The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma has said that for Nigeria to achieve free fair and credible elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) must be free from interference.
Uzodimma also said that INEC on its own must be honest, transparent and fair in all its activities at various stages of the electoral process.
The Imo State governor said this on Wednesday while delivering a Paper at the Political Party’s Summit organized by the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
“The role of INEC as an election umpire goes beyond just conducting the elections, but also includes the registration of political parties and eligible voters, as well as the monitoring of the finances and general activities of political parties, including campaigns.
“The failure of INEC to rise to its responsibilities in any of these stages can undermine the credibility of the elections.
“Thus, INEC must be honest, transparent and fair in all its activities at various stages of the process. Above all, INEC should be free from any form of interference from any quarters”, the Governor said.
Uzodimma however, said the current leadership of INEC has proven beyond reasonable doubt that it is competent, credible and independent.
Speaking on the role of security Agencies, Senator Uzodimma said the security personnel have a lot to do with the outcome of elections in the country.
He said if the security agencies choose to be complacent, and allow thugs to hijack ballot boxes for the purpose of altering results, then the electoral process would be truncated
“Similarly, if they collude with political parties or their candidates to compromise the sanctity or integrity of the exercise, you also know what will happen.
On the role of political leadership, the Imo State Governor said there’s a widely accepted notion that a country cannot claim to be truly democratic until its citizens are able to choose their leaders through a free and fair election.
He said for an election to be free and fair, certain civil liberties, such as the freedoms of speech, association and assembly, are required.
“Thus, the political leadership has a critical role to play in ensuring that elections are free and fair. This will include the President, Governors, National and State Legislators, Council Chairmen and Councillors, and, of course, the leadership of Political Parties.
“Without the shadow of a doubt, the actions or inactions of these leaders will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the forthcoming general elections. What they say or fail to say in the electioneering campaigns, during and after the elections, will go a long way in determining the success or failure of the elections”, he added.
Also presenting the paper, Former Senate President Ayim Pius Ayim said for the first time, there is an organized demand that the political parties must not only see the conduct of party primary elections as constituting the core of its democratic mandate but must enthrone social justice.
He said in the All Progressives Congress (APC) “when it appeared that some people were pushing for a candidate from the north, the APC Governors met and resolved that equity and justice demand that after a northern President, the next President should come from the South and Mr. President agreed with them and it happened and calmed nerves in APC. This is more so even as zoning or rotation is not in the APC constitution.
“On the part of PDP, rotation or zoning is clearly spelt out in its constitution but by a twist of politics, the party jettisoned zoning and a candidate from the North emerged. Since then, the party has not known peace.
“As stated above, the G.5 governors are not saying that the election of the candidate was flawed but that there should be an adjustment in the structure of the party to accommodate social justice.
He said political party reformation should be anchored on the fact that Political Parties must no longer be structured for the sole purpose of acquiring power, but also as vehicles for promoting social justice, articulating policies and mainstreaming good governance in the polity.
Ayim said the INEC’s introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV) has largely arrested most of the challenges that previously promoted electoral fraud during elections.
While commending INEC for introducing the technologies, he said “I must note that there had been calls that INEC should subject the BVAS to third-party evaluation to ensure it meets standard and integrity. I think this call is in the right direction because justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done
Also, the representative of the Inspector General of Police, Dandaura Mustapha who is the DIG Operations of the Nigerian Police Force, said the Inspector General of Police has directed all the Commissioners of Police that on no account should any serving or sitting governors stop other political parties from conducting their campaigns in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
“This instruction was very clear both in writing and verbal, we have told all the Commissioners of Police, where it happens, the Commissioner of Police has been directed to arrest all the hoodlums no matter where they belong to, whoever is sponsoring them, we will arrest them, charge them to court, that is a clear instruction”, he said.
The National Chairman of IPAC, Engr Yabagi Sani elections in Nigeria since 1999 has been characterized by violence resulting in voter apathy, mistrust, and suspicion of election results.
He said the aim of the summit is to provide an avenue for political parties and all stakeholders to commit themselves to a free fair credible and inclusive election in 2023.
“In the said vein, the summit will afford all stakeholders the opportunity to access election and democracy in Nigeria since 1999, examine the roles and challenges of critical stakeholders, such as political parties, INEC and security agencies”, he added.
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