Eminent Nigerians who spoke at TELL’s conference on 20 years of democracy have warned about the dangers of reversing the gains of democracy in the country.
Speakers at the occasion spoke on “20 Years of Democracy and the Rule of Law” at a well-attended conference in Abuja on Wednesday. The speakers include Adams Oshiomhole, National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress; Allen Onyema, Chairman of Air peace; Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of INEC; Governor Aminu Tambuwal and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, among others.
Jega, who delivered a seminar speech on the electoral process in Nigeria, warned against compromising the integrity of elections in the country, stressing that elected leaders would only become more responsible if they know that their fate is in the hands of the electorate.
He said due to “enlightened self-interest, “the political class were reversing the progress made in making the electoral process credible through “reckless” actions, noting that only through restoring the integrity of the electoral process would the country have a safeguard for democracy.” It is the panacea for safeguarding the will of the people for democracy to thrive,” he said.
He subsequently listed some of the challenges of democracy and the electoral process in Nigeria to include: Over-bloated voters’ roll, lack of a level playing field for parties and contestants, fraudulent conduct of party primaries and corruption in the management of polling units and collation centres, as well as compilation, transmission and announcement of results, among others.
He said the lack of integrity in the process had reflected in the declining turn-out of voters during elections.
In his remark, the APC national chairman agreed with many of the conclusions of Jega on the attitude of the political but said some INEC officials were also guilty of compromising the integrity of elections in the country.
Oshiomhole, who commended Jega for elevating the electoral process of the country, recounted some of his encounters with dubious INEC officials who demanded money from him when he ran for governorship of Edo State.
“I can mention names, but I will not mention. There was one that came to me and said if I wanted ballot papers to be delivered early at my constituency, I should bring an amount of money otherwise it would be delayed,” he revealed.
Onyema decries the “ethnic and religious nationalism” in the country, stressing that it was a threat to the sustenance of democracy in the country.
He urged Nigerians to embrace “broad nationalism” for the country to make progress, adding that the ethnic diversity in the country should be a source of strength and not weakness.