By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — CHAIRMAN, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday, disclosed that political parties in the country provide in their budget estimate money that will be used to bribe officials of his Commission and Security agents.
He also said the financial and procedural accountability of some parties is deficient with “a predilection to cutting corners.
“Political parties budget to bribe security and INEC officials. This is a very serious challenge to our democracy,” he said. Speaking at a Roundtable Conference on Party Politics in Nigeria and Lobbying the Lobbyist and the Legislature, organised by the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS in Abuja, Jega also said ahead of the 2015 general elections, there was the urgent need for further electoral reforms to be carried out.
Winning at all cost syndrome
According to him, the ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly should be used as a platform to effect the reforms and warned that politicians must put behind them winning at all cost syndrome.
Jega also told Nigerians and politicians that if the nation’s politics and elections must be made clean, all stakeholders in the democratic process must work together.
He said political parties must also develop agenda and programmes that would strengthen national unity and development, adding: “We must seize the prevailing circumstances of the constitution amendment to carry out further reforms as we move towards the 2015 general elections.
“Throughout our post independent history, our political parties have muddled through politics and elections. They have essentially undermined rather than added value to the reformation of our electoral politics.
“Since the 2011 elections, we have relative improvements in a few areas but, still, much needs to be done. As we move towards the 2015 general elections and beyond, our political parties need new thinking, new orientation and new principles of engagement in democratic politics and elections. We must all work together to bring about this desired change.
According to him, if political parties must meet up with the future, they must develop capacity for organisation, transparent fund raising and campaign expenditures, adding that as parties, they should pay attention to recruiting and training activist cadres on core democratic values of professional and peaceful conduct, and they should have very well trained agents for electoral duties and poll watching.
Poverty killing electoral process —Tukur
Also in his contribution, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, however, attributed poverty among the voters as a major factor that contributed to flawed electoral process in the country.
Represented at the event by the PDP National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Tukur also berated the judiciary for the delay in disposing election cases, even as he stressed the need for the entrenchment of party ideology.
Godfathers in parties
Also contributing, former Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo said if political parties must grow and attract the confidence of the people, there must be no godfather or godmother in the party hierarchy, adding that members of the party must have unfettered access to contest and to hold any position of their choice in the party.
Nwodo said internal democracy was very crucial in the strengthening of the political structure, adding it also helps in choosing candidates for general elections.
Former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme, who chaired one of the sessions, lamented that rather than the structures of the parties getting stronger, they are becoming weaker, adding: “Party structure in the First Republic was stronger than the Second Republic and Second Republic stronger than what we have today,” he said.