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In Search Of Solution To Nigeria’s Electoral Problems

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Recently the Senate annual retreat ended in Enugu with issues bordering on the proposed constitutional and electoral reform taking centre stage. Apart from using the brimming opportunity afforded by the retreat to reminiscence on their activities in the preceding year, the Senate also uses the forum to search for functional electoral system.

Also, late last month the launching of the Face of a Nation: Democracy in Nigeria, Foreign  Relations and National Image at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos opened another window for Nigerians to chart a new course for the nation’s problematic electoral system. The current efforts at reforming the nation’s electoral system formed major part of the discussion.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua declared the readiness of his administration to provide the necessary support for the National Assembly in the ongoing process to amend the constitution and the Electoral Act preparatory to 2011 election insisting that once the process was effectively completed, it would go a long way in checking the myriads of social ills bedeviling the country.

He noted that once the issue of election was addressed, every other thing would fall in place, adding that since the people were very eager to be counted in the process of governance, getting their confidence had become paramount.

The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark stated that the Senate had a number of significant bills before it for consideration, noting that one of the most pressing issues has been that of electoral review. According to him, the major issue before the Senate and as the elected representatives of the people was how to provide the nation with an enduring electoral system, true representation of the wishes and aspirations of the people of Nigeria.

He made it clear that transparent, free and fair elections bestow legitimacy on leadership and create the vital link between government and people.  In his words: “We cannot overemphasise the need for a well articulated and functional electoral system that meets all standards of creditability, acceptability, goodwill, fairness and justice”. Basically, as it were Mark then took on those calling for the removal of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, as panacea to the problems plaguing the nation’s electoral system as only trivialising an important national issue. He said that removing the chief electoral officer should not be the utmost importance at this point, but that efforts should be made to ensure that the on-going review of the electoral process be conclude before next general election.

The Senate President stated that the theme of the retreat “legislating for an Enduring Electoral System in Nigeria” was apt as it has come at a time when the Nation is working assiduously to catch up with other developed democracies of the world by ensuring that the process that  throw up a transparent electoral process is entrenched. Admittedly he said, “there is room for improvement in our electoral system and I also admit that there is need for reform in our system. But may I quickly add that our process is certainly not the worst in the world as some self-styled political analysts would want to believe and let me say further and more emphatically this time that the removal of Prof. Maurice Iwu is not the review or reform of our electoral process. Removal of Iwu is not synonymous with electoral reform or review. Those calling for the removal of Iwu as the first step are trivializing a very serious national issue.

“There are some people who however, are of the opinion that the electoral system in Nigeria has progressively posed problems since our  Independence. What is before us now, is to see how best we can reverse this trend and opinion so as to ensure that subsequent elections, there is less rancour, acrimony and disagreement.

And also as Nigeria has been at the forefront of championing democratic processes, regionally in West Africa and on the continent, we cannot afford to fail.”

Mark also emphasised the need for an enduring electoral system in order to sustain democracy and for Nigeria to play her role in the international arena, where many countries look up to the country for support and leadership.

Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi who presided at the launching of the Face of a nation. Democracy in Nigeria, set the ball rolling by drawing attention to some issues in the electoral reform and the need for the elected National Assembly members to ensure the completion of the electoral process before 2011 elections.

He also made comparison between option  A4 and open-secret ballot system, insisting that the latter is the best system for the electoral system in the country.

There is now a consensus that it is the better part of wisdom for the National Assembly to concentrate on just electoral reform than lump them with constitutional reforms.

According to him, 2011 is too critical for the survival of this country for us to miss the opportunity to put a credible electoral system in place, at least, a year before the actual elections starts. Therefore, he appealed to the National Assembly to forgo the exercise of a wholesale revision of the 1999 constitution and concentrate on the various electoral reform bills before it.

Secondly, he noted we need to be careful that the solution which we propose will not do more damage than good.

Let me say with all the emphasis at my command that option  A4  is not the solution. It is inappropriate and inapplicable. The historical facts are that option  A4 was used for party primaries was that contests started at ward level and state level before the national level. So much has been said about voters queuing behind pictures of candidates. It did not happen all over the country. The common feature in all the elections was the use of the open-secret system, where ballots are marked secretly but cast openly, is the best system. That is what we should be emphasising and advocating. The use of the open secret system, where ballots are marked secretly but cast openly, is the best system”.

Former Senate President Senator Ken Nnamani, in his own presentation submitted that every development starts from the ballot box, not necessarily election, even as he admitted that the 2006 Electoral Act passed under his leadership in the Senate omitted certain things that would have helped the electoral process in the country.

He listed four things that National Assembly should endeavour to include in the electoral reform namely: Appointment of the chairman of the electoral body not be done by a sitting executive recommended by the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee, no candidate must be declared winner until all judicial interventions have been concluded, onus of proof  should be on the candidate not the electoral management body and the Independent National Electoral Commission should be autonomous.

Nnamani appealed to the National Assembly to conclude  everything on the electoral reform before 2011 election, adding that the Electoral Act is not the problem but the inability to apply it properly by the relevant institutions entrusted by law with such power.

Noting that the electoral process would be better if things are done accordingly.

Our problem is not electoral reform, our biggest problem is the lack of free and fair election in the country.

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2023 Guber Poll: Group Denies Rift Between Okowa, Ibori

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A political pressure group, Movement for Stronger Delta (MSD) says there is no fight between former Governor James Ibori and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over who governs the State in 2023.
The group in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Festus BomoPatani, said: “The attention of the Movement for Stronger Delta, MSD, has been drawn to a recent publication by a pan-Delta online platform, titled: “DELTA 2023: Okowa, Ibori Fight Dirty Over Successor”, and posted on several social media groups and portals on Sunday, January 16, 2021.
“As a conscious and proactive Movement, determined and committed to ensuring a stronger, peaceful, and united Delta, in the run-up to the 2023 elections and beyond, it behoves us to set a few records straight, concerning this publication, as our own way of educating and informing Deltans with accurate, verifiable information on the true position of affairs and also protecting ourselves from misleading misinformation that is capable of heating up the polity and instigating unnecessary and avoidable conflicts, provocations and conflagrations in the State.
“The original story was first published with the title: “DELTA 2023: Okowa, Ibori face up on successor…•Gov takes charge but counter-attack looms”, written by Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Published in Saturday Vanguard, January 15, 2022.
“The online publication in question, copied the story verbatim, and then proceeded, for reasons best known to the publisher, to change the headline from the original, without informing the readers or even acknowledging the source and author of the original story; and this, from every professional standpoint, is a crass and brazen display of unethical journalism, bordering on plagiarism. Journalists must be cautioned to avoid sensationalism and inaccurate reportage intended to deliberately mislead the people, especially when they copy stories from other more seasoned and recognized mainstream publications.
“There is a fundamental headline difference between: “Face up” in the original story and “Fight Dirty” in the copied online version, which every journalist worth his salt, especially those knowledgeable enough in the basic use of the English language, which is the major tool and instrument of the profession, should know and apply in their proper contexts.
“For the avoidance of doubt and for the purposes of educating the Journalist against future ignorances: “face up: means ‘To confront or deal directly with someone or something previously avoided”, while “fight dirty means, ‘To use every possible way and especially the most treacherous way, to beat someone in a fight’

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PGF-DG Tenders Resignation Letter

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The in-fighting between the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee over the conduct of its national convention took a fresh twist on Monday following the resignation of the PGF Director-General, Salihu Lukman.
Lukman tendered his resignation letter to the Chairman of the Forum, Abubakar Bagudu, on Monday.
In the letter, he slammed the committee over its shoddy handling of matters relating to the national convention.
He had earlier accused the Mala-Buni committee of frustrating the party’s plan to hold the convention in February.
The APC leadership and the governors had agreed last year to conduct the convention next month in a bid to strengthen the party ahead of the 2023 general election.
The committee had been under tremendous pressure to step aside following the crises that trailed last year’s congresses where several factions conducted parallel congresses in defiance of the party’s directive.
The latest development has further confirmed that all may not be well with the ruling party with just 13 months to the next national election.
Lukman said: “Progressive Governors, like all party members, will not associate themselves with any act of disrespect to decisions validly taken in consultations with President Buhari.
“They will not take the responsibility for actions or inactions of the CECPC. Every responsibility of organising the convention is vested with the CECPC.”

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Jega Tasks Buhari, NASS On New Electoral Law

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Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has  called on the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari to pass the Electoral Bill so that INEC can hit the ground running towards the 2023 elections.
Jega stated this during a panel discussion at a town hall meeting organised by Yiaga Africa on the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill on Monday.
Jega, who said it is difficult to conduct elections in Nigeria, added that since 2010, there has not been a significant improvement in the electoral framework.
He said while there could be some grey areas in the Electoral Bill that President MuhammaduBuhari declined assent to, there are other good things in the bill, arguing that the baby should not be thrown away with the bath water.
“I believe Nigeria should go into the next elections with a new law as there are many good things in the bill that will improve the integrity and conduct of elections.
“As I have said earlier, since 2010, we have not had significant improvement in the electoral framework.
“Speaking on direct and indirect primaries, some people believe that governors do influence the outcome of indirect primaries and some feel direct primaries is a way out of this, but the question is, how many parties have credible register of members?
“Give INEC the law to begin preparations for the 2023 elections. Any governor that manipulates direct primaries under this present condition will also have the capacity to manipulate indirect primaries.
“What we are saying is that you cannot throw the baby away with the bath water. Let’s think more carefully. The good things in the bill should be signed into law immediately so that INEC can start serious work for the 2023 elections.”
He lamented that the commission has a short period to put a lot of its mechanisms together for the conduct of the elections.
He called on the National Assembly to resolve all issues and give INEC the law within 10 days of resumption to enable it operate it seamlessly for the 2023 elections.
According to him, INEC made 31 recommendations to the amended 2010 Electoral Act to conduct credible elections, but NASS only approved 25 of the recommendations.
“Give INEC the law to begin preparation for 2021. Drop issue of direct and indirect primaries and let’s move forward,” he said.
Also speaking, the governor of Nasarawa State, AbdullahiSule, said the 36 governors are not afraid of direct primaries as being alleged by some Nigerians.
Earlier in his welcome address, Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, explained that the town hall meeting would specifically discuss key provisions of the Electoral Bill and their implications for election management, election security, electoral integrity and voter participation as well as legislative and executive action required to conclude the amendment process.

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