By Henry Umoru
ABUJAâ€”PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan said, yesterday, that some of the names he submitted to the Senate for screening and subsequent clearance as Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, would be withdrawn.
Speaking at the 51st National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, President Jonathan said: â€œFor that reason I promised Nigerians and the whole world that in 2011, we will conduct free and fair elections. For that reason anybody that will be in INEC should be somebody that should be above board.
People should have confidence in him because perception is one thing and reality is another.
â€œIf they perceive that he will do the wrong thing even if he does the right thing, and somebody fails election they will believe that he was manipulated out and for that reason those people that have been linked to have played key roles in political parties, I am withdrawing them.â€
It would be recalled that the Action Congress, AC, and Human Rights Monitor, HRM, had raised alarm that some of the nominees by the President such as General Bagudu Mamman (rtd), who is from Abaji in the Federal Capital Territory, is a member of Board of Trustees, BoT of PDP.
Also accused were Ambassador Mohammed Zaki Anka who contested for the Zamfara governorship election in 1999 on the platform of PDP; Alhaji Yakubu Shehu who contested for the Senatorial election in 2003 and 2007 in Kaduna State and Mr. Eddy Nwatalari from Enugu State.
President Jonathan noted that the move became imperative against the backdrop of evidence before him that some of the nominees participated actively in politics onÂ the platform of a political party.
Membership of political parties
He said: â€œIf we follow media publications, you will notice that they come with clear evidence of some people that are clear members of political parties. The constitution does not say that if you are a member of a political party you should not be an INEC Commissioner. No, that is very clear.
â€œYou can be a member of a political party. We can decide to make PDPâ€™s acting chairman the chairman of INEC if we chose to do so if we believe that he can conduct free and fair elections. I am not saying that he is going to rig election for PDP. In fact, the law emphasises that to be in INEC, you must qualify to contest election in the House of Representatives.
â€œTo contest election into the House of Representatives, you must be a member of a political party. So, if you follow the law to the letter you can appoint people in political parties to be in INEC. Active members of political parties will feel, wrongly or rightly, that we will be biased, if today I make the acting chairman the INEC Chairman, they will say PDP has taken over the place.
Presentation for screening
â€œBut I did mention to members of the Council of State the day I made the presentation to them that from that day till when the list would be screened, if I have any complaint about a particular person, we would withdraw that person.
Immediately the Senate screens it, I will no longer have powers to withdraw except there are major challenges then I would go back to the Senate and say that there are so many complaints about Mr. A or Mrs B. We need to withdraw because I will need to consult them when it gets to that point, but until the screening, I have the full powers to withdraw somebody that people raise issues againstâ€.
The President who reiterated that he would ensure that votes counted in the 2011 general elections, called on PDP members to entrench internal democracy in the party, said that internal wranglings that led to the party not winning the Anambra State governorship election must be addressed.
On security, President Jonathan, who noted that kidnapping had become worrisome to the government, promised that the government was prepared to address the menace.
He said: â€œThe security of the country is worrisome, especially kidnapping. I always say that in terms of petty crimes, there are some countries that are worse than Nigeria. Petty crimes like pocket picking and so on.
Now, South Africa is hosting the whole world, all the dignitaries, soccer stars are there and nobody is complaining. But, petty crimes for those of you who have been to South Africa or who read about South Africa is worst there than Nigeria. But nobody is complaining about South Africa hosting the World Cup.
â€œSo, the issue of kidnapping is a problem that the government must tackle frontally. And I have decided that I must tackle it frontally. We can no longer continue to live in a society where even if your wife is going to church, you have to look for an escort to follow her.
”If your children are going to school, you have to look for machine gun carrying security people to follow them. How many people can afford that?
â€œSome parts of the South-South and South-East, Port Harcourt were in terrible situations at a time but we have to thank Governor Amaechi, the economy is coming back because he is facing the situation frontally.
â€œIn the South-East, especially Abia State, it is becoming a state where we can no longer accept the situation. And I said that we will spend the last money government has to crush this insecurity. Without security you canâ€™t even develop.”