By Ben Agande
ABUJAâ€”The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday challenged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to do all within its powers, to replace the existing distrust about it amongst Nigerians with respect and admiration by doing the right thing in the 2011 election.
The Acting president who spoke when the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Maurice Iwu unveiled the tentativeÂ timetable for the 2011 election said though the administration has taken steps to reform the electoral process, the key to â€˜unlocking the doors of accountable leadershipâ€™ in the country lies with INEC.
â€œWe must do the right thing so that distrust of INEC, will in no time, give way to respect and admiration,â€ the Acting President who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Tokunbo Kayode, SAN, said.
Calls for credible elections
According to the Acting President, of all the challenges facing the country today, instituting a credible electoral process remains the most daunting, adding that the various steps taken including the setting up of the Justice Lawal Uwais committee on electoral reforms and the forwarding of its report to the National Assembly underscores the determination of the government to overcome the challenge.
â€œDemocracy is a journey that every nation, mindful of advancing the liberty of its citizens must undertake. Untainted elections and any obstacle on its path must be removed. In this regard, we shall be unwavering in our prosecution of all electoral offenders without exception and intensifying the battle against corruption to deter corrupt elements from seeing politics as a messy ground.
â€œThere is no doubt that the integrity of our elections will improve accountability and transparency and also enhance the quality of our leadership thereby providing some strong impetus to our national development while promoting unity,â€ the Acting President said.
Dr Jonathan said Nigerians must rise up and insist that elections must be conducted in an acceptable manner, adding that when this is done the country would be better off for it.
â€œWe have come to the point where we must now agree that elections in our country must not continue to be a breeding ground for god fatherism, anger and frustration. I believe that free and fair elections are the core of representative democracy. If we attain this a wider pool of credible candidates would be attracted to the political process, an idea that would eclipse ethnicity, settler/indigene consideration, power of money, and other divisive factors that promote the rule of mediocrity,â€ he said.
While admitting that Nigerians are not happy with the conduct of the INEC so far, the Acting President however, pointed out that â€˜We have a great opportunity ahead of us to right the wrongs and to advance our democracy beyond the reaches of negativism. If there is any institution that can unlock the doors for accountable leadership is INEC. We must do the right thing so that distrust of INEC will, in no time, give way to respect and admirationâ€™.
Earlier in his remarks, the governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole gave six points which he said must be accomplished in order to ensure a credible, free and fair election in the country.
Some of these include the removal of the appointment of the Chairman and Resident Electoral Commissioners of INEC from the president, the insistence that all issues concerning electoral victory be resolved before the winner is sworn in; production of credible voters register and the re-orientation of the political elite to ensure peaceful and credible elections.
Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim in his comment commended INEC for its efforts so far and called on all Nigerians, especially the political class to support the commission to correct some of the noticeable flaws in previous elections.