Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
As anxiety grows over the 2019 general election, former Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Chief Agwu U. Agwu, has said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would conduct a free and fair election to the extent politicians and security agencies do the right thing.
He expressed this view yesterday in a chat with journalists in Umuahia, saying desperation of political actors and overzealousness of security agencies have always been “the problem with the conduction of elections in Nigeria.”
There have been fears that the All Progressives Congress (APC) might not relinquish power in 2019 and that INEC could not be trusted to remain a neutral umpire given the way the ruling party has been using federal agencies to do its bidding.
But Agwu stated that no matter how the electoral body tried to be above board and deliver a transparent poll such efforts would be soiled by people who want to win at all cost and security agents who aid and abet rigging.
“Our problem in Nigeria is not INEC but all of us. Security agencies aid and abet election rigging. The winner-takes-all mentality is what is affecting our election,” he said, adding that the INEC chairman and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) won’t be in the field to enforce directives,” he said.
According to him, it would be very difficult to stop security agents, party agents, INEC ad hoc staff who would like to look the other way after receiving gratifications at the poling centres.
However, he called for active participation of the electorate in the electoral process, adding that people should begin to regard voting as both a civic duty and religious obligation in order to exercise the people’s power to determine who should have their mandate.
He said: “I believe all the parties are going to listen to what the people are going to say,” the former Speaker said, noting that the permanent voter card (PVC) should be seen as a very important tool with which the people could make a strong statement.
Agwu warned that it was dangerous for any ruling party to become complacence, arrogant to the extent of deluding itself that it could remain in power forever, noting that what happened to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general election should serve as a big lesson.
On his reasons for dumping the PDP for APC, the former Speaker who represented Arochukwu state constituency for 12 years in Abia State House of Assembly said the party leadership in the state “neglected” aggrieved stakeholders instead of reaching out to them for reconciliation.