The immediate past Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Mohammed Jega, was way back in 1992 Newswatch magazine’s, Man of the Year. In an attempt to justify the choice, one of the magazine’s founders, Mr Dan Agbese, in a prologue carried in its January 11 1993 edition described Jega as an “angry revolutionary” whose resolve to either initiate or facilitate a process for the genuine transformation of the society has always been total.
But long before he got the award and long afterwards, Jega who is a famous professor of political science manifested the absolute tendency to be different and make a difference.
As an activist of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and finally its Chairman, university administrator who rose to the position of a vice chancellor of the prestigious Bayero University Kano (BUK) and the Country’s one-time chief electoral officer, he demonstrated exceptional capacity for the overhaul of rotten systems, structures and institutions.
Even with his tremendous humility, Jega’s traits and achievements have remained visible. He is such a distinguished intellectual and public servant whose personality quickly attracts adoration and encomiums from across the various segments of the Nigerian society.
Having now voluntarily joined partisan politics, the former INEC boss has subjected himself to another test; the severest ever. The numerous constituencies with which he must have to deal, each with its own peculiarities, will definitely seek to challenge all those qualities that have continued to define his approach to issues and situations.
It is either he will continue to be the same Jega, of course, with much more complex and complicated issues to handle or a different one whose well-acknowledged radical and patriotic spirit will be neutralised by the dynamics of politics. The nature of his understanding of the game which, by the judgement of most observers, is positive enough, will determine the manner in which he will navigate the terrain.
On their part, majority of Nigerians have the impression that Jega is tough enough to participate in the on-going rough politicking and also has the potential to make lofty career out of it.
A well-trained political activist and tested administrator like him should have no other business to worry about in life than politics. And this explains the immense interest that his entry into partisan politics has generated especially among those who are desirous of change in the pattern of democratic governance.
Perhaps, his choice of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) as the platform for political participation is the clearest indication that he is determined to face all the odds. By joining a party that is long and strong only in ideology but short and weak in almost all the other fundamental aspects of existence, Jega has already shown sufficient courage that is required of a principled struggler.
PRP is not only the oldest political party in Nigeria which in the past connected strongly with the commoners but it aso, when it got the opportunity, proved its capacity to entrench a culture of political progressivism which evidently fits into the intellectual orientation of Jega. It is, unlike most of the other ones, a party that is rooted in the implacable struggle for emancipation of the downtrodden Nigerians.
The party has, however, suffered setback in terms of outlook, orientation and strength. An apparent failure to sustain its relevance to the current political realities and the basic aspirations of the people is clearly responsible for its downward slide to its present pitiable position.
This is the most challenging issue that Professor Attahiru Jega and all those who have joined the PRP should immediately begin to address so that the party will at least have the structure of a viable instrument for the salvation of the Country. The committee on strategy, opportunities and threats headed by him should consider itself as the most central organ which will determine the nature of the entire operations of the party.
There is, in fact, the expectation that the committee will ensure the speedy re-connection of PRP with the masses so that it can regain its strength and re-capture its support base. Members of the party and all those other Nigerians who continuously describe Jega’s venture into politics as a final arrival in his natural home are already anxious to see the man in real action.
This was written by Shaibu Gimi.