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Anambra: Soludo’s imposition undemocratic – Iwu

From left, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman at the event; Prof. Maurice Iwu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; Mr. Ray Ekpu, Managing Director, Newswatch Magazine and Prince Tony Momoh, former Minister of Information, at the Newswatch ''Colloquium on Democracy, Electoral Reforms and Good Governance,'' in Ikeja, Lagos, yesterday. Photo: Kehinde Gbadamosi.
From left, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman at the event; Prof. Maurice Iwu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; Mr. Ray Ekpu, Managing Director, Newswatch Magazine and Prince Tony Momoh, former Minister of Information, at the Newswatch ''Colloquium on Democracy, Electoral Reforms and Good Governance,'' in Ikeja, Lagos, yesterday. Photo: Kehinde Gbadamosi.

By Dayo Benson, Political Editor, Okey Ndiribe, James Ezema & Chukwuma Nwankamma
LAGOS—THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu, has described the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP’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 stakeholders’ 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 PDP’s candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s fate.

He spoke at the Newswatch Magazine’s Fourth Colloquium, in Lagos, yesterday,  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 court’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 legislators’ oversight functions was always a source of friction between them and the Executive arm of government.

Speaking on “Sustainable Democracy: The Role of INEC,” Prof.  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 on  imposition

On theAnambra State 2010 governorship election, he said the way “the PDP imposes candidates is not democracy. You cannot contrive political problem, it will come back to haunt.”
According to Iwu, “this is what is happening in Anambra”.

He noted that the voter’s registers to be used in coming elections are capable of detecting fraud.
“The way forward is not to vilify the commission,” he said, noting that the Constitution Review should not be done through a fiat, but should be allowed to evolve.

“Our problem goes beyond legislation, our problem is attitude”, 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.

He  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 Section  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 Yar’Adua’s administration is committed to fully addressing the nation’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: “The right to choose must be guided and our democracy  is not yet perfect and I don’t know of any perfect democracy, but we’ll get there,” adding that the nation’s democracy will be stronger if the people decide who will govern them and how they will be governed.”

According to him, President Yar’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.

“This administration strongly believes that the war against corruption can be won. We have the will, we have the resources to do and we will,” 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 “this 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.”

He however urged the legislature to “rise 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.”
Mamora noted that that a weak opposition allows for failure on the part of the ruling party.

Earlier, the CEO of  Newswatch Magazine, Mr. Ray Ekpu, said the colloquium was the fourth in the series as a contribution to finding solution to the nation’s problems.

He pointed out that it is not only politicians that should be held responsible if the nation’s democracy is wobbling, adding that most of our politicians do not care about democracy but are concerned about power.

“Good 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.


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