Former chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, said yesterday that curbing violence before, during and after the 2015 general elections, is one of five factors critical to its success.
Iwu spoke in Lagos at the second year anniversary lecture of Realnews magazine and presentation of a book, Paragon of Journalism, co-edited by Maureen Chigbo and the late Mike Akpan, Publisher/Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Realnews respectively.
The event which was chaired by Prof. J.C. Ezigbo, Managing Director, Falcon Corporation Limited, was attended by Prof. Anya O. Anya, Prof. George Obiozor, Mr. Ray Ekpu, Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Dikki and Chief Tony Onyima, Commissioner for Information, Anambra State, among others.
Speaking on “Nigerian Democracy: Getting it right in 2015,” the former INEC boss listed the other four factors to include: reducing the pervasive influence of money in politics and, elections, correcting the mindset of Nigerians, promoting internal democracy in political parties and enhancing women participation in elections.
He said if the nation could address these issues, then it would make a huge success in tackling major challenges confronting the electoral process in the country, as these five factors often give rise to other problems that make the conduct of elections in Africa complex.
Iwu recalled that “in the 2007 elections in Nigeria, money was so excessively deployed that what ordinarily should be a national election, no matter how strategically important Nigeria was, became internationalized with foreign institutions, agencies and individuals hired at very exorbitant price, to aid the ascendance of the candidates and interests that hired them.
“For 2015 to be successful, it is imperative that the menace of violence in the electoral process should be addressed effectively for democracy to firmly develop in the country. Indeed, violence in its various forms, negate the spirit and principles of democracy. There is hardly any room for the two- democracy and violence-to thrive simultaneously.
“For so long, the electoral process in Nigeria had been held hostage and distorted by sundry acts of violence, often promoted by a small clique that obviously benefits from the unwholesome situation.
“There can be no greater untruth than the belief by some individuals and groups that political contest cannot go without violence. Indeed, political contest should be more of game than war… to turn electoral contests and the campaigns that precede them into blood sports and mortal engagements, as has become the case in the Nigerian political system, is neither healthy nor acceptable.”
Iwu noted that party politics in the country had been made the exclusive preserve of a select few, pointing out that democracy cannot thrive with the imposition of the will of a few over those of the majority.
He said the absence of internal democracy within political parties in the country constitutes a serious threat to the nation’s democracy. “The electoral environment of 2015, however, like most elections in Nigeria, has its own peculiarities. In addition to serious operational issues, 2015 has to accommodate the menace of externally-organised and funded aggression against the Nigerian state, including the
jihadist war waged in North- East states of Nigeria. This calls for unity and patriotism from all Nigerians and the political players”, he remarked.