By Dayo Benson, Political Editor, Okey Ndiribe, James Ezema & Chukwuma Nwankamma
LAGOSâ€”THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, has described the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDPâ€™s imposition of Professor Chukwuma Soludo for the February 6, 2010, Anambra State gubernatorial election as anti-democratic just as he stressed that serial number on ballot papers will henceforth be shown to political parties 24 hours to election to prevent rigging.
Prof. Iwu, who said the commission will hold stakeholdersâ€™ meeting on the Anambra election today, added that he was not aware that the name of Governor Peter Obi has been substituted with that of another candidate. He declared that the court would decide PDPâ€™s candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludoâ€™s fate.
He spoke at the Newswatch Magazineâ€™s Fourth Colloquium, in Lagos, yesterday,Â where a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr Sunday Ehindero, argued that police permit before political rallies are held are necessary because of the volatile nature of our political system even as he faulted the courtâ€™s voiding of provisions of the Public Order Act that prescribes such police nod.
Mamora on legislators’ functions
Also, at the forum, the Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, said performance of legislatorsâ€™ oversight functions was always a source of friction between them and the Executive arm of government.
Speaking on â€œSustainable Democracy: The Role of INEC,â€ Prof.Â Iwu argued that the rules guiding elections ought to be settled long before elections.
On criticisms that trailed the conduct of the 2007 elections, he said it was because the elections were successful that was why people are talking about a better one.
He explained that the 2007 elections exposed the problems inherent in the process.
Urging Nigerians to change their attitude, he said elections are good or bad because of the environment where they are conducted.
He pointed out that imposition of candidates cannot guarantee free and fair election as aggrieved people become enemies of the system.
Iwu tackles PDP onÂ imposition
On theAnambra State 2010 governorship election, he said the way â€œthe PDP imposes candidates is not democracy. You cannot contrive political problem, it will come back to haunt.â€
According to Iwu, â€œthis is what is happening in Anambraâ€.
He noted that the voterâ€™s registers to be used in coming elections are capable of detecting fraud.
â€œThe way forward is not to vilify the commission,â€ he said, noting that the Constitution Review should not be done through a fiat, but should be allowed to evolve.
â€œOur problem goes beyond legislation, our problem is attitudeâ€, he said.
Ehindero votes for credible election
On the role of the police in ensuring credibility of elections, Ehindero said the legislature should enact laws that are pro-active, adding that for election to be free and fair, the electoral umpire must be unbiased and there must be freedom of choice, speech and access to the venue of election, among others.
HeÂ noted that an election may be free but not fair.
He maintained that the integrity of the exercise must be acceptable to all.
Ehindero explained that the police only enforce powers it is charged to carry out. Citing SectionÂ 60 (1) of the Electoral Act, he said it is only the presiding officer that has the powers to give order of arrest at polling booths.
He, however, canvassed advanced notice system to the police in line with the Public Order Act.
He said post-election crises pose greater danger to the survival of democracy than crises before and during elections.
He recommended constitutionalism, pro-active laws, electoral system to sanitise the system and police permit before rallies or a seven-day notice to the police as well as a balanced media reports on elections.
VP tasks Nigerians on good governance
In a keynote address, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, represented by his Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Ogiadomhen, noted that the task of growing our democracy and good governance is a task for all Nigerians, just as he assured that the President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s administration is committed to fully addressing the nationâ€™s problem within a short time.
He added that this is the covenant the administration has with the Nigerian people.
He, however, noted that the present and the future of the country were in hands of Nigerians, noting that the root to democracy in the country was becoming deeper.
The Vice-President said: â€œThe right to choose must be guided and our democracyÂ is not yet perfect and I donâ€™t know of any perfect democracy, but weâ€™ll get there,â€ adding that the nationâ€™s democracy will be stronger if the people decide who will govern them and how they will be governed.â€
According to him, President Yarâ€™Adua kept his promise on electoral reforms by setting up the Justice Uwais Committee on Electoral Eeform, adding that the ball was in the court of the National Assembly to pass the bills on electoral reforms already sent to the legislature by the executive.
He stated that the implementation of electoral reforms would commence as soon as the National Assembly passes the bills into law, stressing that future elections in the country will command international respect and will be free and fair.
‘Coruption, bane of Nigeria’s politics’
He, however, admitted that corruption was a major problem in the polity, adding that the war against corruption is a winnable. He said corruption had denied the people dividends of democracy.
â€œThis administration strongly believes that the war against corruption can be won. We have the will, we have the resources to do and we will,â€ Jonathan said.
He, therefore, advised that the colloquium should be a forum guided by what is in the best interest of the nation.
He stressed that because of poor funding, the legislature is often times virtually tied to the apron strings of the executive, noting that â€œthis is more apparent in some states where the executive uses the carrot and stick approach in dealing with the legislature. The legislature is starved of funds hence unable to carry out its statutory functions, particularly oversight.â€
He however urged the legislature to â€œrise up to popular and genuine expectations of the people it claims to represent. The legislature has a duty to be responsive and responsible. It cannot afford to be docile and timid. It needs to assert its authority. It must be vibrant, proactive and robust. Occasionally, legislative activism may be desirable.â€
Mamora noted that that a weak opposition allows for failure on the part of the ruling party.
Earlier, the CEO ofÂ Newswatch Magazine, Mr. Ray Ekpu, said the colloquium was the fourth in the series as a contribution to finding solution to the nationâ€™s problems.
He pointed out that it is not only politicians that should be held responsible if the nationâ€™s democracy is wobbling, adding that most of our politicians do not care about democracy but are concerned about power.
â€œGood governance involves respect for the rule of law, accountability, transparency, delivery on election promises, creation of an atmosphere for the flowering of freedom and for the development of the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” he added.