By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN— Catholic cleric, Rev. Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, has said unless there were free and fair elections in the country, where the people’s votes would count, Nigerians cannot claim to be free.

According to him, freedom remained the cardinal objective of any democratic institution and is better exercised fundamentally by the symbolic possession of a ballot paper.

He said anything that  tampers with or desecrates or challenges or disenfranchises the citizens is antithetical to democracy.

Rev. Kukah, who made this observation at the recent “One Man, One Vote” rally organised by Edo State government in Benin, said without a free and fair election, without the ability of the ordinary citizen believing that his vote counts, “we can’t have what may look like the best form of government in terms of infrastructure.”

He contented that the only way within which Nigerians could measure their collective self worth was the internalization of the principles of democracy and  the rights of the people through voting without intimidation or fear.

Recalling his recent visit to Yola where he was invited by a Muslim organization to speak on Electoral Reform, Rev. Kukah said:  “There is the need for us to put behind us all the instruments that the oppressors of yesterday have used against us, be it religion, ethnicity, power or wealth.

“I try to notice it here that in this country, we don’t have a Muslim vote, we don’t have a Christian vote, we don’t a Northern vote, we don’t have a Niger Deltan vote, but only one central vote.   Therefore, our aspirations must be geared towards the attainment of this.”

He described the rally as a very fundamental rallying point for the country in its quest for the sustenance of democracy.

Kukah also encouraged the citizens to cast their votes in future elections without the directive of a general or Iman or Bishop.

Noting that the road to democracy was a very difficult and thorny one, he appealed the citizens to tarry along and resist the temptation that any other institution other than democracy could solve the problems of the country.

“If nothing else, let us imbibe the principle that the solution to a bad election is another election; let us commit ourselves to the principle that the solution to a bad governor or President is a new governor of president,” he said.


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