NIGERIANS WANT FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF UWAIS PANEL – ARP SCRIBE

By NBF News
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For the National Publicity Secretary of one of Nigeria's opposition parties, the African Renaissance Party (ARP), Chief Omenazu Jackson, the nation is yet to get its democratic bearing right.

He strongly believes that Nigerians cannot get it right until existing democratic institutions are strengthened and the polity is purged of electoral fraud and corruption.

Beside, the ARP chieftain disagrees that May 29 is the nation's Democracy Day.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun , in Port Harcourt, Chief Jackson said: 'May 29 is not Democracy Day in this country and can never be Democracy Day. May 29 was the beginning of illegal institutionalization of fraudulent election in this country.'

He wondered why the National Assembly has been 'afraid to pass the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill,' pointing out that passage of the bill would strengthen and sustain democracy.

Looking at democracy, how far have we gone?
Well, I would say that the worst democratic government is better than the most benevolent military rule. But we still have a long way to go because we have not really imbibed democratic cultures as a way of life.

When you look at our situation today, our democracy is just 11 years and within the period, we have not been able to have credible elections that would usher in true democracy. The peoples voice have not been respected; our institutions have been weakened because of non-selection of credible people to represent us and that is weakening our institutions.

Today, if not for the little the judiciary has done, there would have been a lot of distortions here and there. We are surprised that three years into this administration, cases of electoral matters are still in court. It is a serious matter that requires urgent attention because it is a violation of the electoral rights of the litigants-both for and against.

Also, we are still looking at the enforcement of electoral rules. Are they really being enforced? Do we, as politicians, who are drivers of the electoral institutions, stick to the rules? The answer is 'No.' I have that conclusion that until the electoral law is revered and until we begin to appreciate the sanctity of the ballot box, we will not get true democracy. This is because most Nigerians and practitioners forget that the electoral ballot box contains the sovereign will of the people and should be respected and revered at all times.

How would you assess the National Assembly?
The nation is practising democracy, yet our National Assembly is afraid to pass the Freedom of Information Bill. It is a clear minus for our march toward true democracy and it is retrogressive. I urge the National Assembly to, as a matter of expediency, pass the FoI Bill. It will strengthen our democratic institutions.

Many things have been said about the Uwais panel report. What are your views?

I still believe that the Uwais panel report should be implemented 100 per cent. Nigerians are yearning for full implementation of that report and nobody should tamper with the report. It will help seriously to strengthen our democracy because most of our problems are due to lack of credible elections.

We have seen that often times, never-do-wells are put in position of authority and that affects the running of our institutions because they lack the knowledge. Our institutions are bigger than their operators. This class of people, due to their deficiencies, put their interests above the interests of the institutions they manage. The bottom-line is that Nigerians want a credible election.

What do you think about the war against corruption?

We want this administration to fight corruption. I want the EFCC to have offices in all the local government areas. If the government could establish State Security Service (SSS) offices in all local government areas, they can equally establish EFCC offices there. That will tackle corruption at the grassroots level.

How could we achieve credible election?
Our electoral institutions should be made to be functional. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be devoid of any executive interference and be made truly independent both in funding and composition.

I will advocate strongly that political parties should have representations on the board of INEC because it will create credibility and the idea of one party ganging up to manipulate election results will die naturally.

As it stands now, it is the ruling party that decides what happens at INEC and that does not help democracy. It weakens that very serious institution. If INEC is weak, the foundation of our democratic institution is weak and if it is strengthened and made credible, then the foundation of our democratic institutions are made credible.

We seem to have weak opposition. Why is this?
You can never judge the strength of the opposition in this country with the kind of institutions that are available to midwife elections at present.

We are celebrating democracy day…
May 29 is not Democracy Day and can never be. Why? It is because May 29 was the beginning of illegal institutionalization of fraudulent election in this country. It was the day the voice of the people was recklessly disregarded.

Democracy is the free participation of the people and the Nigerian people did not fully participate in the election that produced those leaders.

Our Democracy Day is June 12 because it was the day Nigerian people decided to liberate themselves and have their own true leader. It was the day their franchise was liberated, a day the sanctity of ballot box was revered.