Ex-President Jonathan tasks 9th Assembly on electoral Reforms
Former President Dr Goodluck Jonathan has urged elected members of the incoming Ninth Assembly to take the issue of electoral reforms a notch further by adopting measures that would deepen confidence in the electoral system.
The President who stated this in Port Harcourt at a Public Lecture and Presentation of a book titled ‘Excellence in Governance and Creativity: Legal Essays in Honour of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike,’ also enjoined the African Union to provide the leadership towards establishing minimum requirements for constituting electoral management bodies on the continent.
The former President noted that some of the issues that arose during the 2019 general elections were caused by lack of confidence in the electoral system. He therefore urged the incoming Assembly to take measures that would address that. Dr. Jonathan described as shameful the footage of women clashing with soldiers in Rivers State during the last elections which was shown around the world.
He said: ” Parliamentarian who have won elections to go the National Assembly should take a look at what happened in the 2019 elections. We must modify our laws to make sure that in the 2023 elections, some of these things don’t repeat.”
“As a nation we must move forward. Nigeria is a very important country in Africa and we must set the pace in some of these areas. We must not wait for other countries to come and teach us how we should elect our people.”
He said further: “If democracy must endure in Africa, then the process leading to elections and the conduct of elections must be done in a way that people will have confidence in the system.”
Making a case for a continent-wide minimum standards for constituting electoral management bodies, Dr Jonathan urged African nations to consider vesting the appointing authority on established bodies, as a means of deepening the credibility of the process.
He said: “I believe that in Africa, for us to move forward we have no choice but to look forward to full electronic voting .This is debatable because a number of people are afraid that somebody hiding in his toilet can change the figures by pressing one or two buttons on a device, but we can’t run away from this. It is the ultimate and we must get there. But before we get there, we have to make sure that the institutions responsible for the conduct of our elections have the confidence of the people.
“That means that as a continent, Nigeria and other countries, must come out with a minimum and acceptable standards of constituting our electoral management bodies, in a way that will inspire the confidence of the people. I believe in some countries what they do is that a body of people participate in constituting the electoral management bodies. The power to do that shouldn’t be in the hands of one person. When you leave the responsibility like that in the hands of a politician, no matter how good the person is, there is the tendency for people to suspect that the right thing is not done. Once people don’t have confidence in the system, it will be difficult for people to accept the outcome. I believe also that Africa should have a minimum standard in the code of conduct guiding security officials in charge of elections.”
Speaking further, he said: “And of course, thesame thing applies to the judicial process. If one person alone is to constitute all the tribunals that will sit over electoral cases, it may not look good. This is because it is difficult in a democracy for one person to be extremely neutral. In one way or the other, someone close to you will be in one party or the other. “
The former President who has just returned from South Africa where he led an election observer team to observe South Africa’s national and provincial elections praised the country for taking measures that inspired people’s confidence in the electoral process. He said further: “In South Africa, the first impression the electoral observer missions had was that political parties had confidence in the electoral management body known as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). All the political parties we discussed with also had confidence in the IEC and that happened because they were not constituted by just one person. They also had maximum confidence in the security system. With that kind of confidence in place, at least more than sixty percent of the problem is solved.”
In his lecture Prof Anya O.Anya declared that Nigeria is under siege, adding that the country has regressed on all fronts. He further commended President Jonathan for constituting the National Conference, stressing that adopting its recommendations could make the country get the constitution it desires.