Despite restriction on open campaign for the 2015 polls by President Goodluck Jonathan, it was revealed yesterday how forces close to the administration plan to reduce the powers of the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
According to Vanguard’s findings, powerful elements within the government had perfected a plan to replace the current secretary of the commission, Alhaji Abdullahi Kaugama, with a trusted ally and confer him with enormous operational powers that would make him more powerful than Jega prior to the 2015 elections.
The hawks, said to be headed by top officials of the administration, are said to be relying on the tradition of fielding INEC secretary’s position from outside the commission by previous administrations. Incidentally, Kaugama, who is the first secretary of the commission to be appointed from within the staff pool, was named in 2008 and he is due for retirement next February.
It was gathered that some influential members of the ruling party had become increasingly uncomfortable with what a source described as ‘Jega’s overbearing powers’ , which he could use to scuttle the political ambitions of their supporters in 2015, if unchecked.
The source hinted that the protagonists of the plot, who had fallen out of favour with Jega had suggested to the Presidency that he (Jega) could not be relied upon to give them victory in 2015 and should, therefore, be stripped of some of his powers. They asserted that some of these should be given to a trusted person that could be manipulated.
“It is as a result of a high-wired political agenda that you hear the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, saying openly that Jega is not the CEO of INEC and that the man should not parade himself as one.
“What they want to do is to take the operational powers from Jega and confer same on one of their own, likely to be picked from outside the INEC anytime from now so as to protect their narrow political interests.
“These people are just looking for ways and means to protect their interests at all costs by keeping someone as their ‘operational man’ at INEC to do their biddings.
“But if they say that Jega is not the CEO of the commission, let them go to the law establishing the commission and find out if the man is not a full time chairman and the chief electoral officer,” the source said.
Attempts to confirm the receipt of the AGF’s letter by INEC were unsuccessful, as the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, did not pick his calls and did not respond to text messages sent to him.
One of the sms sent to the CPS at 2.05pm read, “Please confirm if the letter published in the media today about Jega not being the CEO of INEC, purportedly written by Adoke had been received.” There was no reply to the sms at the time of going to the press.
But Jega might have played into the hands of his adversaries by sending an innocuous letter he wrote on June 19, 2012, to the AGF to clarify who was the accounting officer of the body, as part of his efforts to ensure effective service delivery.
But in replying to the letter, Adoke in a response dated July 26, 2012, bluntly declared that Jega was not the accounting officer of the body and quoted several sections of the law to buttress his position, leaving the chairman guessing on what next to do.