ENUGU â€” SENATE President, Chief David Mark, yesterday, exonerated the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, from the nationâ€™s electoral problems saying Iwuâ€™s removal was not the solution to the electoral woes.
Senator Mark spoke at the beginning of the 2009 Senate retreat just as President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua restated his administrationâ€™s commitment to ongoing efforts to review the 1999 Constitution and reform the electoral process.
The opening of the five-day Senate retreat was attended by former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais; former senators, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche, among several other dignitaries.
Speaking on the theme: â€œLegislating for an enduring electoral system in Nigeriaâ€, the Senate president said: â€œOur electoral process is certainly not the worst in the world as some self-styled analysts would want us to believe and let me say further and more emphatically this time that the removal of Prof. Maurice Iwu is not the review or the reform of our electoral process.
â€œRemoval of Iwu is not synonymous with electoral reform or review. Those calling for the removal of Iwu as the first step are trivialising a very serious national issue,â€ he said.
According to him, the arguments for and against the various electoral systems exist but the discourse or the bottom-line is how best to translate votes into seats by parties or candidates.
He pointed out that the electoral system, based on the principle of â€œfirst-past-the-postâ€, has its own merits and demerits, but due to the diverse nature of the Nigerian state and historical background, the system remains appropriate.
â€œThe answer to our electoral problems need not be a complete overhaul of the existing system, but rather a fine-tuning to ensure that it operates more effectively and efficiently, and most importantly the willpower to insist that the operators play by the rules.
â€œAlthough all Nigerians have a role to play in this surmountable task, I believe, the major responsibility lies with us. We must provide the lead for Nigerians to have an attitude that is focused on how to improve on the system, for the greater interests of our people and nation,â€ he added.
The President who was represented by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan said that the government was desirous to ensure that the National Assembly completed the process of electoral reform before the 2010 general election to facilitate a credible election in the country.
â€œI believe that if we get the issue of election right in the country, every other thing will fall in place. I say so because I know that our people are very eager to be counted in the process of governance, once we can gain their confidence, the various social ills plaguing our country today, ranging from corruption to unrest in different segments of the country will disappear.
â€œThis is precisely why coming into office, my government has spared no effort to make sure that we get this process right. Equally, it was for the same reason that we treated the report of the Justice Mohammed Uwais electoral reform committee seriously, tabling it before the Federal Executive Council and Council of State in a bid to produce a decent instrument that will command the confidence of all Nigerians.,â€ the president said.
While urging the National Assembly to expedite action on the electoral review, the president assured that the Federal Government would waste no time at all in signing into law the outcome of the exercise â€œso long as the bill meets the aspirations and views of the Nigerian people.â€
In his remarks, Governor Sullivan Chime thanked the Senators for choosing Enugu for this yearâ€™s retreat and wished them a successful deliberation, while pledging that the state would ensure their comfort.