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Ban election riggers for life, says Sen. Okpozo

By Gabriel Enogholase
Senator Francis Spanner Okpozo was a senator in the Third Republic and former Deputy Speaker in the defunct Bendel State House of Assembly. He is also the leader of Isoko Ethnic Nationality of Delta State. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on  electoral reforms independent candidacy   election rigging. He advocates  that election manipulators should be banned from politics for life to serve as deterrent  to others.

What is your opinion on the six executive bills submitted to the National Assembly by President Yar’Adua ?

As a matter of fact, I commended Mr. President. for coming out to reform the Electoral system by submitting some bills to the National Assembly to consider. This thing has been overdue for a long time. The Electoral reform can specifically deal with the following areas:

First, the number of Political parties should not be more than two as we had in  the days of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). Any  thing other than this leads to fraud because the party in power will  always think of destabilizing the system by having all sorts of people to form their own political parties to destabilize the political system.

These  people are political harlots. Their mission is to be used by the political party in power who gives them money to destabilize what is on the ground during elections. Such people have no popularity even in their wards and houses to support a  candidate that can even win election as a councillor. Their own is to wait for the annual subvention from INEC to share among themselves.

They are agents of fraud, agents that are out to destabilize the political system. So, such political parties should not be allowed to exist. Two political party system is ideal for this country. As it exists in Europe, America, Britain and even in India. Nigeria cannot stand the problems associated with a multiple  party  system. Two political parties are adequate for this nation.

Secondly, appointments into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should not be made by a sitting President, who is enjoying the paraphernalia of power. A President who is in power should not make  appointments into INEC; it should made by the Supreme Court Justices based  on equitable representation throughout the nooks and crannies of the country.

They should sit together and screen the candidates that apply for INEC  positions  and appoint the best candidate. The president and political parties should not be involved in the appointment of INEC commissioners and its Chairman.

INEC should be fully independent to the extent that the personal emoluments of its personnel

should be budgeted for and paid from the Consolidated Revenue as it is done to Judiciary.

The money meant for INEC should not be attached to the Presidency. It should not be attached to the legislative or any other arm. They should have their share directly from the Federation Account.

The use of police during elections should stop. People know how to take care of themselves. Dragging soldiers and police into election matters is a way of manipulating the system. So, like what they did in Ekiti State all they should have done was to station the police in strategic places far away from the polling booths.

I would have even supported that in order to avoid the risk, let them go back to Option A4 voting system for the election, where the people would line up behind their candidates so that every body will see what is going on and be satisfied rather than going through the ballot papers and boxes that can easily be snatched by fraudulent people and thugs. So Option A4 should have been used in Ekiti State and that would have solved the problem there.

It will remove the rancour, fraud and all l sorts of agitations that caused embarrassment to this nation.

How do you react to the clamour for  independent candidacy in our electoral system?

When I talk of a two party system, it gives the options to who wants to contest elections to go to any of the two political parties. 1 do not support independent candidacy because it is of no use. An independent candidate would have no political contributions for his people; so why putting a vehicle without tyres on the road? Even if an independent candidate  succeeds in winning an election, he may not be of any political value to his people.

Carpet crossing has become a contentious issue in the present political dispensation. How do you think it can be managed?

Carpet crossing in whatever form is cheating. The government should abrogate carpet crossing immediately. Any body who wants to cross from one political party to another should first resign his position. He should not be allowed to carry the mandate given to him by a political party to another political party. And if such a person is found to be corrupt  after resigning, should be treated as a criminal. He did not obtain the consent of his people and  he did not contest election on that platform to which he  has crossed; he has no mandate from his people.

Therefore, he should be thrown out completely. No law should allow that. No party should accept them if they cannot be accommodated by their own party. The only option left for them is to resign and if they so insist they should go back and re-contest elections. Fraudulent practices should be stopped in this country. It should not be allowed. Resigne completely from your political party and go to your home to sit down because defection is immoral.

What is your response to calls for the scrapping of  State Independent Electoral Commissions SIEC?

There should be no State INEC because they breed corruption, electoral fraud and loss of confidence  among  the people. They can easily be manipulated and they are  usually occupied by political office holders which is not good for the nation. Even if they are to exist, the Chief Judge of the State should summon all retired Chief Judges of the State and interviewed those who have been nominated for the position. The governor should not appoint them.

What is the best way to handle  election riggers to serve as a deterrent to others?

The punishment proposed for election riggers is not adequate. Ten years is inadequate. Election riggers must be totally removed from the political scene. They should be banned from contesting any election for life because they are the people taking  this country back.

Stiffer penalties  should be imposed on election riggers. They should be totally banned because they are  fraudulent and they likely influence others.Not only election riggers alone that should be banned, those who carry machetes, guns and other offensive weapons to cause trouble should be jailed for at least ten years. All these can help reform this nation

Do you think it is proper for government officials to donate to a political party?

It is totally wrong for a president of a country to donate to party.  It is an offence  for a president to donate N 20 million to a political party. What is his total income? For a  Governor of a state to donate N 15 million, what is his take home pay? What is the take home of a member of the legislature or council Chairman or councilor.

This should not be allowed. A President of a country should not donate more than N1 million. He has a lot of responsibilities to his family, his people and the nation. Where will you want him to take N20 million from? All these things make them to  manipulate the process because they would no longer be satisfied with their salaries. They will find other means to make money; contracts will be inflated and money will be mis-directed from the consolidated revenue fund.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.