Buhari urges greater inclusiveness in electoral process
By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari has called on countries in West Africa to expand their democratic frontiers to allow for more inclusion of vulnerable groups in the society.
The President spoke, yesterday, when he declared open the Symposium/Biennial General Assembly of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC, in Abuja.
Buhari, who was represented by Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said: “It is significant to note that the 6th Biennial General Assembly of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, ECONEC, opens with a symposium on inclusiveness.
‘’I am glad to note that among the speakers at this symposium are some of the youngest female members of parliament from different countries in our sub-region. It is equally noteworthy that persons with disabilities, among them a member of parliament, are also actively participating as speakers.”
He described the situation as a very encouraging sign of the region’s steady progress in ensuring that all segments of the society have a voice in the management of public affairs, especially through the democratic process.
He said: “It is also an indication that in spite of the progress achieved so far, more needs to be done by governments through legislation, by political parties through affirmative action in the nomination of candidates for election and by all stakeholders through unrelenting advocacy for greater inclusion of all segments of society in the democratic and electoral processes.
“It is for this reason that before the last general election in Nigeria, I assented to a constitutional amendment bill that reduced the age required of a candidate to contest for some elective offices. This followed the strong but peaceful advocacy by young men and women around the slogan of “Not-too-young-to-run” as the bill passed by the National Assembly was popularly called,’’ the President said.
On his part, outgoing ECONEC chairman and head of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, recalled how ECONEC was formed in February 2008 in Conakry, Guinea, through the encouragement of ECOWAS.
“It was felt at the time that given the enormous challenges of organising elections in our sub-region, there should be a forum for electoral commissions to collaborate with one another through peer learning and support,” he said.