As Oshiomhole, Igiebor clash over Obasanjo at democracy talk shop
By Dirisu Yakubu
Immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, Wednesday, justified the continued use of military personnel in the nation’s electoral process.
Jega while advancing reasons to defend the deployment of security forces by the commission during elections also made a strong case for the safeguarding of the country’s electioneering process, even as he advised political actors to remember that election is a process and not an event.
Delivering a keynote address in Abuja at the 20 Years of Democracy Conference organised by Tell Magazine, the Professor of Political Science chided some political parties for failing to build and nurture internal democracy and the process of emergence of candidates for various elective offices, adding that as a result, money bags have come to see election as a matter of life and death.
Jega whose address drew rounds of applause from the audience did not spare unnamed leaders of political parties for what he called their authoritarian style of leadership. According to him, in a bid to be seen as strong leaders, they run the parties with disregards for decorum and civility, adding that political parties do no grow that way.
He said: “A lot has been said about the deployment of security during elections but we should recognize the fact that in Nigeria, we are faced with systemic security challenges. The presence of security is to ensure that the people have the peace of mind to come out to vote freely.
“The most important thing is to ensure that the security deployed is impartial and non-partisan. They should be professional in their conduct.”
Blaming trust deficit for low voter turnout as a percentage of a total number of registered voters in the past election cycles, Jega said, “Perhaps the clearest evidence of this loss of trust and confidence in the electoral process is the declining voter turnout in elections since 1999. The reported data of voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters for elections are 52.3 per cent (1999), 69.1 per cent (2003), 57.3 per cent (2007), 55.4 per cent in 2011, 44 per cent in 2015 and 37 per cent in 2019.”
Although a lot of improvement has been in the past few years, Jega warned of a possible reversal of fortunes in the 2023 elections if money bags continue to believe in the use of thugs and money to buy votes.
“The political parties and candidates, indeed the political class must give electoral democracy the seriousness that it deserves. They must eschew the ‘do-or-die’ with which they engage in electoral contests and see electoral contests as something you can only win or lose; and if you lose, you accept the result, congratulate the winner and live to prepare to contest again at the next available opportunity,” he added.
Meanwhile, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole traded tackles with the President/ Editor-in-Chief of Tell Magazine, Nosa Igiebor apparently because of some remarks credited to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo in the past.
Oshiomhole in his goodwill message took a swipe at those he called ethnic jingoists who not long ago “described winning election as a do-or-die affair,” wondering why having realized their personal ambition as Nigerians, they now wants the country to explode.
“It is unfortunate that a man in his 80s will say Nigeria may break up. Why do you want Nigeria to break up? Don’t you want your children to enjoy it? These are people who dismantled the regions, created additional states and gave us the current structure. Now, they are calling for restructuring. Who gave us the present structure? We must be careful of these tribalists who cannot win elections in their own localities,” he said, a comment that did not sit well with Igiebor, who rose to assure the former President of his place in the country’s nationalism Hall of Fame.
“You can accuse Olusegun Obasanjo of anything but one thing you can’t say of him is that he is not a tribalist. He is not an ethnic jingoist,” fired the veteran journalist and columnist.
Igiebor further added that if the imperfections witnessed in 2019 were repeated in 2023, there would be no future for Nigeria.
And in what appeared a trip down memory lane, the Editor-in-Chief said he regretted his decision to head back to Nigeria when he had the opportunity to stay back in the United States of America on a journalism fellowship many years ago, adding that the country is far from what it ought to be.
Various categories of awards were presented to distinguished Nigerians including Obasanjo, President Goodluck Jonathan, ex-Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and Hon. Justice Aloma Mukhtar.
In his contribution, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu called on the media to take leaders to task on behalf of the people.
Represented by his Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Tony Amokeodo, Magu said: “Let me use this platform to challenge the press to rise up to the occasion as they play their role as the Fourth Estate of the Realm. You must hold leaders accountable at all times. You must, above all, be responsible in the discharge of the delicate task placed on your shoulder. There is no room for flippancy on your part. This is why you must from time to time self-check to expose and purge yourself of spoilers who hide under the banner of the media to spread fake news, hate messages and misinformation. You cannot afford to fail Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema singled out ethnic nationalism as the singular most potent factor militating against the growth and development of the country. According to him, “democracy will never get to the level we want it to be if we continue to mouth ethnic nationalism. If we get Nigeria right, she will be better that the whole of Europe put together.
At the occasion were prominent Nigerians including Mike Oghiadomhe former deputy governor of Edo State, (who represented Jonathan), Chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Angela Emuwa, ace publisher, Comfort Obi among others.