A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, says the biggest challenge confronting the commission is the reckless mindset of politicians, who believe that winning an election is a do-or-die affair.
Through this mindset, Jega said, Nigerian politicians had turned the nation’s electoral arena into a bloody battlefield characterised by political thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes and assassinations, creating fear in the minds of the electorates and scaring them off the polling booths.
Jega, who presided over INEC during the 2015 general election, said the situation was so bad that it took INEC a lot of effort to allay the fear of voters and revive their interest in the process before they could come out to vote in 2015.
The ex-INEC helmsman declared that all attempts by the country to reform the electoral process would be a waste of effort except the politicians changed their reckless mindset.
Jega spoke in Lagos on Saturday at the 50th birthday ceremony of the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN).
He delivered a paper entitled, “Challenges and prospects of sustainable credible elections in Nigeria.”
Jega said, “INEC, as an election management body, faced perhaps its greatest challenge containing the predisposition and reckless mindset of Nigerian politicians. I quite often say that Nigeria has a special breed of politicians – ‘militicians’.
“They generally tend to believe that political power, through election, has to be captured and this has to be done by hook or by crook; and by any means necessary.
“For many, winning election is literally a do-or-die affair. That is why the Nigerian political arena increasingly resembles a bloody battlefield with maiming, killing, burning, assassinations and unimaginable destruction of lives and property.
“Navigating the minefield of do-or-die politicians as an impartial electoral umpire requires nerves of steel and requisite thick skin as well as appropriate containment.
“…As long as politicians continue to have unwholesome mindset, efforts at electoral reform and deepening democracy would remain constrained and susceptible to reversal. This is therefore a key area of priority focus as we contemplate sustainable credible elections in Nigeria.”
Jega recalled that prior to the 2011 and 2015 general elections, which he supervised, the Nigerian electorate had been frustrated and become apathetic, so that they no longer wanted to come out and vote.
“Given this context, it was a herculean challenge for INEC and its partners to convince citizens that this time round, it would not be business as usual and that their votes would indeed count