By OlasunkanmiÂ Akoni, James Ezema & Monsur Olowoopejo
LAGOSâ€” Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has urged President Goodluck Jonathan, to appoint a human right activist as the next chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and not a card carrying member of any political party.
Oshiomhole who spoke on the topic â€˜Good Governance as a Prelude to Economic Developmentâ€™ at a business luncheon organised in his honour, by Island Club Lagos, yesterday, explained that over the years, people have not paid attention to the process of nominating INEC chairman, but with the current trend in the nationâ€™s political history, it had become expedient that those who stake their life in the process of establishing civil rule be given roles in order to perfect the system.
He commended the brave decision of the President for relieving the former INEC boss, Prof. Maurice Iwu, of his duty, stressing that any move to do contrary would cast doubt in his sincerity to ensure free and fair general elections come 2011.
He said, “if President Jonathan must exercise the power to appoint a new INEC chief, and if he does so, he should be resisted. He must not appoint aÂ known card carrying member of a political party because if he does so, he cannot expect the rest of us to believe in it.
â€œPeople may want to ask why? A membership of a political party implies a commitment to ensure that your party is in government, whether the party is ruling well or not,” he explained.
While supporting the Justice Mohammed Uwais report on electoral reforms, which suggested that the National Judicial Council, NJC, be saddled with the responsibility of appointing the INEC chairman and the 36 residential officers of the electoral body, he said this was vital to resuscitating the country electoral process as no one should be allowed to be an umpire in a contest that he or she is a key player.
According to him, â€œNigeria has become a reality. The present situation is not about the person in office, itâ€™s about the principle. I recognise that for the NJC to exercise this power, we would need legislative intervention. We have to make that point loud and clear that the long term interest of Nigeria must take centre stage over the short term political calculation.â€
â€œIf I were the unoffical adviser of Prsident Jonathan, I would urge him to restrict his search to the human rights community, we have credible people (activists) who can man the position without fear or favourâ€, he said.
The Governor added that â€œif newspaper reports are to be believed, various interest groups are already proposing different individuals depending on various calculations. If the appointment is made on the basis of these calculations, the reform will be in jeopardy.”
Let me say that I do recognise that for the National Judicial Council to exercise those powers as Uwais recommended, you will need legislative intervention. But we must make the point loud and clear that he who is assigned with responsibilities, as they say if God gives you power, may He also give you wisdom that the long term interest of Nigeria must take precedent over long term political calculations.
As we have seen, the system that favours you in the morning and you will want to retain, by some internal dynamics, tomorrow may be out of that system.â€
He added: â€œFor me, the beauty of democracy is not that it will produce angels but it reduces those who win office to win it only at the pleasure of the citizens and when they prove to be incompetent, the electorate have the power to punish by removing from office or by determining to re-elect. But the tragedy we find in Nigeria is that the more we mismanage the national enterprise, the more we guarantee our tenure.
For example, while everybody, including the late President Yarâ€™Adua, including current President Goodluck, including every commentator in Nigeria across the political parties, there is not one, at least I have heard, saying Nigeria is doing well.
What may vary is the explanation why weâ€™re not doing well. And yet, the party in power arrogantly say to us, â€˜Weâ€™ll be in government for the next 60 yearsâ€™. People that were not performing, â€˜weâ€™ll be there for the next 60 yearsâ€™ and he goes home and sleeps.
There is no other country where that act of provocation will be accepted because what they have said to you is that the next sixty divided by four, whatever number of election it gives you, that those elections will be manipulated so that the ruling party will prevailâ€.
He maintained that â€œThere is no other democracy where a public functionary or a party leader can say to the people will govern you for â€˜Xâ€™ number of years because only the electorate can decide that. But the good thing however is that if you look around, those who said they govern for 60 years couldnâ€™t even make it as chairmen for six years and they are out.
So, there are other contradictions that seems to help us when weâ€™re helpless to deal with it because that is not as a result of your effort or my effort.
It is just the internal contradictions that seem to have assisted him to leave much more earlier than he had planned. But he has not retrieved the statement and there is nobody in that party that has retrieved the statement. So, I want to believe it remains the official policy.
The Edo State governor also made a call for the restriction of registered political parties stressing that with five parties; all positions