Posted on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 10:56

Nigeria's defining moment

Impressed with his composed Jedi-like manner Nigerian social media has already dubbed him 'Jegai'. Photo©ReutersNigeria's electoral commission (INEC) chairperson Attahiru Jega was cool, calm and collected as he presided over the 2015 presidential election, which is being hailed as a historic moment for the troubled country.

For the first time since Nigeria's independence in 1960, an elected president has conceded defeat.

Outgoing Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday called president-elect Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him on his victory.

you are a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so you should be careful about [...] your public conduct

This was before the final results were announced. But an outburst from an official on the losing side unsettled those witnessing the events unfold via live television.

It was another long day that began with a 15-minute tirade by a ruling People's Democratic Party agent Godsday Orubebe.

He was unhappy with the way electoral process had panned out in some northern states, where the opposition All Progress Congress (APC) won by large margins.

As Godsday's expression of emotion flared, so did the accusations he leveled at the INEC chairperson.

He said Jega was being "selective and partial" to APC by not immediately setting up a committee to investigate PDP concerns about underage voting and rigging.

It was the fourth day of the presidential election proceedings and the country was awaiting the official announcement from Jega. The results trickling in were in favour of Buhari.

Jega addressed the former minister of the Niger Delta with a dignified and measured warning saying: "Mr Orubebe, you are a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so you should be careful about the things you say and certainly you should be careful about your public conduct."

With the country glued to their television sets, some say Jega consciously allowed Orubebe to rant in order to show he has an impartial listening ear. Impressed with his composed Jedi-like manner Nigerian social media has already dubbed him 'Jegai'.

Even when it came to the jestering of Etu Efeotor collation officer for Rivers State who appeared to have attempted to lift the strained mood Jega did not pander to his antics and remained assertive despite the rolls of laughter from those in the room.

The 2015 democratic exercise was Jega's second and final election as chairman of the commission as he retires in June.

In 2011 he oversaw Jonathan's win against Buhari. But lately he has not always been a favourite with the public.

He came under scrutiny when the elections, originally scheduled to be held on 14 February, were postponed for six weeks following security concerns.

APC claimed the move was a delaying tactic in favour of the ruling pary, the PDP. The PDP said the postponement was necessary in order to quash Boko Haram.

Critics questioned the sudden interest in quelling the threat of Boko Haram after six years of attacks.

As the country went to the polls on 28 March incidents of violence and rigging concerns arose, but Jega addressed the public, giving assurances that they would be investigated.

Controversial results in Rivers State following the burning of the INEC state headquarters amid APC allegations of rigging and calls to cancel or reschedule that State's elections were rejected by Jega.

On the fourth and final day of the election proceedings, in a high-ranking APC member's house in Lagos, supporters sat in front of two widescreen televisions sets watching the results pour in.

The ACP was pleased with Jega's approach to Orubebe's eruption saying he "acted like a statesman."

Before the official results were announced a member of Jonathan's team confirmed that the PDP leader had called Buhari to congratulate him on his win.

The move was been celebrated by many Nigerians, irrespective of political affiliation. APC supporters took to the streets in Lagos with fireworks and flags waving in the air.

Jega's professionalism and Jonathan's quick move to concede defeat have been hailed as a step in the right direction for Nigeria's democracy.

Billie McTernan

Billie McTernan

Follow Billie McTernan as she covers the 2012 Ghanaian presidential and parliamentary elections. Billie writes on political and cultural affairs across the continent.

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