A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has received two international awards for his unbiased role in the 2015 general election.
Jega was awarded the 2015 Charles Manatt democracy award by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Washington.
He was awarded alongside Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the US; and Ed Royce, chairman of the US house Committee on foreign affairs.
The ex-electoral chairman also received an integrity award by US-based Nigerian Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) at the Waldorf Astoria, New York.
Speaking at IFES award ceremony on Tuesday, Jega refused to take all the credit for the success of the 2015 electoral process, saying the strides were not just his, but that of INEC staff also.
“I am humbled to be receiving the 2015 democracy award, and will also like to recognise my colleagues at INEC for their dedication to a credible and transparent electoral process,” he said.
“Over the last five years, we’ve come a long way in the conduct of elections in Nigeria, and I think the outcome of the 2015 elections speak directly to this work.
“All my colleagues at INEC share the credit for this success. The mood in my country presently is extremely upbeat, following the first democratic transfer of power in our history.”
Jega also expressed hope and optimism in the increasing use and mastery of technology, adding that it would enhance the transparency and credibility.
“No election is ever perfect, and the Nigerian 2015 elections were not without controversy. After an engagement with various security agencies and stakeholders, INEC decided to postpone the elections by six weeks, and, of course, this generated a lot of controversy.
“But we had over 750,000 election workers and millions of citizens involved on Election Day, and ultimately chose not to put anyone at risk.
“In order to hasten democratic consolidation, I wish to call on all friends of Nigeria to continue to closely monitor the democratisation process in my country.”
William Sweeny, IFES president and CEO, described the Nigerian 2015 elections as “an important statement about the viability of democracy in countries experiencing transition”.
“From the time Professor Jega took his oath of office as chairman of the Commission in late 2010, he introduced a new level of integrity to the public institution, and introduced new policies and measures to improve its efficiency,” Sweeny said.
“There are more elections scheduled in Africa in the next two years than on any other continent, and African voters have a clear choice between the ballot and the bullet.
“Thanks to Professor Jega’s leadership and the leadership of the Nigerian people, Nigeria offers others an example to follow.”
Other dignitaries at the awards were frontline US congress members, including former assistant secretary of state, Johnny Carson and Aminu Zakari, acting chairperson of INEC.
Other awardees at the NHEF awards were Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman Etisalat Nigeria; Sola Olopade and Olufunmilayo Olopade, professors in medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago; Thomas DiNapoli, comptroller of the State of New York.
Wale Adeosun, CEO of Kuramo Capital Management, said at the awards that Jega was chosen for the integrity award because a key consideration among American businessmen seeking to invest in Nigeria is political stability, which he largely contributed to.
Also in attendance in New York was Robyn Sanders, former US ambassador to Nigeria.
Source: The Cable