…Cites violence, hate speech, electoral legal framework, bribery & corruption
As Nigeria prepares for the 2019 general election, the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has listed four hurdles that could impede the success of the election, warning that danger may be inevitable if parties are unable to properly manage their internal affairs.
Jega noted that the recent violence witnessed during various party congresses in the country, posed a serious threat to democracy.
The former INEC boss said this on Monday while delivering a lecture as part of the 2018 Democracy Day celebration, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
He said: “The first issue of concern and a major challenge is the issue of violence and there is no better illustration to this than what has happened in many of the recent party congresses and really, this portends danger.
“If political parties cannot organise their internal elections peacefully, then how can they engage with other parties with civility in the general election so it’s very very important we improve our systemic mechanisms of addressing violence and conflicts relating to election and in particular, improving the scope of internal democracy within political parties.
“We may be running out of time but we must try harder and do everything possible within the time available to us before the next general election”.
Jega said that cases of hate speeches and delay in the passage of the electoral legal framework are capable of eroding credibility and threatening the elections next year.
The former INEC chairman also took a swipe at some members of the National Assembly while addressing the issue of bribery and corruption.
“Many of the chief executives that I have spoken with (and I know only a few), have stories to tell, particularly about the issue of bribe giving and bribe taking when members of the National Assembly pursue so-called committee work and oversight responsibilities.
“This is well-known, everyone knows it, it is being said but nothing seems to be done about it.
“The major challenge of our time is how to make Nigeria more peaceful, just and inclusive, especially for those ‘most at risk of violence, injustice and exclusion’, and how to embark on a solid pathway to sustainable development.
Only good democratic governance can provide the appropriate framework for meeting this challenge on a sustainable basis.
But this is not a manna that can fall from heaven while we all “siddon look”! It is a product of concerted vigorous struggles by progressive, patriotic and democratic forces in our country,” he said.
Speaking on the topic of the lecture: “Peace Building and Good Governance for Sustainable Development in Nigeria,” Jega said peace building entails creating trust; building processes and institutions of reconciliation and cooperation; and reviving socio-economic activities for sustainable means of livelihood.
He said, “Wherever violent conflicts disrupt communities and livelihoods and undermines peaceful co-existence amongst diverse groups of people, not just civil wars, the concept of peace-building is applicable for return tonormalcy and/or rebuilding trust and confidence for sustainable mutual coexistence.
“Nigeria needs to develop capacity, institutions, structures and processes of peace building for sustainable development domestically.
Nigeria has made substantial contributions sub-regionally and continentally, to peace-keeping and peace building. But it seems to lack capacity, effective means and mechanisms of peace building and conflict resolution domestically. This needs to be remedied as a matter of urgency.
“State governments should establish conflict resolution and peace building agencies, as a panacea for perennial conflicts and insecurity, such as famers-herders conflicts and communal disputes and conflicts.
These should then develop transparent and inclusive partnerships with stakeholders and civil society organizations to engage in dispute and conflict resolution, as well as peace buildingand community reintegration.
“The governance architecture, processes and institutions need to be remarkably improved upon, to effectively drive peace building and sustainable development.
In line with the goal of Agenda 2030, i.e. of having “peaceful, just and inclusive society”, we must work harder to institutionalise good democratic governance. Governance must be transparent, participatory, inclusive, equitable, fair and just.
We need to institutionalize good democratic governance, as we deepen our democracy, rather than leave governance at the mercy, goodwill, pre-disposition or, indeed, idiosyncrasies of elected legislative and executive office holders.
“Governments at both federal and state levels need to recognise that peace building and sustainable development are indeed two sides of the same coin: no peace without sustainable development vice versa.
Attention therefore has to be focused more on creative and enduring ways of pursuing development programs and projects on a sustainable basis, while simultaneously building peace in the conflict raged areas of the country.
What can be termed as preventive or proactive peace building agenda also needs to be developed and deployed in not only post-conflict areas,
but also in all conflict prone areas, which are so many, given the predisposition and the predilection of the elite to mobilising ethno-regional, communal and religious identities to ignite conflicts.
“The fight against corruption has to be intensified in all its ramifications. There are many successes achieved, which are commendable but the magnitude of the problem on the ground is turning these into drops in the ocean.
“General governance reforms are imperative, and urgently desirable, for our country to improve its profile towards good democratic governance.
Reform of the public services is necessary for efficient, effective, inclusive and impartial discharge of their mandates.
And, the security architecture in general and the Nigeria Police in particular need urgent and substantial reforms to improve and reposition them to be more effective in protecting lives and property, safe-guarding national security, enforcing the rule of law and dealing decisively with criminal impunity.
The rule of law is the foundation of sustainable development, human security and peace building. The police in particular and the security agencies in general must be repositioned to induce and/or compel compliance with the rule of law and prevent or penalize, as appropriate, its breaches.
Above all, they must demonstrate competence, professionalism and impartiality in the discharge of their responsibilities.
Significantly, the judiciary also needs to reform and improve upon the administration of justice, to speedy up the process and ensure that justice is not, willfully or inadvertently, denied.
“Perceptions may be deceptive but we seem to be treating such weighty issues with devastating consequences as the so-called ‘herders – farmers’ conflicts with kid gloves.
We must put on the right kind of gloves to fight these at all levels, local and federal and we must adopt a long-term perspective in doing this.
No doubt, the root causes relate to climate change, environmental degradation, desertification, dwindling of ordinarily finite resources and consequent migrations and the pressures they exert on land and other resources.
“Good democratic governance is the best framework and the foundation for peace building and sustainable development. That is what Nigeria needs and that is what we should focus on, in nurturing and institutionalising.
“It is also desirable to pay attention to the challenge of neutrality, professionalism and impartiality of the Nigeria Police and the other security agencies in their engagement with elections.
In 2015, this engagement was remarkably much better than 2007 and 2011 and the working relationship between INEC and security agencies as coordinated in ICCES, was partly contributory to the integrity of those elections.
Ways and means need to be explored to ensure that the Police and the security agencies display greater impartiality, professionalism and neutrality in the 2019 elections.
“There is no over-emphasizing that, as the 2019 elections approach all hands need to be on deck for continuous improvement of the integrity of our elections.
The more the integrity of our elections, the better, more responsible and responsive our elected office holders, and indeed our entire governance system and processes, would be.”
Also present at the event was President Muhammadu Buhari who assured Nigerians of a more secure and prosperous nation.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara;
Minister of Mines and Steel, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Minister of Communications, Otunba Adebayo Shittu, APC chieftain, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd), SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha among others were also in attendance.