By Sunny Igboanugo:
• AC Faults Senate On Appointment Of Chairman
The lot may fall on lawyer and human rights activist, Olisa Agbakoba, to replace Maurice Iwu as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Agabokba, founded the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), one of the groups that fought against military dictatorship and for the return of democracy, and is also former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA).
He is said to be top on the list of those sought by Abuja to conduct the 2011 elections at the expiration of the tenure in June of Iwu, who has been heavily criticised by a section of the public.
Agbakoba is being considered alongside others believed to possess what it takes to give the country credible elections, said to be the most important thing on the mind of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, who is barred by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from running for Aso Rock next year.
The others are Attahiru Jega, former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Jibrin Ibrahim, Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja; and Ishola Williams, President of Transparency Nigeria, an arm of Transparency International (TI).
Agbakoba, Ibrahim, and Jega were members of the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) headed by Muhammadu Uwais.
President Umaru Yar’Adua appointed members of the ERC and tasked them to find ways of enthroning credible elections, after he acknowledged at his inauguration in 2007 that the vote that brought him to power was flawed, and promised to overhaul the system.
It was learnt at the weekend that Jonathan thinks that if he would not have the opportunity to drive affairs beyond 2011, he could put a process in motion to steer Nigeria away from political malaise, achievable only through credible ballot.
“Jonathan is bent on leaving a legacy in the chequered political history of Nigeria and as such sees in the civil society as a veritable ally that would credibly contribute towards realising his ambition,” a source said.
During his days in the CLO, Agbakoba – like the late Gani Fawehinmi – was constantly in and out of detention due to his determined challenge of military excesses through demonstrations and courtroom advocacies the powers that be at that time found intolerable.
His record in the rights group encouraged the springing up of similar bodies that rallied with the CLO in championing human rights and the enthronement of democratic ethos, which eventually forced the military to relinquish power in 1999, after the death of Sani Abacha the previous year.
Jega, currently Vice Chancellor of Bayero University Kano (BUK), also played no less a role in rights advocacy, using the platform of ASUU, which equally forced the hands of the military to recognise the role of the body in national affairs and the advancement of the general rights of Nigerians.
Though he rose to the rank of a General in the Army, Williams was a thorn in the flesh of military and civilian leaders whom he accused of wide scale corruption.
His zero tolerance for corruption informed his ties with the TI and other local and foreign bodies out to rid the world of corruption.
William’s lifestyle also shows a man not attracted to wealthy living.
Ibrahim, Director of the CDD, a non-governmental organisation, is no less known than the others for his civil society activities.
The Action Congress (AC) weighed in on Sunday by imploring Nigerians to ensure that the Senate’s rejection of the Uwais recommendation on the appointment of the INEC Chairman does not stand.
A statement issued in Lagos by AC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, also urged Jonathan to take the decision of the Senate as a challenge that he must tackle squarely, if he is to usher in a new era of electoral sanity.
Jonathan has little or no time to act on an issue that may well define his tenure, the AC warned.
It called on “all political parties, civil society organisations, professional bodies and concerned individuals, elder statesmen, among others, to take all necessary actions, within the ambit of the law and the realms of decency, to push the Senators to change their decision and act in the interest of Nigerians.
“Such actions can take the form of peaceful protests to the Senate; letters from Nigerians to their Senators, as well as education of the Senators on the dangers posed to the electoral reform by their actions and the dangers inherent in organising the 2011 general elections without a comprehensive electoral reform.”
Mohammed asked all political parties preparing for the next elections to channel their energies to fight for electoral reform, “otherwise, all their preparations will only amount to a ‘moonslide victory’ for the PDP which, as things stand today, has the security agencies and the INEC in its pocket as agents of rigging.”
He urged Jonathan to use “all the available political tools” and muster “all the authority provided by his high office” to push through an electoral reform that “must include a non-partisan means of appointing” the INEC Chairman.
The AC wondered whether the Senators who took that decision are truly representing Nigerians, because “if indeed they are,” they would have known that the appointment of the INEC Chairman ranks highest on the list of recommendations made by the Uwais Panel.
“Simply put, it is the signature issue in the electoral reform debate.”
It challenged the Senators to call for an opinion poll on the issue, if they doubt that it is of utmost importance to Nigerians as far as electoral reform is concerned.
Mohammed said the AC “is at a loss” as to why the Senate, “comprising supposedly elected representatives of the people,” decided to act against the interest of the same people who elected them.
“Or could it be that they are not in touch with the people they are supposed to be representing? Could the action have been dictated by the principle of self preservation?
“In other words, by shooting down the recommendation that will see the emergence of an unbiased, non-partisan, fair, and courageous electoral umpire, could they have been rooting for the appointment of a party man who will dance to their tunes and ensure their ‘selection’ in 2011?
“Are they afraid of free and fair elections because they cannot win under such circumstances?”
Mohammed reiterated that these are some of the questions agitating the minds of patriotic Nigerians, who are tired of enduring the ridicule to which the country and her people have been subjected by “a succession of shoddily-organised, massively-rigged and violent-prone elections.”
He alerted Jonathan that whatever may be his priorities in the few months remaining to the next elections, such priorities will sail or sink with electoral reform.
“The pillar on which Nigeria’s democracy rests is electoral reform, not infrastructure – as important as that may be.
“Countries do not fail because of lack of infrastructure, but they do because of electoral brigandage, which in turn fuels unbridled corruption (financial or otherwise) and, ultimately, spiralling political violence – the end of which no one can ever predict!”
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