2011: Jega should watch his back – Prof Oyebode

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    2011: Jega should watch his back – Prof Oyebode
    Oct 31, 2010

    By Hugo Odiogor

    Prof. Akin Oyebode, a lecturer of International Law and Jurisprudence at the University of Lagos, is a renowned academic and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ado-Ekiti. He was the legal adviser to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) between 1991 to 1992 when Professor Attahiru Jega, presently Chairman of the Independent National Commission (INEC), led the union.
    In this interview with Vanguard’s Hugo Odiogor, Oyebode spoke on the character of the INEC chairman, the enormity of the challenges facing him and the infantile state of the Nigerian nation after 50 years of self rule. Excerpts:

    A lot of Nigerians have invested hope and confidence on Professor Attahiru Jega led INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election for Nigeria. As someone who knows and has worked closely with Jega are these expectations not way off the mark?

    Well, I can only go by people’s antecedents. Yes I worked closely with Jega in 1990 and 1991 when he was the then president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), I was the legal adviser of the negotiation team. I know that he exuded confidence, he was a Senior Lecturer then and we were Professors but he was leading the team, he was in charge. I know that he is somebody who refused to be compromised to the extent that he rejected the hotel accommodation offered by government at Eko Hotel.

    Prof. Oyebode

    Instead, he preferred to sleep on a mattress in one of the rooms on this campus. He did not want to give the impression that he has been suborned by the powers that were. I know that he had become a Vice Chancellor and had been a functionary of a sort for Obasanjo (Consultant to Iwu’s INEC). So a lot of water has passed under the bridge, but despite that, I think he has a lot of personal integrity.

    But INEC is not a one man band you must look at the Commissioners working with him, somebody like Madam Ayoka of Idi-Osi notoriety. So you have some Commissioners that worked with Professor Maurice Iwu that have been retained, these are people who have nothing to recommend them for that job, so Jega has to watch his back, like I have said once, he has been given a poisoned chalice. Looking at the historical nature of the job it is a daunting task that confronts him.

    As I said, will is not enough, if you look at the environment around him (the bureaucracy), but knowing Jega, rather than being done-in, he will quit, he has a lot of promise, I believe that President Jonathan has a point to prove to the West not necessarily to you and me, I think he wants to show the Western world that we can do it. That if the Afghans in the middle of a civil war, the Iraqis with bullets flying, not to talk of the Palestinians with occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Liberians, the Sierra Leoneans could do it. What is the claim of Nigeria to be the giant of Africa if we cannot organise an authentic voter register which will not have the names of Mandela, Michael Jackson, Clinton or Tyson or whoever? So something went wrong in the last elections without serialised ballot paper on the basis of which the then Hon.Justice Oguntade nullified the election rightly in my view because when you have ballot papers that are not serialised then it is a perfect recipe for rigging and then thumb printing and all these things that made the charades of elections we had in 1999, 2003, and of course the worst election in Christendom in 2007.

    Nigeria does not have a good reputation in doing things right so that is why I believe that somebody like Jega would want to put a stop to Afro pessimism by saying that this country can get it. We have put a lot of hope and wish in just one name and we pray that he will not betray the trust. If you look at the country generally you will notice that the country is pregnant with change, the masses are yearning for a better life.

    When Goodluck Jonathan emerged President with the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010 there were a lot of hopes that for once we have a leader who had the educational prerequisite. How would you assess his regime so far?

    With due respect to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan he is an accident of history. Joseph De Milster used to say that people get the government that they deserve and the question you have to ask is whether Dr. Jonathan is the leader that Nigerians deserve. The last 6 months have been more of the same and when he made his declaration he told Nigerians that he has nothing to offer. He committed a faus pax, it was like a statement attributed to him at his debut at the UN when he said that he came with an empty mind when he meant to say that he came with an open mind.

    I think that Nigeria now is looking for people who will bring a radical turn around in our affairs, a transformational leader in the modes of Nuhu Ribadu, Raji Fashola, Pat Utomi, Adams Oshiomhole and perhaps Abubakar Umar, people whose track record can give us conscience to cheer and confidence to carry Nigeria along the correct political path. I am not sure whether the antecedents of Dr. Goodluck are as such as to give me that hope.

    And without prejudice, he looks to me like a reasonably pleasant guy, he looks self effacing, he looks a little but too humble. We want a bolder person who can put his hands on the plough and someone who has an idea of where he wants to take Nigeria to, what are his game plans? He must convince people like me that he has an idea of what he wants Nigeria to be. We need a work plan. There should be an immediate plan, a short term plan, medium term and a long term plan. He looks to me like he is politically vacuous and that constitutes part of the problem.

    http://www.vanguardngr.com/2010/10/2011 ... f-oyebode/

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