Efforts by the presidency to force the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, to proceed on terminal leave by March 1 and thus prevent him from conducting the forthcoming general elections may have hit the rocks.
A source in INEC told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the former university don and lecturers’ union boss would be in saddle to conduct the elections on the new dates of March 28 and April 11, this year.
Jega, who the presidency deems too independent-minded, was under intense pressure to throw in the towel prior to the Council of State meeting held at the presidential villa, Abuja, last week, in order to pave the way for a more pliable person to conduct the polls. Jega’s tenure ends in June.
Sources close to some of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inner circle have said that although Jega has shifted the date of the polls, the forces to get him out are still at work.
LEADERSHIP recalls that some of Jonathan allies, including his kinsman and political godfather, Chief Edwin Clark, had accused the electoral boss of conniving with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the polls.
Clark, a First Republic politician, had called for his resignation a few weeks back.
Apart from Clark, the senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, Doyin Okupe, and the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, had also accused Jega of acting the script of the APC, saying he lacks the moral right to conduct the polls.
But speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday, INEC’s director of voter education and publicity, Barrister Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, declared that Jega would conduct the polls rescheduled for March 28 and April 11, 2015, and that he was focused on the task of ensuring free, fair and credible elections.
Osaze-Uzzi added that the INEC chairman had given reasons upon which he would resign from office, noting that the focus of the commission was to make the forthcoming elections better than that of 2011.
Following the postponement of the elections, there have been insinuations that Jega, whose tenure expires in June this year, might be forced to go on a three-month terminal leave in line with the civil service procedure.
But Osaze-Uzzi said, “The rumour has been there for a while. And at the last press briefing, Jega addressed the issue of how he would resign. He gave conditions upon which he will resign.”
On whether the professor will conduct the elections, he said, “He (Jega) will conduct the polls. It is just like when I hear rumours about resigning my job, I will just concentrate on my job. I am sure that is the same attitude he has to the job.”