Prof. Atahiru Jega, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has a lot of fears about the 2023 elections but expressed optimism that Nigeria will conduct a credible election in spite of the current challenges.
Jega expressed his opinions on Wednesday at a Colloquim in honor of Prof.Adele Jinadu, a Senior fellow of the Center of Democracy Development (CDD), to mark his 79th birthday celebration.
The former INEC chairman noted that in spite of increasing attacks on the facilities of INEC and violence recorded at political campaigns, he was optimistic about a credible election.
“I have a lot of fears about the outcome of the election, but I am an incurable optimist about the future of our country.
“So I remain hopeful that in spite of the recklessness that we see, in spite of the vandalism that we see perpetrated by many of our so-called leading politicians.
“We are hopeful that people will mobilize and become effectively engaged in the electoral process so that we have a good outcome in 2023.
“We can’t give up hope. We still have to engage because the more we engage, the more the possibility of change happening,” he stated.
Jega described Jinadu as a beacon of hope for the next generation passionate about the need to reform Nigeria’s electoral process.
He said there was a need for the academia to participate actively in politics for the progress and development of the country.
“Nigeria is at a very critical junction when the promises of democratic development are being systemically undermined and eroded.
“The nation is in need of good and knowledgeable people who believe in humanity to address the fundamental need of the people like Jinadu.
“Jinadu did not bury his head in the university system but is also very active in sharing knowledge and experience in order to reform our politics to clean up our electoral system, and to ensure that we have good governance in this country,” he said.
Former INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, on his part, said the 2023 election would be very important in defining the future of the country.
Ibeanu expressed optimism that the current happenings in the political space, especially the attacks on INEC facilities would not affect the conduct of the poll.
“The 79th birthday of Jinadu is a good time to reflect on our electoral democracy, specifically his personal contribution to the development of that democracy generally and particularly as a teacher and as an activist.
“I am not a prophet because I can’t see into the future but I hope what is happening now does not affect the poll.
“I think the important thing is that INEC seems to be quite ready, what is important is for Nigerians to realize the importance of this.
“But ultimately, I think the most important thing is for citizens to realize that this is a critical time in history and that the elections of 2023 will be very important in defining the future of the country,” Ibeanu noted.
The celebrant, Jinadu, on his part, said there was a need to take bold action to unlock the heavy fetters placed on democracy and development by the political class, the country’s party system, and the frightening loss of direction in pro-democracy civil organizations.
“There are worrisome signs, particularly within the civil society, of a growing vicious attempt to discredit the leadership of INEC in a manner to bring about the reversal of advances towards the routinization of electoral democracy in the country, made under Atrahiru Jega and now under Mahmood Yakubu,” Jinadu said.
He said that pro-democracy stakeholders in the state and civil society should devote more energy to resist ongoing attempts by anti-democracy forces working to derail INEC by launching an attack on it.
He said that it should be realized that INEC is not the enemy of democracy but those who are afraid of INEC’s daring attempt to routinize electoral integrity as the core of Nigeria’s electoral process and electoral governance.
He called on stakeholders to expose such people for their diversionary tactics to shift attention from their undemocratic and unpatriotic agendas.