‘INEC Chairman Must Have Strong Character’

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The new umpire should be sanctioned if found wanting in the discharge of his statutory duty and should equally be rewarded if he plays according to the rules.

A frontline member of the House of Representatives and Chairman House Committee on Legislative  Compliance , Hon Daemi Kunaiyi-Akpanah has bared his mind on the appointment of Prof Attahiru Jega, as the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). While contributing to the ragging national discourse on the new electoral umpire he made a strong case for strong character, as what the new umpire must not only possess  but exhibit before, during and after the 2011 elections.

Hon. Kunaiyi–Akpanah who spoke with The Tide On Sunday in this encounter in Abuja was also emphatic that the new umpire should be sanctioned if found wanting in the discharge of his statutory duty and should equally be rewarded if he plays according to the rules.  He advised the new INEC Chairman to strive to live above board because to whom much is given, much is expected, especially since the cry for credible election has reached the rooftop in the country, with everyone in the country and indeed the international community led by the United States insisting that the country should get it right with the 2011 elections.  His word: “I think that in appointing people for sensitive positions, due consideration must be given to their character and whoever that is appointed must be able to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.

Reminded that Nigerians were generally opposed to the appointment of a card-carrying member of a political party as chairman of the electoral body and what his input in this regards is, he snapped, “I think there’s no Nigerian that is not someway or the other a politician.  I would also like to see a situation where performance by the chairman is rewarded and non- performance is sanctioned. That should be the primary message to whosoever that is appointed.  It should be performance –based (and if the chairman is found wanting in any way, he should be sanctioned accordingly”.

Kunaiyi–Akpanah contended that this should be so because democracy was fought for and won, and should therefore not be treated with levity.  The legacy of those he identified as “heroes of democracy”, he said, should be sustained, even with the 2011 elections, while applauding all those that contributed in one way or the other in ensuring that democracy thrives for the past eleven years in the country. The Rivers State-born, unassuming but fire–brand legislator, placed them in three groups.  First are those who have done what is right; under the democratic setting and strove to conform with the tenets of democracy, next is the military – for making this democracy work by not truncating the process in their usual manner of staging a coup-de–tat, and lastly – “every one in our society; those who continue to question how they are governed”.

He charged these heroes of democracy not to relent in playing the roles they are known to have played these past eleven years as they have helped in no small measure in taking democracy to its present height in the nation.  Besides, Hon. Kunaiyi –Akpanah advised that for democracy to attend greater height in the nation, all hands must be on deck in ensuring the success of the forth–coming general elections.

The Tide On Sunday asked Kunaiyi-Akpanah to comment on how Nigeria fared under its democratic experiment?   What are the gains and pains associated with this democratic practice?

The frontline member of the House of Representatives and Chairman Committee on Legislative Compliance believes that the nation has fared well, although not without pains and sacrifice.  He told The Tide On Sunday that the learning process which began eleven years ago is on course, although the nation has not reached the destination point. “Well, I think it (democracy) is working in Nigeria and there is progress. I believe we are making progress. I don’t believe it’s the destination yet for Nigeria, it’s (an ongoing) journey”.

The humble, easy–going and assertive representative who represent Akukutoru/Asaritoru Federal Constituency delved into the system of government called democracy when he asserted that democracy is supposed to be a system that is supposed to ensure that the people are winners in every sense of the word, and operates through Three Arms of Government –Executive, Judiciary and Legislature to achieve its purpose.

Hon. Kunaiyi-Akpanah contended that, the only thing that makes a government democratic is when you have the third Arm, which he identified as the judiciary, which job is to ensure that there is proper laws for good governance, he said when viewed against this backdrop, Nigeria could really be said to have fared well. “Nigeria has undergone tremendous strides; bearing in mind that the legislature is only eleven years old (although the other two Arms of government have been in existence before the advent of democracy) and people are really coming to understand its true function in the sustenance of democracy”.

In the specific ways that the gains of democracy could be assessed these eleven years, Hon Kunaiyi-Akpanah was emphatic that Nigerians were beginning to feel the impact of the most popular and globally accepted form of government as dividends of the system were being delivered to them and the people themselves were being carried along and made part of the process. The chairman of the House of Representative Committee on legislative Compliance insisted that, “yes I believe that the electorate is beginning to see the impact of democracy. What ever that is going on in government, you (the electorate) can ask questions (unlike under the military). You make laws, you consult (the electorate), and public hearings are form of getting views of the people (and their input) before making laws.  Kunaiyi Akpanah drew the attention of The Tide On Sunday to the issue of budgeting under the democratic setting, which he opined is fairly consultative in an effort to ensure that there is equity in the distribution of resources across the country during these past eleven years, adding that he thinks that the people are better for it. The Tide On Sunday sought to know the way forward for the nation’s democracy from the ace legislator and his answer was apt: “the most important thing we need in our country is to run a government of law and order, advising that in the years ahead, for the sustenance of democracy, the rule of law must be applied dispassionately to all segments of the society in such a way that even government should not be above the law, adding that when sanctions are applied, those sanctions should not be applied selectively.  He believes that if the laws of the land are applied without fear or favour, irrespective of whose ox is gored and the letter of the constitution followed to the later, the nation would begin to see more gains of democracy.

 

Justus Awaji, Abuja