As the 2019 general elections draw closer with the attending political bickering, lawyers under the auspices of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Idemmili Branch, Anambra State, has demanded greater transparency in Nigeria’s electoral process.
The group which called on INEC to live above board by showing greater transparency, credibility and accountability in the various elections it handles in Nigeria, claimed that elections in Nigeria are neither transparent nor credible.
In a keynote address at the 2019 Bar Week concluded at the weekend in Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, with the theme: “Restoring Credibility and Transparency to Elections and Electoral Processes in Nigeria”, the keynote address speaker, Prof. Ilochi Okafor, SAN, regretted the way elected representatives emerge at different levels of electioneering, and attributed the problem to what he called “biased electoral institutions” and prevalence of “uninformed or illiterate voter.”
According to him, for there to be free and fair election, there must be an electorate in which the average voter, in a political sense, is educated. Secondly, there must be credible institutions capable of conducting free, fair and unbiased elections.
Prof. Okafor, former Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said some of the rot in the electoral process could be attributed to the behavior of the average illiterate voter; stating that as long as good majority of the electorate are starkly uneducated, true democracy will be a mirage; adding that “an average voter in the village is given financial inducement and his vote will go to the highest bidder; so that when he is going to the polling center, his mind is made up not to vote for this candidate or this party that will deliver solutions to societal problems, but to vote the one that offers him the highest amount of money. Again, to a large extent, Nigeria is operating a bastardized electoral system imported to us without taking into account the divergences in the electoral bodies of advanced western countries and our African countries…”
He added, “The essence of democracy is that it presents a choice to enable the majority to freely and voluntarily pick a candidate of their choice… Unfortunately, emergence of candidates, as previous elections would prove, are based on primordial interests like religion and ethnicity, which has never done the county any good.”
He called on concerned stakeholders to work out modalities on how to check the shortcomings with a view to providing free, fair and credible elections in future.
In his remarks, Chairman of NBA in the branch, Mr. Pere Anthony Oseme, said the branch came up with the theme, “Restoring Credibility and Transparency to Elections and Electoral Processes in Nigeria”, because of their desire to see that an average Nigerian electorate is aware of his civic responsibility of the right to vote or be voted for.
“We want to emphasize on the need to discourage vote buying, election thuggery and violence. We want to let INEC and members of the society know that collectively, we can make our electoral process credible. When we have credible elections, it will be difficult to have avalanche of post election litigation; and it is necessary to sell this idea to members of the public so that Nigeria could have something better in 2019. We believe that 2019 election will mark a turning point in Nigeria if the coming elections are handled credibly.
“The role of the Bar is to ensure that justice is done to all and sundry. As defenders of the the constitution, and having in mind that 2019 elections are around the corner, we thought it wise to come up with this kind of package”, he said.
Speaking also, the Chief Judge of Anambra Stage, Justice Peter Umadi, said the present effort by the Bar is to make sure that Nigeria respects democracy and the ballot; adding that Nigerians should join hands to nurture the country’s democratic norms and values, since democracy is the building block for development in all facets.
By Uzo Ugwunze, Ojoto
PICTURE: Group photograph of the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umadi with some Admistrative Judges and lawyers at the Idemili Branch Bar Week.