A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’ Prof. Attahiru Jega, recently declared Nigeria on the brink of “total collapse”. He made the remarks last Wednesday during the 2022 Workers’ Political Conference organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja.
Jega, also a former university administrator and union activist, described next year’s general elections as critical to Nigeria’s unity. “The sorry state of the socio-economic conditions under which the Nigerian working people, indeed the overwhelming majority of all citizens, live and work, the reckless misrule and misgovernance by a tiny, rabid and reckless band of the elite and the manner in which these myopic ‘elected’ so-called ‘leaders’ and their collaborators have devastated the Nigerian economy, heightened insecurity and virtually destroyed the basis for national cohesion and integration, Nigeria, as a potentially great nation, is crying for a rescue mission before it is too late,” he lamented.
“Such a rescue mission cannot be serious, positive and successful without the active engagement and involvement of the Nigerian workers through their genuine representatives in working-class organizations and movements in alliance with other progressive and patriotic Nigerians. While Nigeria may not have totally collapsed, it is in the process of collapsing, as reckless elite in control of the governance process are blindly running the country aground. And the 2023 general elections may be the ‘make or break’ epochal moment. Given this, all hands of progressive forces must be on deck to prevent our country from imminent collapse and to turn it around on to a trajectory of good democratic governance for beneficial democratic, socio-economic development and human security for Nigerian citizens.”
According to Jega, “A broad alliance of progressive forces for national rescue and emancipation is absolutely required to get Nigeria out of the current unwholesome predicament in which it finds itself.” He expected “deliberations during the conference, “guided by the lead paper presentation and panel discussion, (to) help us chart a course for a reinforced commitment to national emancipation and more active engagement of Nigerian workers in our current and future political processes.”
As a highly respected intellectual and influential opinion leaders, Jega is not flippant. He is thought through his deliberate choice of words. It this that makes his warning, not prediction, frightening. “Nigeria in the process of collapsing” is phraseology that clangs both in sound and sense. This is rarely heard from the man who conducted two fairly successful general elections, one of them leading to an uncommon transition from one government to another.
That was the one that took place in 2015. On foreign editorial said this of that election: “Nigeria’s 2015 general election marked a watershed moment in the country’s history with the first opposition candidate defeating an incumbent President in democratic elections. Given the country’s tumultuous history of coups and military rule, a phone call from then-incumbent President Goodluck Johnathon on March 28 to congratulate opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari represented a resounding statement about the development of democracy in Nigeria since its transition in 1999.
“Buhari’s inauguration on May 29, 2015 completed the first democratic transfer of power in Africa’s largest country by population and its biggest economy. Politicians and political parties, security forces and citizens alike have all been applauded, and rightly so, by international observers for their role in the success of the 2015 elections. Behind the scenes, however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its former Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega conducted a remarkably credible and transparent electoral process in the face of many challenges. Since being nominated to lead the INEC in 2010, the integrity and professionalism of Professor Jega and the commission has been an important force for democracy in Nigeria.”
In seven years, Jega has changed from the highly optimistic Nigerian who gave his all to grow our democracy to a citizen who is less optimistic about the future of this democracy. Now, he is not warning that Nigeria risks collapsing altogether but the process has already begun. Is it this bad? Yes, he fears it is so. But he also believes the situation can be reversed. And he proffers the way out. This is constructiveness or constructivism. Warning first, followed by the solution. Just what expect of true patriot. Welcome, Jega.