The Nigerian media as well as my personal contacts are expressing heightened anxiety that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is preparing to rig the national elections, now scheduled for March 28.
Widely discussed, the potential removal of Attahiru Jega, the commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), could facilitate the rigging process. Jega’s signature innovation, the use of permanent voter cards (PVCs) to reduce registration and voting fraud, would be dismantled. Sahara Reporters suggests that President Goodluck Jonathan’s inner circle has concluded that international fall out from Jega’s removal can be managed. Sahara Reporters quotes a source as saying, “They [the administration] believe the APC [the opposition party], the world press, the U.S., and E.U. will make noise, but then everybody will eventually calm down.” The same source noted that this was the scenario when President Jonathan removed Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank.
Jega’s removal would be a sign that the Jonathan government does indeed intend to rig the election to ensure that he remains in power. It is a sad reality that foreign institutions, especially in the international financial community, rolled over when the governor of the Central Bank was removed. That move fundamentally compromised the independence of the Central Bank, just as Jega’s removal would compromise INEC. Hence, it is not unthinkable that international powers would swallow Jega’s “retirement” (he would be put on leave until his term expires) after initial protests.
I will be watching closely to see what happens to Attahiru Jega.