Previous Nigerian presidents were too cynical to expose themselves to the unpredictable risk of a fair election. The election victories of PDP presidents during the past 16 years have been partially “assisted” by electoral malpractice. That changed when Jonathan nominated Professor Attahiru Jega as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) in 2010. Jega vowed to reform Nigeria’s electoral process to ensure free and fair elections.
The former university lecturer exuded calm authority and integrity. He has painstakingly prepared for the task over the past four years by studying the rigging methods used in previous elections, implementing an elaborate system of voter registration, training thousands of electoral staff, and introducing biometric readers to identify voters by reading their thumbprint.
Jonathan created the environment for the emergence of these changes and gave Jega the freedom and authority to conduct reforms that led to a credible election. But by giving Jega a free hand to play fair, he allowed Jega to craft the weapons that were used to oust him from power.
If Nigeria stays on the path towards greater democratic consolidation, Jonathan’s “accidental presidency” will forever remain as one of the variables in the process.