From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, ex-INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega has called on Nigerians to elect into power leaders who will seek the development and growth of the country.
He added that they should not collect peanuts given by politicians, thereby refusing to contribute to the problems of the nation.
Jaga stated this while delivering a keynote address at a summit organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
The former INEC chairman noted that enlightenment, sensitisation and voters’ civic education are very important, saying that it was not only the responsibility of INEC but also a primary responsibility of political parties because, “they are the ones that recruit candidates, prepare them for elections and they want people to come and vote how can they sit back and expect INEC with its limited funds to do that for them.”
He further stated that the reckless political class do not engage citizens on substance, ideas, ideologies or realistic programmes, all they do is mobilize people based on ethnicity and primordial identities to create us-versus-them distinctions then it seemed like a strategy for winning elections but now it has been weaponised leading to violence, the elections might seem a difficult task but it was not an impossible task and it would be accomplished.
Earlier in opening remarks, the Director General of NIPSS, Professor Ayo Omotayo stated that the summit will be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produce a set of leaders that will move the country forward.
Omotayo who was represented by the Director of Research, NIPSS, Professor Dung Pam Sha said that the institute had specially organised the summit to present a platform for political parties and other political actors from government agencies, the Civil Society, academia and non-governmental organisations and developmental sectors with the opportunity to brainstorm and have deep reflections on the state of political parties in Nigeria and how to conduct successful elections.
He noted that the meeting was expected to make a thorough examination of the theme and proffer solutions on questions concerning credible elections, improvement in national politics, sustaining faith in the democratic process as well as meeting the avenues of constitutional changes of Democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa.
“Amongst the questions that we will seek answers to are how do we sustain efforts in ensuring credible elections, how do we ensure improvement in the Nigerian politics, how do we sustain faith in the Democratic process, how do we prevent reversals of the things we have reported in our Democratic process, how do we meet the avenues of constitutional changes of Democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa.
“The summit will be a contribution to the ongoing debate on how to ensure that the 2023 general elections in Nigeria produce a set of leaders that will move the country forward.
“This meeting is expected to make a thorough examination of the theme. Amongst the questions that we will seek answers to are how do we sustain efforts in ensuring credible elections, how do we ensure improvement in Nigerian politics, how do we sustain faith in the Democratic process, how do we prevent reversals of the things we have reported in our Democratic process, how do we meet the avenues of constitutional changes of Democratic governance in Nigeria and possibly other parts of Africa.
“We hope to unravel thematically germane issues in the electoral process and provide concrete policy proposals that that will improve the running of political parties, the conduct of elections as well as leveraging on the opportunities available for the consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
He called on political actors and stakeholders to enable the summit to become an avenue for political parties to build consensus on common areas leading to free, fair and credible elections in 2023 as well as ensuring a formidable and united Nigeria.
“I am optimistic that the theme which will thoroughly x-ray and profer solutions for our evolving democracy via distinguished politicians, academia and stakeholders being invited,” he added.
The Director General also urged political parties and their candidates as well as their mouthpieces to conduct their campaigns with credibility saying that they must devoid their campaigns around character assassination thereby heating the polity and creating room for violence and they must desist from creating political violence and canvass for votes fairly.
He further commended the leadership of various political parties, the assistance of the European Unino for its support in national politics and the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, for making their collaborations work towards raising the standards of elections in the country.
The National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Alhaji Yabagi Sani, stated that elections and the power to choose generally were fundamental rights for people to make choices adding that elections should not be characterized by rancour.
Sani said that the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa has always been a very hard nut to crack noting that to a great extent, it was the freedom of leadership that has caused the problems that have led the country to its present situation.
“This tells of a political system that rallies rather than builds the nation. Nigeria’s political systems have been characterized by impatient exclaims when it is time for the people to make their choice. The country naturally sees elections as a period of violence that is why our borders are closed and cities are shut down on election day even after elections. The power to choose is a fundamental right of the people. The reason for this violence varies, it can be designed to limit the number of voters, to undermine the abilities of opponents, to vandalise votes. For the 2023 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has already raised alarms over increasing violence in the campaigns.
He said that it would be a huge task for the electoral umpire to manage the over 66 million Nigerians who have been given the opportunity to vote into power leaders because this is the first time such a figure has been captured adding that it was handy that NIPSS had brought together political parties, their leaders and stakeholders to ensure Democratic governance in the country.
The Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Her Excellency, Samuela Isopi, noted that ahead of the general elections there was a lot of work to put in, hence the collaboration was necessary for the smooth running of elections in Nigeria.
In the same vein, Chairman INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Hauwa Habib a Director in the electoral commission said that through the summit there was a visible intention by stakeholders to consolidate the Democracy in the country by proferring solutions to the challenges faced by political parties, electioneering and the need to ensure that fundamental and Democratic objectives for the citizens.
The annual summit of political parties and stakeholders was organised in efforts to establish a link between political parties, elections and consolidation of democracy in the country by critical examination of issues and challenges of electoral laws and credible elections and formulating strategies for the general elections.