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My fears for 2011 polls, by Bishop Okonkwo

By NBF News
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General Overseer of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo, has said politicians in Nigeria continue to threaten the polity because of their refusal to do what they know is right. Okonkwo equally warned that the integrity of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, would be seriously called to question in the 2011 general election if the Resident Electoral Commissioners in the states bowed to pressure from politicians, wanting to rig the elections.

He spoke in Lagos yesterday against the backdrop of reports of violence and tension, trailing ongoing primary elections of political parties across the country.

Okonkwo, who was a guest speaker at the ongoing Festival of Power, a prayer crusade organised by the Wordbase Assembly in Okota, Lagos, said godfatherism continued to play an ignoble role in Nigerian politics, which portended grave danger to the nation.

According to the respected cleric, a situation where those qualified were being sacrificed for less qualified candidates in the primaries because of godfatherism showed that Nigerian politicians had learnt nothing and were not prepared to do the right thing.

His words: 'I have said it in different fora that even if Jega has integrity, what about the electoral commissioners in the states? We cannot vouch for them. So, our INEC is faced with a lot of challenges unlike what we have in Ghana. The Ghana electoral commission is independent, so they can take decisions without any government removing them.

'But as long as we have an INEC that government appoints, there will always be the tendency to lean towards the existing government. We call on the INEC, in the interest of this nation, those of them who are electoral commissioners in the states, should do all they can to ensure that they give us credible candidates.

'The solution is that we must develop a structure where credible candidates should emerge where we don't have godfathers. This godfatherism is killing the nation. As long as we have them, where people are forced to step down even when they are qualified, and you have to step down for someone who is less qualified, the problem would remain. You see, all those things are challenges and the government must be bold. The truth is that I don't think the government is yet serious to build the political structure of this nation.'

The cleric said but for the prayers of Christians, the situation in Nigeria would have been worse.

'I know that presently it seems the gladiators have it all and things seem not to be going in the right direction but the Lord that has kept us to this moment, I believe, is up to something in this nation. More especially, the fact that prayers are being lifted up, the type that we are having here and in different parts of the nation. Because of those prayers, I believe a lot of disasters have been averted otherwise, the situation in the country is so tense, (and) we would have been in very big trouble.'