By Simon Ebegbulem & Gabriel Enogholase
BENINâ€”NOBEL laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has warned that should Nigerians make the mistake of accepting to take part in the 2011 elections under electoral rules that were not acceptable to them, they would have lost the battle for free and fair elections for ever.
Besides, he called for the immediate removal of Professor Maurice Iwu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saying Iwuâ€™s removal would pave the way for credible, free and fair elections come 2011.
Soyinka also described the Senate President, David Mark, as a very confused man over his comment in Enugu, while declaring the Senate retreat open, that the removal of Iwu would not solve the electoral problems of the nation.
He called on Mark to stop trivializing the issue of the sound arguments by Nigerians demanding for the removal of the INEC boss.
On his part, Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said Professor Iwu should not be blamed alone in the spate of electoral fraud in the country, adding that â€œwe need a holistic approach to the entire electoral reform.
â€œThe starting point is that the electoral officer must not be appointed by anybody standing for election.
â€œ I want us to take a deeper look at the complexity of the problem so that we can deal with it once and for all. The President has started it by setting the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reform.
â€œIt is now our duty to ensure that the report of that committee is implemented so that we can have a free and fair election in Nigeria,â€ he said.
Professor Soyinka, who spoke in Benin City yesterday, while delivering a lecture entitled Electoral Intergrity Begets Governance Integrity, at the first anniversary of Governor Adams Oshiomhole in office, said that the demand for the removal of Iwu was hinged on incompetence.
In a tacit agreement with what Soyinka and Oshiomhole said, former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said that until Iwu was removed as the chief electoral officer of the country, the nation would not move forward and be great.
Tinubu said: â€œIf you can condone Iwu on electoral fraud, then there will be no need for EFCC and ICPC in the country.
â€œThe challenges before Nigerians now are clear: It is either you have it or leave it. Let us say ‘no more’ to electoral fraud, electoral irregularities and imposition of candidates,â€ said Tinubu, who also called for the adoption of Option A4 for future elections in the country.
Warning against fielding candidates who do not get their mandates from the people but from other forces, Soyinka, in a veiled reference to Anambra debacle, where law and order broke down during the adoption of former Governor Chris Ngige, with the security looking the other way,Â warned against imposition of candidates.
According to him, â€œAnambra State is yet to recover from this mayhem since then, since those who are the architects of that saga are still there ready to take over the state again.â€
He canvassed that only those who have undergone the necessary test with their integrity intact should be invited into future governance at all levels.
Chairman of the occasion and Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, called on Nigerian politicians to cultivate the norm of seeing the opposition as friendly and tolerate and respect them. He also called on the opposition to recognize a legitimate government by offering constructive criticism.
He canvassed that all electoral disputes should be resolved by the court before a winner was sworn in, observing that electoral disputes were still dragging in different courts across the country after over two years.
Dignitaries that attended the anniversary lecture, include Governor Olusegun Mimiko; former Nigeria Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule; Professor Jerry Gana; Chief Segun Osoba; Chief E.K.Clark; Alhaji Balarabe Musa, among many others.
Chief Bisi Akande; Senator Jonathan Zwingina who represented former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Chief Olu Falae and two time Governor of defunct Bendel state, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and Dr Chris Ngige.