Keep calm, cool and collected.
We used to sign off with these words in Secondary School, on our walls, desks and yearbooks. However, I have seen the true epitome of calm, cool and collected in the bespectacled, bearded person of Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Nigerian Electoral Body.
Africa, and indeed the world are taking notice as the Giant of Africa goes to the polls and decides its fate for the next four years. More popular than the presidential candidates of the country’s largest political bodies is the independent umpire, he who will finally announce the results of the elections in what might become the magnum opus of his life and career.
Born on 11 January 1957 in Jega, Kebbi State, the man with perhaps the most difficult job in Africa right now, studied Political Science at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria [Bayero University College], in 1974. He worked as a teaching assistant at Bayero University, before proceeding to Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA, where he obtained his Masters (1981) and Doctorate (1985) degrees in Political Science – specializing in Political Economy. While at Northwestern, he also obtained a Certificate in African Studies.
In 1984, he returned to the Political Science Department in Bayero University as a lecturer.
With many years spent within the walls of the academia, Professor Jega rose to lead the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). But he was destined for much more than that. Fearless and outspoken, he was an opponent of the Ibrahim Babangida military government in the early 1990s.
Generally lauded as an ethical operator, Professor Jega was appointed a member of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee. His contributions must have been pertinent because in 2010, he was nominated by President Goodluck Jonathan as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), subject to confirmation by the National Assembly.
Long before this defining moment, Professor Jega’s dynamic academic career included serving as the visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos between March 1992 – March 1993. He served as a visiting Research Fellow, Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm, Sweden (1994), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Bayero University (1995–1996) and Director, Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Bayero University (2000–2004). He was appointed as theVice-Chancellor of Bayero University in 2005, from whence he was given the exalted seat of the Chairman of INEC.
Professor Jega is a recipient of many academic and honorary laurels which include the National Merit Award of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 2005; Fellowship Award by the National Association for Research and Development, 2006; and “Man of the Year” Award by Newswatch Magazine, 1993 & 2011. He is widely published, with several books, articles, monographs and reports in areas such as Government Policies, Political Economy, Democracy, Political Process, Good Governance and Identity Politics.[ http://www.inecnigeria.org/]
As his tenure draws to an end, it is vital to learn what lessons we can.
Firstly, integrity and strength of character weighs heavier than gold. Secondly, every job, work or investment-in-self is a preparation towards greater things, and thirdly, keep calm, cool and collected. Even in the face of overwhelming pressure and opposition.
What lessons have you learnt from Professor Jega? Do share!