General News of Monday, 14 December 2015
The unyielding desire of some politicians to win political power by “hook or crook” is still a huge challenge to African’s democratic election, Prof. Attahiru Jega has observed.
The former Electoral Commissioner of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission told audience at a lecture in Accra Monday the “mindset of do or die” of persons seeking political office could frustrate the continent’s bid to consolidate and improve democratic elections.
“The individual objectives of politicians which are selfish in times of election, we should not allow them to override the national interest,” he warned.
He was speaking at the first of two public lectures being organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). It was under the topic: Towards free and fair election in Africa, the Nigerian experience.
Prof. Attahiru Jega took time to recount the conditions at the commission he once chaired, reforms initiated there, challenges he encountered on his way to achieving one of African’s most successful and credible elections.
He said irrespective of the means implored by some politicians to circumvent the election, the commission also tried its best to be ahead of them in ensuring sanity in the election.
The need to constantly reform in order not be overtaken by the machinations of obsessive politicians, has become a major challenge to electoral commissioners in the sub-region, he observed.
However, to gain the confidence of political actors and all stakeholders, Prof. Jega admonished electoral commissions to ensure transparency in the organization of the elections.
When everything is transparent, persons who felt cheated or had observed some irregularities would have the courage to challenge the results in court. In the absence of transparency, he noted, persons who feel the elections were rigged may resigned to their fate without any remedy in sight for them.
He believed Nigeria’s 2015 elections, though had some challenges, overall, they were able to set a new standard across the continent in terms of a credible, free and fair election.
This, he stated, has now become a challenge to other African countries to make their “election better” than that of Nigeria.
“Specifically for Ghana and Ghanaians, we (Nigeria) now pose a big challenge to you [Ghana] to make your election better than ours. We used to be vociferous competitors in the football field, the Blacks Stars and the [Super] Eagles, but let us be vociferous competitors in democratic arena.”
He said Ghana and other countries can also stage a successful election through concerted efforts from all stakeholders.
“Mutual trust” necessary between the electoral commission and parties, he remarked.
He called for strategic planning and political will to make resources available so that plans by the electoral commission can be put into action.
Adequate funding, he insisted is very important, warning that starving the electoral commission with cash could be a recipe for undermining the integrity of elections.
The former electoral commissioner stated that knowledge sharing played a very important role in the Nigeria’s success story.
He recalled bringing together astute electoral commissioners in Africa who shared their experiences and advice on how Nigeria can hold a successful election.
The former commissioner therefore paid homage to his Ghanaian counterpart, Dr. Afari Gyan. He said Ghana’s former electoral commissioner was very instrumental in Nigeria’s successful election in 2015.
He hoped the Association of Electoral Commissions which is being revived would be strengthened to provide peer support to member countries.