Charles Onyekamuo in Awka
Former Governor of Anambra State Mr. Peter Obi has blamed electoral fraud on connivance of INEC and political parties.
Obi also blamed the recurrent issue of disagreements in the choice of candidates of political parties in an election on the indiscretion of those who conduct the affairs of their primaries to subvert the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act and the party constitution.
Obi who spoke as a keynote speaker yesterday at the Law Week of the Onitsha Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said the agents manipulate the process in favour of their preferred aspirants as opposed to the popular choices of majority of the party delegates.
According to him, the effect is that many party members are offended and disgruntled, thereby creating disaffection and disharmony within the party.
Obi said this explained the high volume of pre-election disputes that precede almost every election in Nigeria, adding that apart from challenging such flawed nomination processes in court, some aggrieved members of the party concerned go as far as leaving the political party to establish a new one or defect to another party.
“It is indeed sad that the culture of internal democracy is not being developed and nurtured within our political parties, which has impacted negatively on the growth and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
He also lampooned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its inglorious roles of ensuring that these elections are manipulated in favour of a candidate of its choice, emphasising that their activities tend to suggest that its hands are tied.
“We are all aware of the varied and several acts of irregularities which attend most elections conducted by INEC in the recent past.
“They affect every aspect of the electoral process, including: selection and deployment of ad-hoc staff and security agencies/agents; distribution of sensitive electoral materials; inducement of voters at voting centres; compromise of electoral officials and security agents; multiple voting and over-voting; violent and unruly acts by party supporters including hijacking of election materials and abduction of election officials; writing and announcement of false election results; and so on,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of Onitsha Bar, Ikenna Chibuzor Esq., said the theme of this year’s Law week is “The Role of Credible Electoral Process in the Institution of Democracy and Good Governance.”
He added that the topic was chosen to give room for wide area of discourse in our present dispensation which resulted from seemingly credible election, thus posing the questions as to whether we are enjoying good governance in this democracy, or we are actually under the rule of law, giving the preponderance of corruption in our democracy.
The association chairman took a swipe at the palliatives been presented by both the state and federal governments in the country’s moment of recession, arguing that the permanent solution is rooted in Constitution review.
He said to arrest the situation, there is the need to review the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and revisit the country’s present federal structure which is tilted more to unitary system than federal.
He reasoned that the present concentration of the resources of the nation in the hands of the federal government will not allow for economic growth and development of the nation.
To him, unless we devolve powers to the federating units, coming out of the present economic recession is not in sight.
For instance, he alluded to Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria which concentrated all revenues in the hands of the federal government, making the states beggars, and unduly dependent on the federal government thereby impeding the growth of states such that when the center in recession, all the states automatically follow.
This he said should not be so, and advocated the return of the era under the 1960 Constitution where regions where given impetus to develop independently.
On the issue of corruption, the Onitsha bar, he said, supports the sanitisation of the society and purging it of its corrupt elements including the judiciary, insisting however that the rule of law should be followed in the course of the fight generally.