Just back from the Yuletide break last week, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, in a message to welcome his colleagues cautioned that the looming threats to positive outcome of the fast approaching 2019 general elections could only be averted through transparency, and strict adherence to rules and procedures. Joshua Egbodo writes
Dogara raises alarm
The Speaker in a recent report had also raised the alarm to the effect that evidences abound of his own state government of Bauchi, arming thugs with assault rifles in the build to the elections with the intent to cause violence.
“Now, we have heard, with some evidence, that violence on unprecedented scale is being planned in order to ensure that whether we like it or not in Bauchi State they will maintain the status quo. Now, the reason why I must address this is because we are all aware, most of us, including journalists, of a young man who came out to polling booth with an assault rifle and the picture was captured, I can even name his name if you want. I can say one his name is Ilela, you can fill the gap.
“Now, my worry is that this thing is being encouraged by the government of the state, all of you know that but the warning I will deliver is that they should desist from planning to kill our brothers and sisters, our uncles and our relations in Bauchi State. If someone does not have his own relations in the state and that is why he is trying to promote violence, I want to say categorically here that he should desist from doing so.
“And some of our brothers that are conniving with him, by the time this crisis comes, his own sister is not going to be killed because he doesn’t have them, he doesn’t have uncles that will be killed, he doesn’t have brothers and sisters that will be killed and nephews and nieces that will be killed but we all have them”, the Speaker was quoted as saying during a press conference.
Regrets failure to amend 2010 Electoral Act
Expressing regrets that the expected instrument, which was the attempt at amending the 2010 Electoral Act, which would have addressed the noted loopholes in Nigeria’s electoral processes, was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari, Dogara tasked critical stakeholders like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria Police and other security forces to play by the rules.
According the Speaker, Nigerians would accept nothing short of complete openness, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant laws in the conduct of the 2019 elections, noting that the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act, may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
“It should remain a thing of pride for us that the National Assembly has done its best by taking steps to guarantee the successful and rancour-free conduct of the 2019 General Elections by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after Mr President had declined assent to it twice.
“Lack of passage into Law of the amended Bill means that the impending General Elections will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and Development partners.
“Consequently, the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act, may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
“I believe that our intention to improve on the successes of the 2015 General Election through the Amendment Bill, is very clear to all fair-minded Nigerians. The spate of serious allegations by stakeholders, corroborated by some Press reports against INEC and the Nigerian Police in the recent elections, which are already subjects of litigations, are some of the factors that gave rise to public apprehension on the success of the coming General Elections.
“We had intended, through this Bill, to minimise the risk to the survival of our hard-won democracy through responsive and timely legislation aimed at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. Nonetheless, as Parliament, we have done our best to guarantee the stability and growth of our fragile democracy, and I have no doubt that history will be very kind to us.
“Under the present circumstance, we have no choice than to take INEC and the Police by their words and give them the benefit of doubt in their recent assurances to be impartial, efficient and truthful in the conduct of the coming elections. This is the minimum that the country deserves from them at this auspicious time. Nothing short of complete openness, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant Laws will be acceptable to Nigerians”, he said.
President must rejig security architecture
Dogara also used the opportunity to call on President Buhari, to take a thorough look at Nigeria’s national security architecture with a view to securing lives, national pride and prestige and to fight against unbridled violence.
“We are all witnesses to the continuous deteriorating security situation in our country more especially in the North East, North West and some parts of the North Central. Only days ago, scores of people were killed in Sokoto State and elsewhere.
“This calls for drastic, urgent and concerted action and efforts to bring to a quick end. Our citizens are looking up to us and we can’t afford to fail them because security of lives and properties is the primary purpose of government. The fight against unbridled violence is one we cannot afford to lose as we can’t do so and still keep our civilisation.
“The symptoms of the malady afflicting our national security architecture are in plain sight. It is therefore imperative for the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces to take a hard look at our national security architecture with a view to fixing the malady in order to secure lives, national pride and prestige,” he said.
Tempo of campaigns
With the tempo of campaigns for the coming elections rising by the day, the Speaker reminded his colleagues to strike a good balance between their commitment to legislative duties, especially now that the 2019 budget was already before them, and participation in the campaigns by streamlining their political timetable and schedules to make room for attendance to legislative duties as much as is expected of them.
He also appealed for civility during the campaigns. “I find it imperative on this occasion to call on all our political leaders to cultivate the highest level of decorum, responsibility and respect for the law in our electioneering campaigns.
“We must, through our conduct, show our commitment to the successful and peaceful conduct of the 2019 elections and above all, the sustenance of our democracy. We should avoid the tendency of being hypocritical by engaging in misdeeds that we are quick to point out in our opponents. Let us be guided by our conscience and the teachings of our religions, which demand that we judge ourselves before judging others.
“Neither contest for elective office nor elections are ends in themselves as they are merely the means by which we seek to serve the people and indeed humanity. Where our intentions are genuine and honorable, we shall never seek power at the expense of the lives and properties of those we seek to serve. This should be our resolve across board”.