By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
On a day that the Court of Appeal declared Engr. Rauf Aregbesola as the winner of the 2007 Osun State governorship elections, six months to the end of his supposed tenure after three and a half years of legal fisticuffs, President Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharaf and former Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, have urged Nigerians to end election rigging by protecting their votes in the 2011 polls.
Insisting that credible leaders could not emerge from flawed polls and neither could democracy be deepened in the circumstance, Jonathan and Musharaf asked the electorate to take their destinies in the hands.
They spoke yesterday at the 12th session of the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation lecture held at the main auditorium of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Victoria Island Lagos.
Musharaf spoke on “National Security As A Fundamental to Building Enduring Democracy” under a broad theme: “Democracy As Holism: That The Doves May Be Set Free In Our Land (Political Stability, Security, Peace and Socio-Economic Development As Integrals of Democracy).”
Mbanefo, who chaired the event, lamented that six months to the end of the current term, about 300 election petitions had not been resolved and urged the judiciary to set up special tribunals to speedily handle election petitions because “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Noting that the country was facing serious challenges 50 years after independence on account of inability to hold free and fair elections, the erudite diplomat hoped “that we will get it right in 2011 because the election of a good leader with vision is closely related to good election.”
He continued: “Since 1999, Nigeria has not had a presidential election which result was generally accepted. This situation only exists in Nigeria. One cannot imagine why the courts have failed to set up special courts to handle election matters. The voters are the losers if those who truly won elections don’t have their cases resolved before the end of their terms.”
Jonathan, who was represented by the Minister of State (Information), Dr. Labaran Maku, restated his commitment to ensuring credible polls and asked Nigerians “to take their destiny in their hands by ensuring that their votes count and choosing the leader of their choice” because “I hope that the 2011 elections will usher in the cleanest and fairest election in our nation’s history.”
Noting that in spite of its shortcomings, democracy does not have an alternative, Jonathan, who said he was committed to electoral reforms that would ensure the sanctity of elections, added that Nigerians have to work to work hard to improve the country’s democracy and ensure emergence of credible leaders.
“Let’s get the election right taking a cue from today’s lecture.”
Identifying poverty as the greatest threat to democracy, peace and stability, the President said that he was working hard at job creation via improving power supply, of which he said about $1.94 billion contracts had been awarded to redress the power problem.
In his lecture, which he delivered extempore, Musharaf said credible election was the starting point of democracy, whose essence was for elected leaders to execute governance. “Democracy should be concerned with whether the people are masters of their own destinies,” he stated.
Drawing from his Pakistani experience, the former military and civilian leader, averred that democracy should not have a standard format for all countries but should be tailored to suit individual environments.
He identified collective economic well-being for all segments of the polity as the guarantor of enduring democracy, noting that income inequalities, widening gulf between the rich and the poor portended danger for all parts of the world and not just individual countries.
Musharaf said democracy could be made sustainable if all masses, all segments of the society had a stake in the state in terms of economic well-being and power sharing.
The experienced leader noted that aside external threats, countries do have internal threats from ethnic, tribal and religious diversities. He listed causes of insecurity as political dispute, economic equalities and sub-nationalism, adding that terrorism and extremism are tools used by people suffering from the three causes to draw attention to their problem.
Musharaf also spoke on why his country developed nuclear weapons, insecurity in the Middle and Far East and how the Alqaeda developed.
According to him, Alqaeda emerged from abandoned 25,000 Mujahideens, who were trained and deployed to Afghanistan to curtain rising fanaticism in the country between 1979 and 1989 by the United Nations, United States and Pakistan.
“It was a blunder. 25,000 Mujahideens were trained and pumped into Afghanistan by the UN, US and Pakistan between 1979 to 1989 but after the war, the US abandoned the area. There was no rehabilitation and resettlement for the Mujahideens and this led to the formation of the Alquaeda,” he said.