Popular Nigerian poet, Odia Ofeimun, has called for the removal of Attahiru Jega as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, just weeks before elections.
Mr. Ofeimun made the call while speaking on SaharaTV after the 7th pan African congress.
He also urged Nigerians to vote in President Goodluck Jonathan for another term.
Some supporters of Mr. Jonathan, including the Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose; leader of the Odua Peoples Congress, Gani Adams, have asked the president to fire the INEC boss, accusing him of bias.
Mr. Ofeimun said Mr. Jega has shown incompetence and bias, particularly with the distribution of voter cards.
“Before the elections were postponed, the umpire had assured Nigerians that he was ready only for everyone to discover that about 23 million, one-third of the people that were supposed to vote, had no voters’ card,” he said. “The fact that the electoral commissioner can make such a public comment in my view meant that ought to be sacked.”
“If it holds on March 28 without the proper resolution of proper disenfranchisement of so many Nigerians, I will continue to say for the rest of life that it was a rigged election. The reason is this, the card readers makes rigging impossible. Look, if you want to distribute voters cards in 10 days, it is possible because when they are doing census, they have enumerators who go door to door. Why can’t INEC do it?
“In my own part of Lagos, you need only about 2 enumerators; they will go from house to house. You know how I got my own card? Somebody who has seen it told me about it and another one brought it for me. What that tells is that it was actually possible for a distribution to have taken place and the man who brought me the card has exposed one edge of the problem and that problem is that anybody can go there and collect the voters’ card.
“What that means is also that politically interested Nigerians actually prevent those cards from being distributed were their parties are weak and that for me is a serious matter. And that for me is exactly what Jega should have avoided.
“What makes it painful is that opponents of Jega have been saying he surrounded himself with people of particular ethnic colour. Then he moved beyond that, he created so many more polling booths in an unusual way. A larger one to one part of the country and a smaller part to another part and people were already complaining about this before this misdistribution of PVC where in one area had 80.1 distribution and places that were at peace had 40 and 38 percent distribution.”
Why President Jonathan must be re-elected
Mr. Ofeimun said he will vote for Goodluck Jonathan because the president has outperformed all his predecessors in office.
He particularly praised Mr. Jonathan for convening the national conference, and defended the government’s performance on corruption.
“Listen, in the case of Goodluck Jonathan, I always wanted to support him because I knew he would do a national conference and he went after it methodically; and even Tinubu admitted it that he was methodical in the way he called civil society organization, had a Belgore commission, had a National Assembly, Senate, House of Reps deal with the constitution before the national conference.
“What that means is that we had a president while everyone was saying he was clueless, actually was very diligent in going after it. I have given a lecture on the national conference which I feel very good about. I will tell you this, if they did not start saying he was clueless, I would not have taken the pains of following the things Goodluck has done.
“He outclassed every presiding president and I would say that anywhere because in fact I have a friend, when I told him there is a brand new railway line coming from Kaduna to Abuja, he said it’s a lie it never happened, but you can go there and take a photograph.
“That lie that the man was clueless and hasn’t done anything in my view was a good way to fight a good election. It showed that the opposition had good propaganda weaponry but for God sake why couldn’t they put that propaganda weaponry into convincing Nigerians to do what we expected,” he said.
Mr. Ofeimun also praised President Jonathan on corruption, saying the president deployed technology to curb fraud in fertilizer distribution and civil service pay roll.
“When you are dealing with corruption, Goodluck managed to use modern technology to remove the corruption mafia in agriculture, also to remove them in the ghost workers department in the federal service.
Pressed on corruption in the oil and gas sector, Mr. Ofeimun said much of claims were lies.
“The corruption that is going on in NNPC is based on the lies of people. Sanusi was about to be sacked, 18 months to that time he should have been sacked but Goodluck gave him time because Goodluck did not want to be seen as oppressing someone from the north.
On why the report of the audit report over the alleged missing $20 billion oil money was yet to be published, Mr. Odia defended the government, saying Nigerian governments are not known for publishing full details of report.
“This one was brought out because people we re asking for it. The point I want to make and that’s question I want everybody to ask themselves. How can you have a sitting central bank governor who cannot count? Who starts by telling you 49billion is missing, then reduces to 29, then 10billion dollars, then raises it to 20.
“A central bank governor who cannot count like that is a disgrace to his country and a disgrace to the position he takes,” he said.