Political heavy weights across the nation gathered in Benin City , Edo State capital last week Thursday, at the 1st anniversary celebration of Governor Adams Oshiomholeâ€™s administration to stress the need for reforming the nation’s electoral process.
The leaders warned that the 2011 elections may not be feasible unless we have an acceptable electoral process that would guarantee free and fair elections, just as they also called for sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Maurice Iwu, saying that his tenure has brought monumental failure to the nation’s electoral system.
The political leaders at the occasion were Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, former Nigeria Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule, Professor Jerry Gana, Chief Segun Osoba, Chief E.K.Clark, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Bisi Akande, Senator Jonathan Zwingina who represented former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Chief Olu Falae, two time governor of defunct Bendel Stat, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and Dr Chris Ngige.
Others are Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, President of the NLC, Abdulwaheed Omar, former NLC Presidents Alhaji Hassan Sumonu and Alli Ciroma, veteran labour leader, Chief Frank Kokori, Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Rowland Owie, Otunba Ganiyu Adams, ASUU President Ukachukwu Awuzie, AC Governorship candidate in Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, Dr Joe Odumakin, Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Iwuayanwu and others.
NOBEL laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who fired the first salvo, while delivering a lecture entitled â€œElectoral Intergrity Begets Governance Integrityâ€, said that the demand for the removal of Iwu was hinged on incompetence, warning that if Nigerians make the mistake of accepting to take part in the 2011 elections under electoral rules that are not acceptable to them, then they have lost the battle for free and fair elections for ever.
Taking a swipe at the Senate President, David mark, on his statement that Professor Iwu was not the problem of the electoral system, he described Mark as a very confused man, just as he called on him to stop trivializing the issue of the sound arguments by Nigerians demanding for the removal of the INEC boss. His lecture elicited reactions from the political pundits at the occasion and Vanguard spoke to some of them.
Alhaji Maitama Sule
As far as I am concerned, we are having problems with our democracy in Nigeria and even in Africa because what we are practicing, the democracy we are practicing today in Africa is Eurocentric not Afrocentric. We are practicing democracy that is not taken into consideration our cultural background. Only a few weeks ago President Obama was saying that nations of the world should be allowed to shape their democracy in accordance with their culture.
Democracy being relative, the cultural heritage of the people should therefore shape their kind of democracy. American style of democracy is different from that of Great Britain . The British style of democracy is different from that of Germany or France . Therefore, if we insist that we must practice democracy, as it is being practiced in other parts of the world without putting into consideration our cultural background, we will never get out of the woods.
InÂ 1962, when I went to Ibadan University to give a lecture, I told them something, that we have two things that are wrong in Africa , leadership and the political system we are operating. It was then that I said that we should explore our own kind of democracy, African type of democracy. I know that it will take time for us to adopt it because we have been brain washed with the European or American type of democracy. And any country that try to imitate an alien culture will end up being a caricature.
It is only when we elect the right calibre of people that we will be able to progress but so long as we do not elect the right calibre of people, they will do what they like, they will not dispense justice, there will not be peace and stability in the country, there will be no progress. Nigeria needs leaders, leaders of the right calibre, leaders who realize the potentials of this country. Yes Nigeria is great, but potentially. We need to work hard to be able to realize the potential greatness of the country.
To do this, we must have leaders freely elected, leaders who have credibility. We must have them. And that is why I am glad we have in the Governor of Edo State, my son. The joy of a dying father is the presence of a worthy successor. I have in Aliu a worthy successor and by the grace of God he will succeed. The over four monthâ€™s crisis of ASUU was resolved by Aliu (Oshiomhole). You have made a lot of contributions to save this country and if you are allowed you will do more. Let us pray that we have more Soyinkas, more Oshiomholes, leaders and not looters.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
This nation will never achieve its potentials in terms of human and mineral resources, the great development that it deserves until we have a free and fair election. The challenge is ours.Â We have been very very sad with what the President of the Senate, David Mark said about trivializing the matter by calling for the removal of Maurice Iwu. He has forgotten that the fish starts getting rotten from the head.
If by now the degree of fraud committed by INEC, the number of cases in court, the record of Guobadia was even better. Today Iwu is the worst in theÂ INEC book of records.Â If that is a trivial matter, then we may as well scrape EFCC and ICPC.
Until we have removed theÂ head, that is in INEC today, we wonâ€™t have election that we can count on. If you condone Iwu, then you can condone any thing because electoral offences are worst than the monetary and material fraud we are experiencing today. But you know we have started the Coalition for Democrats for Electoral Reforms. So back the reform.
In that effort, if Nigeria will not stand up to demand our right, power will not change. If Adams Oshiomhole did not fight with great perseverance he will not be a governor today. The challenge is there, is either you live with it or you fight it. Our founding fathers fought for our independence and they won it.
The second phase of our struggle was against military dictatorship, without that crusade we would not have the democracy we are enjoying today. The third phase of our struggle, was the third term agenda, the race to get rid of Obasanjo. We fought behind one single movement and we won.
Therefore, this is the fourth and final stage of our struggle.Â No more electoral fraud, no more electoral irregularity, no more imposition. I thank Uncle Wole Soyinka for sayingÂ we should march forward and liberate this country.
Our constitutional right to vote and be voted for is our right. We have done it in 1993, one Professor Nwosu gave us open secret ballot and if they want to correct the errors let them just adop
t the decree and amend the constitution we are ready to vote. A democrat can only enjoy the result of a free and fair election if they are honest. The struggle is ours.
In 1999, Chief Olu Falae challenged formerÂ President Obasanjo’s election; the Supreme Court unanimously endorsed the validity of that election. In 2003, General Buhari challenged President Obasanjoâ€™s re-election, the Supreme Court was divided, the majority endorsed the result but there was one dissenting voice of Justice Osofor who described it as a sham.
But in 2007 Buhari challenged President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s election and a divided Supreme Court almost nullified it. Three of the seven justices said the election was fraud. Now you can see the progressive deterioration in the electoral process in Nigeria.
The most urgent emergency in Nigeria today is the corrupt electoral process. If the Legislative and Executive powers cannot change the system then the only answer is to mobilize Nigerians to protect their vote. I want to say that we celebrate Adams today because he provided concrete evidence that the will of the people can prevail. Today Comrade is Governor of Edo State, tomorrow Comrade will be President of Nig
Governor Olusegun Mimiko
I have no doubt in my mind that if there is electoral integrity, even the worst of leader will feel responsible to the people. In the electoral reform, there is an issue I think we should canvass for and it is the issue that no body who has been sworn in receives salary until the adjudication process is completed, it is very important.
The greatest weapon that the election riggers have is for them to say look just wait we will be here and be postponing the court case. As I speak with you now, we still have more than nine cases in the Appeal Court in Edo State and that is very bad for our democracy.
Professor Jerry Gana
We believe that if democracy is the rule of the people, then the people must have the choice to freely elect their leaders, therefore if there is no electoral integrity, then there cannot be democratic excellence and so democracy it self will gradually die. Therefore this issue of election is very fundamental.
The people of Nigeria must be determined to say elections must be free and fair. We will continue to wish the people of Edo state well because God has given you a good governor.