The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, last week, gathered major stakeholders at Abuja for a consultative dialogue on the level of preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the forthcoming polls. The event, tagged: “President’s Consultative Dialogue” has as its theme, “Are we ready for the April 2011 election?”
Chairman of the organising committee, Mr Dele Adesina, SAN, said in his address on the occasion that the main focus of NBA’s intervention in the electoral process has been the provision of non-partisan information and skills to empower citizens to effectively participate in governance and democratic process and to contribute towards the creation of positive political behaviour, culture and attitudes.
H said it was the expectation of NBA that the elections would strengthen the democratic foundation of Nigeria, add value to the nation’s electoral process and ensure fairness, transparency, due process as well as command full acceptability by the Nigerian people.
The objectives of the dialogue, he said were to foster electoral environment conducive to peaceful, free and fair elections through the management and observation of the April elections; review the state of preparedness of INEC, security agencies, political parties, monitors observers, the media and other stakeholders for the elections and dentity preparations gaps and make recommendations for a successful conduct of the April elections, and promote issue-based campaigns.
President of the association, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, in his address, identified factors that lead to desperation on the part of politicians to win elections by all means. According to him, such factors include thugs and other political bandits, who chase away voters from polling booths, seize ballot papers, thumbprint them massively and fill then into ballot boxes for their employers. He noted that it was the traditional rulers who bestow titles on dubious politicians.
*Government officials such as governors, local government chairman are mostly in hiding because of bombardment by the people with all sorts of monetary requests such as sick people or relatives assistance, my wife has just put to bed; I have no money for naming ceremony, wedding, turbanning, chieftaincy ceremonies , funeral, education and every other conceivable form of financial assistance.
* Then there are seasonal largess distributed during Ramadan, festive seasons such as Christmas, Sallah, Ester, Independence day, children’s day, workers day.
According to him, unless these factors are removed, it would be difficult to change the politicians.
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubarkar, former Head of State, who was chairman of the occasion, charged Nigerians to join men of peace and good will to call on all concerned to be of best behaviour during the election and beyond.
Independent National Electoral Commission, chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, noted that he believed that INEC was ready for the polls.
He said, “when we came in, we define a clear milestone, legal framework that will make INEC compete with the best election bodies in the world. We will be law abiding, encourage people not to break the law, anybody who breaks the law must go for it. We have been pulling resources, ideas together with development partners. We have also bring attitudinal change of our staff. We are working hard so that we do not repeat the mistake of the past.” With these, the INEC chair said the Commission was ready for the polls.
A retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice George Oguntade, said in Nigeria today, corruption was the biggest problem and that people do whatever they like and get away with it.
He lamented that the industries in the country today, were politics and the churches, adding that time had come for Nigerians to make up their minds on what they want.
Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Adoke, SAN, said that Federal Government had provided the requisite fund for INEC to conduct a credible election and put in efforts to ensure that INEC had all its required to give the country a credible election.
Dignitaries at the event were Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, Resident Election Commissioners (RECs) from Cross rivers, Borno, Bayelsa, Ogun and Plateau States.