2023: Is Jega the New Joker?


Former National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, last week joined the People’s Redemption Party. But those who understand the game say it’s not an accidental move. Shola Oyeyipo writes

Although for the ordinary citizens, 2023 is still far ahead and as such, it may be too early to commence preparations for the general election coming up then. But members of the political class see things differently. It is best to start scheming as early as possible.

In the views of many watchers of the Nigerian politics, the recent announcement that a former National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has joined the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) was not a development for just the headlines. Instead, they claimed it was deliberate plan to position him for the presidency in 2023.

Jega’s movement to PRP is not an accident. It is actually a well-calculated move instigated by some members of the political class drawn from all the geo-political zones and their calculation is that he is a credible candidate capable of throwing up surprises if well prepared ahead of time.

The calculation is that by 2023, even if the two leading political parties: the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were still relevant, they won’t be the party of choice for a majority of Nigerians.
Discerning observers are already calculating that comment credited to the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai was designed to clear the ground for a possible open field race, a development which positions Jega as a sellable candidate, considering how he conducted the 2015 general election.

Jega’s chance may have been further enhanced by the woeful performances of his predecessor, Professor Mahmood Yakubu in the 2019 general election, which many considered a far cry from what the country had in 2015 under Jega.

Though people may take it for granted, as a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) during the military administration of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and a Political Science professor currently lecturing at Bayero University, Kano, Jega cannot be considered an underdog politically.
When he eventually opened up on why he opted to join the PRP, Jega said it was because he remains a disciple of its founder, late Mallam Aminu Kano.

“Yes, I am one of his (Aminu Kano’s) disciples,” Jega reportedly said.
In the words of the PRP National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Abdul Gombe, Jega was ratified during the 62nd national executive committee meeting of the PRP held in Kaduna on June 22, 2019.
Prominent members of the party, especially former Kaduna State governor, leader of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PRP, reminded Jega that he was joining the PRP he once deregistered as INEC chairman and therefore advised members to be cautious about his entrant into the party.

But the PRP spokesperson, Gombe, hinted at what would be part of Jega’s task as a member of the PRP, when he said he would head the SWOT Analysis Committee of the party with the aim to reposition and give it a more nationalist outlook ahead of the 2023 general election.
Prominent Nigerians have already been named as members of the committee that will help strengthen the PRP. Notable amongst them are the Chairman, Daily Trust Newspapers, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf; Dean, Faculty of Law, Crescent University, Ogun State, Prof Kassim Momodu; Dr. George Kwanashie, Ayo Sando, Dr. Obi Osisiogwu and Prof Nath Abraham. Another committee headed by Alhaji Sule Mohammed is saddled with the membership mobilisation drive. Gombe is part of that committee as well. But a former Chairman of Unity Bank, Alhaji Falalu Bello, is the chairman of the finance and funding committee.

Sources close to this political arrangement say the forces behind Jega’s alignment with the PRP are calculating that by 2023 even if the APC has not disintegrated, it would be hemorrhaging internally, such that would weigh it down, especially considering that President Muhammadu Buhari, whose cult-like followership in the north paved the way for their electoral victories would no longer be on the ballot.
There is also the consideration that the disenchantment against the ruling party over its less than average performance in the areas of security, anti-corruption fight and economy, would have made it lose its goodwill considerably.

That much did former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, warned recently when he said the APC could lose its bearing completely by 2023 if the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, was allowed to continue to run its affairs.
In Okorocha’s view, Oshiomhole was also to blame for the party’s failure to capture or retain some states during the February and March general election.

“My fear now is that APC may have a serious setback in 2023, because the Oshiomhole-led executive is actually turning APC into a regional minority party, which shouldn’t be. Right now in the whole of Southeast, we don’t have an APC governor.
“So, if there is any discussion in Nigeria now within the APC governors and President Muhammadu Buhari, there will be nobody from the Southeast. This is what the APC chairman has done in the Southeast,” Okorocha stated.

On the other hand, the PDP, which obviously has the capacity to withstand the APC, is not showing ability to bounce back in the face of a ruling party, which doesn’t seem prepared to cope with critical or strong opposition.
In fact, those who are able to read between the lines are already seeing the correlation between the recent statement credited to el-Rufai that zoning arrangements across the geopolitical zones should be abolished so as to give way for competence in governance and the Jega arrangement.

His position is considered a ploy to pave the way to yet another northern candidate in 2023, not necessarily Jega since they do not belong to the same party and there had been various shades of opinions on the matter since he made it public.
Former Kaduna State Senator, Shehu Sani, is one of those who felt the el-Rufai statement was aimed at retaining power in the north after President Buhari.

Though he feels it would only amount to ingratitude to the South in 2023, because the Southwest for instance supported Buhari to win the presidency in 2015 and again in 2019.
“My view on that is very simple; it is an act of ingratitude for any northerner to think that by 2023, he or she should aspire for office in the view of the fact that, southerners, particularly the Southwest did everything possible to support the northern candidate to emerge as the president in 2015.

“It will amount to changing the rules of the game at half time, when you are leading two zero. It can also be likened to removing the ladder after you have plucked the fruit.

“The north should appreciate the support of progressive-minded nationalists from the Southwest or the southern part of Nigeria, who worked tirelessly to remove the PDP from power in 2015,” Sani said.

Though there have been series of views expressed on the matter, fact is, Jega is already being groomed for the top job in 2023. He is already attracting attention of some schemers and interestingly, he possesses the requisite qualifications, experience and the goodwill to be a formidable candidate, irrespective of the argument of the APC zoning arrangements.
He is therefore a political figure to look out for in the days ahead as Nigeria marches towards 2023.