Idemmili Lawyers demand Transparency in 2019

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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.