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Many however saw his appointment as a welcome development. In fact, given his background as an activist, there were expectations that he would make positive impact in transforming INEC and restore its credibility. The 2011 general elections readily became the litmus test. Somehow, even with obvious imperfections in the conduct of the exercise, the outcome was commended by national and international observers and considered free and fair. But Jega, has finally come out to tell Nigerians the truth about the first election he conducted in the country, admitting as his critics had argued, that the election was not as transparent as had been portrayed.
The professor of Political Science, in fact, admitted that the 2011 elections were marred by mistakes but was quick to add that such would not be allowed to repeat in 2015.
The INEC helmsman, who featured on Radio Nigeria, Kaduna National Station’s Hausa programme, Hanu Dayawa, said the commission had introduced new changes that would ensure free and transparent elections in future. “We are doing our best to ensure that the 2015 election will be more credible than that of 2011. We have been working hard towards this. We have reviewed the past and we are looking at what we can do to improve on our performances”, he maintained.
He also cleared the air on the current controversy surrounding the registration of All Progressives Congress (APC). According to the INEC boss, no political party had notified the commission of merger talks, let alone being registered.
His words: “We are doing our best to ensure that the mistakes we made in the past are corrected. We are trying to introduce new things to bring about change in the system.
“This issue has generated controversy in the past few weeks. First, the truth is that no political party had written to notify us that it is planning to merge with some other political parties until the past five days or so.
“Therefore, it is not true we had been notified. The issue became serious when one group came out to seek for registration, I guess that was what made them to write and notify us.”
Jega, however, denied collecting money from politicians. “People have said a lot of things on this. I have not collected money from anybody and I didn’t go to INEC to collect money from politicians. If I wanted money, with the education that God has given me and other means, I would have used them to make the money,” he said.
In his comment, Protem Chairman, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Segun Sango said the INEC boss should not only admit errors but should tell Nigerians the mistakes the commission made and measures to prevent future occurrence.
“What Jega said is reasonable. It is coming from the person that conducted the elections. For him to have admitted that there were mistakes, that’s a good spirit. However it is not only to come out and tell us that the 2011 election were marred by mistakes, he must tell us what are the mistakes, what steps are being taken, what measures are going to be put in place to ensure that such does not occur in future. We now know that it is not just rumour anymore that the 2011 elections were not perfect since it is coming from the man that conducted the election. He should also tell us what to do to prevent such. Then, we will know that the commission has turned a new leaf, if not , it is same of same,” he said.
Jega, former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), was literally a thorn in the flesh of the administration of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida on account of the government’s disdain for tertiary education.
After the heroic outing that sold him to the Nigerian masses, he virtually went off public attention. He later became Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano (BUK) - a position he held till he was appointed INEC chairman by President Goodluck Jonathan.