly-endowed neighbours here, election periods usually provide the populace with pleasant opportunities to savour the excitement of democracy.

People go to the polls with beaming faces exchanging pleasantries and banters while waiting to cast their votes. They are not gripped by any benumbing fear that some daredevil thugs might swoop on the voting centres to shoot into the air, snatch away ballot boxes, and, possibly, wound or even kill some people in the process. Even the contestants would just come to the voting centres with little or no security, and without any fanfare unobtrusively cast their votes like every other person.  And as they return to their homes, they are not looking over their shoulders to see if some killers hired by their opponents are trailing them to eliminate them.

The voters, too, would go home and enjoy another night of refreshing and peaceful sleep with their two eyes closed. The atmosphere is completely devoid of fear because they are not expecting that some hooligans would soon start disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood and looking for whom to kill or maim once emerging results begin to show that their paymaster is losing.

The expectation of Nigerians of decent will this time around is that we would be able to prove with this Saturday’s elections that our case cannot just remain egregiously different in the comity of nations, that we would not always be counted among the world’s perennially sick babies who are always distinguished by their inability to get even very simple things right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bird Flu: All Eyes On Nigeria?

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently (January 2015), Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina,   confirmed the outbreak of bird flu in eleven states of the federation. The states affected are Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Plateau, Gombe, Imo, Oyo and Jigawa states.

Not many Nigerians even heard of the outbreak which could really be very disastrous if not properly managed. This was because the Federal Government not only immediately identified and depopulated the 39 farms affected by the flu in the eleven states, it also approved N145 million for the owners of the farms as compensation for the loss they suffered as a result of the depopulation exercise. As we know, depopulation is one of the most effective measures usually taken to control the spread of the avian flu. Each of the affected farms got N1.4 million which was disbursed within 72 hours of the killing of the infected and exposed birds.  We must also commend the owners of those farms for cooperating with the government to arrest the looming epidemic.

When it was reported that Nigeria had recorded “the first” human casualty from bird flu in 2007, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson, Gregory Hartl, said cases of humans contracting the H5N1 virus (which causes the bird flu) in Nigeria should come to no one as a surprise, considering the experience in a country like Indonesia, which, like Nigeria, has huge concentrations of poultry where human beings live.

“It does not change anything from a public health point of view. It had to happen sooner or later,” Hartl said.

The New Zealand Herald of February 1, 2007, quotes unnamed “experts” as identifying Nigeria as one of the countries that constitute the “weakest links in the global attempt to stem infections of birds.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Politicians As Nigeria’s Biggest Headache

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Now, let’s face it. Despite all the empty (and, often, very exasperating) noise about being driven by patriotism and “desire to serve my people” that usually saturates the atmosphere at each election season, a careful, conscientious search on the political terrain can only yield about less than one percent (and one is being really generous here) of aspirants motivated solely by genuine desire to improve the lives of the citizenry and make society a better place.

            Buhari, President Jonathan and the Chairman
            of PDP and APC

For the majority, the sole incentive is the golden opportunity politics offers to gain access to government coffers and cart away as much free money as one could grab before one’s tenure elapses. This is just the raw, plain truth. Indeed, it is a simple case of organized banditry and every politician in Nigeria knows that we know this.

There is, however, a very insignificant few who, although also inspired by the same primitive craving for the very unfairly lucrative political jobs, are content to just go home every month with only their usually jumbo salaries and allowances. Although, they do not find the very outrageously inflated pay packets they have allocated to themselves in the midst of widespread poverty very obscene, they are, however, able to recoil from the mad, free and fair looting that has become the distinguishing feature of political office in Nigeria. The brazenness with which the looting is perpetrated and the most revolting manner its prodigious proceeds are often flaunted before everyone underline the unmistakable impression that shameless stealing has received an official endorsement as part and parcel of governance, a kind of official culture.

What makes the matter even more egregious is that these callous looters are always able to use some tiny crumbs or the usually very reliable intoxicants, namely, ethnicity and religion, to get the same shortchanged and impoverished citizenry to rise in their defense each time there are attempts to pry into their hideous activities in office. It is only in Nigeria that this kind of thing makes sense – that someone among the populace would want to fight and even die for an unrepentant enemy of the people who has so wickedly exploited, dehumanized and grossly diminished him!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Illiberality In An Age Of Conspiracy

By Dan Amor

For those who have a profound appreciation of power and its most penetrating insight as well, the fact of the matter, as the Italians once succinctly put it, is that power cannot be wrested no matter the paradigm one uses without certain attributes by the group or individual that jockeys after it. Popularized as the Three Cs in political parlance, any group that earnestly seeks power must be cohesive. It must be coherent. And it must be conspiratorial. 

*President Jonathan 

In an attempt to wrest power from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, even before the Senate's Doctrine of Necessity following the untimely death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, some hawks have tried to employ certain machinations including coercion and brigandage to humiliate him from the pinnacle of power.

Few Nigerians have been so persistently, so perversely and so pertinaciously maligned in the folklore of our political evolution. Even before Yar'Adua was officially pronounced dead, there was  cataclysm in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) arising from the sharp division between defenders of entrenched interests who insisted that the North must retain power and those who insisted that the sanctity of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must supervene.  That is where Jonathan's problem started. With the intervention of the Senate, he assumed the Presidency in acting capacity and later as substantive President. In 2011, northern politicians insisted that Jonathan should not run, which is grossly unconstitutional. Again, the Constitution gained upper hand, and Jonathan, in what was considered a free-and-fair election by local and international observers, won a pan-Nigerian mandate as the country's fourth democratically elected President.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

National Seminar On Chinua Achebe At Indian Women's College

National Seminar on legendary African author, Chinua Achebe, held at the JSS College for women

"India needs to know more about the significant writer of Africa, Chinua Achebe and his influence toward the people in Africa through his straight forward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory which made him a man of people as well his writings reflected the  voice of people", said M L Jadhav, Chairman, Department of English, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, Maharashtra.

Speakers at the seminar 

He was speaking at UGC a sponsored national seminar on ‘Foregrounding Chinua Achebe: Indian Response’ organised by the Department of English in association with The Postgraduate Department of English of University of Mysore at JSS College for Women.

With thorough knowledge of the colonisation of Africa, the writer exposed the ground truth of the people who were repeatedly sabotaged by the European colonialists, especially British empires. He criticised the massacre of Africans by the colonialists. He x-rayed the pain of the black people of Africa across the world. His major writings were on the contest of traditional values in the absence of nativity which attracted people of the country, the professor explained.

Cross section of participants 

H B Suresh, HoD, Department of English, JSS College for Women, K M Chandar, Department of English, University of Mysore, Mruthyunjaya P Kulenur, Additional Director, College Education Division, JSS Mahavidyapeetha, N Nagaraja, Principal, JSS College for Women, H C Honnappa, Dean Academic, JSS College for Women were present. About 800 students attended in the seminar.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where is Muhammadu Buhari?

By Chuks Iloegbunam 
Yes, indeed. That is the question. Where is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? The man left Nigeria in mysterious circumstances sometime between February 15 and 19, 2015. His manner of disappearing raised eyebrows across the country, for he suddenly melted into ether. To divert the attention of the curious, his handlers posted numerous false pictures on the Internet and planted same in national newspapers. There, suddenly, was Muhammadu Buhari, confidently emerging from airport formalities at either Heathrow or Gatwick! There, suddenly, was a relaxed Buhari in some well-appointed London studio, granting a press interview. 

*Muhammadu Buhari 

It didn’t take a century for the pack of lies to crumble. It turned out the pictures released of Buhari by his handlers were of the man on a UK visit during 2013. It turned out that the Buhari interview was years old, and had been conducted not anywhere in Europe but inside an Abuja Transcorp Hilton suite. Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose personally visited the suite and demonstrated beyond every iota of doubt that it was the venue of the so-called interview the APC claimed its presidential candidate had granted in London. Eagle-eyed journalists supported Fayose’s findings by detailing features of the interview picture that pinned its origin to the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

Robert Mugabe: Double Celebration At 91?

Last Saturday (February 21, 2015), President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the oldest head of state on planet earth, turned 91. He has ruled Zimbabwe for 35 years – since 1980 when the country gained independence from Britain.

Supported by wife, Grace, and children, Mugabe 
cuts his 91st Birthday Cake on 28 February 2015
 at Elephant Hills, Victoria Falls

For many years now, Mugabe’s birthday bash has become a big, lavish event in Zimbabwe – a country where majority of its 14 million people live below the poverty level. This year’s celebrations which will be held a week later on February 28 will, according to reports take place at a “championship golf course at Elephant Hills, a plush hotel resort with spa, pool and tennis courts near the Victoria Falls.”  

The ceremony is estimated to cost about US$1million (one million dollars) and part of the money is being sourced from the citizens. There were even reports that some impoverished villagers are also being compelled to “freely donate” money so that Mugabe could have his big party. Zimbabwe’s Daily News quotes the head of the Progressive Teachers’ Union, Mr. Raymond Majongwe, as saying that teachers all over the country are being forced to part with between one to ten dollars (depending on the status of the school where one is teaching) to fund the very expensive feast. This has however, been denied by Tongai Kasukuwere, the Finance Secretary of the ruling Zanu-PF’s Youth League who urged anyone “being forced to donate to the gala [to] report to the police.”

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has, however, dismissed Mugabe’s party as an “obscene jamboree.”

Is Robert Mugabe’s Fall Symbolic?

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  

Not a few across the world are convinced that it has become completely impossible to feel any sympathy for President Robert Mugabe no matter what happens to him. Mugabe’s 35-year old rule which has rewarded Zimbabweans with untold hardship has continued to defy any attempt at rationalization.

Robert Mugabe tripped and fell at Harare Airport 

But when he tripped on a red carpeted staircase last Wednesday (February 4, 2015) and came crashing down to the ground as he descended a podium at the Harare International Airport after addressing a very enthusiastic crowd of Zimbabweans, I could not help nursing some discomfort over the prompt, massive celebrations that greeted the accident across the world. I almost found myself agreeing with the Zimbabwean Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, that the global bacchanal over Mugabe’s tumble amounted to “morbid celebrations.”  

Mugabe must have been in a very pleasant mood that Wednesday. He had just returned from the 24th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa where, despite stiff oppositions from Civil Society organisations, he was crowned the new Chairman of the 54-nation body, a position that would now afford him a more elevated platform to periodically deliver well-aimed sound bites to the West, his mortal enemies.

Also, as his plane touched down in Harare and he saw such a large crowd of supporters waiting to receive him, he must have reassured himself that his western antagonists would once more get the message he has been trying hard to send across to them, namely, that he is still in power because Zimbabweans want him. 

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