Political mafias captured Nigeria’s election, government under Mahmood Yakubu; Citizens must rise now – Attahiru Jega

Mahmood Yakubu, Attahiru Jega and Bola Tinubu. Composite: The Telegraph
The ex-INEC chief’s alarm, while silent on citing the president by name, appeared to echo a key prong of the criticism the Nigerian president has faced since assuming office in May.

Professor Attahiru Jega on Saturday sounded a five-alarm warning to Nigerians, saying the country’s fundamental governing instruments have been hijacked by a pack of reckless political actors. 

Mr Jega rallied Nigerians to immediately rise and recover control of the country or risk farming out their collective destiny to a clique of selfish individuals who lacked the requisite aptitude to salvage the country’s descent into a failed entity. 

“Citizens have an obligation in good or bad times,” Mr Jega said. “They have key roles to play in order to ensure their country survives and good things happen to ordinary citizens.”

The admonition came when the former INEC chairman delivered a convocation keynote at Sa’adu Zungur State University, Bauchi, on Saturday afternoon, which was themed: ‘Safeguarding Nigeria’s future: Prioritising citizen’s welfare and security amidst challenges’.

Mr Jega, who led INEC from June 8, 2010, to June 30, 2015, said the electoral office had been hijacked under his success Mahmood Yakubu, who has continued to face immense public criticism for alleged corruption and manipulation of results in favour of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress. 

Mr Yakubu hurriedly declared Bola Tinubu the winner of Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election, despite well-documented evidence of electoral fraud and intimidation. A top INEC contractor said Mr Tinubu indicated readiness to bribe Mr Yakubu and other top electoral officers ahead of the election, according to audio obtained by Peoples Gazette, although it was unclear whether the arrangement was implemented and how steep it filtered through the agency’s personnel chain.

Mr Tinubu’s involvement in drug operations that led to his forfeiture of over $460,000 to the United States in the 1990s, as well as his presentation of a dubious academic certificate to back his candidacy, also significantly aggravated opposition concerns over the process that brought him to Nigeria’s highest office. 

Mr Tinubu did not deny presenting a forged certificate to INEC but said his drug penalty case was a civil arrangement that carried no criminal implications for his reputation.

Although poverty has continued to ravage Nigerians since he assumed office, Mr Tinubu has announced key policy changes in fiscal administration that he said would help mollify the crisis for the nation’s 200 million population. Several states have received direct federal support to help relax runaway transportation and commodity costs, although a large section of the country said implementation has been painfully slow.

Still, Mr Jega’s statement, while entirely silent on mentioning Mr Tinubu by name, appeared to echo a key prong of the criticism the Nigerian president has faced since assuming office six months ago. A presidential spokesman was asked to comment on the matter Saturday evening.

“Ultimately, the best way to safeguard Nigeria’s future and secure the welfare of citizens devoid of massive security challenges is to have elections with integrity through an electoral process that is not captured,” Mr Jega said. “Unfortunately, now we are seeing that it is captured by reckless politicians.”

“An election that is not captured will bring out quality people, and as they become elected public officials and representatives who have positive value orientation in governance processes, the institutions will harness societal resources and deliver good quality services,” he continued. “If the reckless people are capturing the political process, the electoral process and government, and people just sit and watch, obviously they will destroy the future for everybody.”

Mr Jega said Nigerians should push to take back control of the country and steer it towards a more federal system, as against the current unitary arrangement. 

“Only in this way can the state have the requisite legitimacy, stability, competence and capacity as well as resourcefulness to effectively address the needs of the people and safeguard the future of our country,” he said. “Any state that fails to do this in the modern context will be considered a failed state.”