The immediate past Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has described Nigerian politicians as the “most difficult to deal with in the world”.
The professor of political science made the remarks at Chatham House in London yesterday in an interactive session after delivering a lecture titled: ‘Challenges of Modernising Election Processes: the Nigerian Experience’.
Mr. Jega was Nigeria’s electoral commission’s chairman from 2010-2015, overseeing two historic general elections, which were widely acknowledged as one of the freest and fairest on the continent.
“When I was vice-chancellor, I thought students were the most difficult to deal with”, he said, adding that perception changed when he got to INEC as he was soon to discover that the most difficult set of people to relate with are Nigerian politicians.
He said despite efforts aimed at “carrying the politicians along” by keeping them abreast with INEC activities and initiatives, they (politicians) would later turn round to reject what they approved or accused the commission of trying to favour rival parties if things were not going the way they envisaged.
The former INEC chairman noted that both the former government and the National Assembly approved funds for smart card readers and permanent voters cards, among others, after being convinced of their necessity in ensuring credible elections, but when it dawned on them that they would not be able to manipulate elections as they did in the past, they strongly opposed the initiatives.
Describing Nigerian politicians as dogged and adept at pursuing their interests by “hook or crook”, Prof. Jega said the politicians could easily change tunes and cry foul when they realise that issues do not favour them or they could not manipulate the system for their personal gains.
He attributed the huge gains of the 2015 general elections to the adoption of technology in both the planning, management and conduct of the elections, and expressed optimism that “transparent and credible elections have come to stay in Nigeria”.
He, however, listed funding, people’s suspicion of technology and aversion to changes by politicians, security of data, qualified manpower, among others, as some of the challenges of using technology in the conduct of transparent and acceptable elections.
The former INEC boss, now pro-chancellor of the Plateau State University, therefore, recommended partnerships between nascent African democracies with donor and development partners to make the necessary technological tools affordable, ICT capacity building, quality assurance, specification and standardisation of facilities to make them adaptable by electoral bodies in Africa.