A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE TRANSFORM NIGERIA MOVEMENT

By Elombah Daniel
Listen to article

There comes a time for every man and nation to make a decision whether to impact a change or whether to continue in their old ways. For Nigerians, the time to make a decision has come. This is the time for us as a people to decide whether to work for change or to stand by and accept the failing state of our nation while majority of our people die from privations in the midst of abundant wealth.

Transform Nigeria Movement is seriously committed to transforming Nigeria. The starting point is 2011 election because it will form the substructure that will sustain all other democratic superstructures. We must therefore get the substructure right and strong or else we end upon labouring to put something on nothing - it can't stand!

Transform Nigeria Movement therefore calls on all Nigerians to make a positive change and campaign for a free and fair 2011 election.

Our irreducible minimum includes a valid voter register as the fundamental principle grounding a valid election. What happened in Anambra gubernatorial election last February (where there was complete absence of valid voter register) and in 2007 must not be allowed to repeat itself.

To ensure free, fair and credible elections we insist on the following:

An extensive voter mobilization/ education must be undertaken so that the prevailing apathy does not get in the way of a credible election.

One man One vote; to achieve this electronic Voting System is recommended (a voter's card that is similar to ATM card with password or finger print) whereby every eligible voter will be automatically counted in every polling station across the country which will in-turn show sincerity on the part of the electoral bodies. If the time is deemed too short to achieve this, we recommend that this should be the goal and there should be concrete steps and actions that demonstrate that Nigeria is working towards this goal.

Due punishment for election riggers including jail term, monetary fine and disqualification from holding any public office.

Surveillance, spying and recording the election processes with video cameras / mobile phones which would be used as evidence against anyone / groups that engage in rigging or any related election malpractices. .

Electoral Evangelism - Mass production of anti electoral fraud documentaries in DVDs, CDs, and Cassettes/audio tapes to be distributed to people.

Votes to be counted and declared at every polling booth and signed and distributed to party officials

Time line should be put on commencement and ending of voting, which once violated should render votes cast in the affected areas null

INEC to be set up Election Offences Prosecution Unit to liaise with law enforcement agencies to bring election offenders to book. (INEC has always claimed it is not their duty to prosecute, but in all criminal matters such as that of election, the state needs key witnesses in courts. This role is statutorily that of INEC)

INEC should not use ad-hoc staff anymore for elections, since for their facelessness they cannot be accountable and responsible enough. INEC should instead, consider using primary and secondary school teachers and the NYSC Corpers.

The ordinary Nigerian should be mobilised and sensitized to do the following:

Register to vote. Encourage their friends and relations to register

Ensure that their name is on the voter's register when it is displayed

Make sure they register where they can vote as movements are restricted on elections day

Form Free and Fair elections campaign group in their neighbourhood

Volunteer to mobilize people to vote
Report any suspicious movements to the relevant authorities, before, during and after elections

Vote and defend their vote and avoid statements that could trigger violence

Monitor elections in their locality and make sure that all cast votes count

Join the campaign for electoral reform, preferably campaign for the re-introduction of better voting methods including taking another look at Option A4

Ask questions/do proper investigations before voting for any candidate

We cannot conclude this press release without commenting on the announcement of Prof. Attahiru Jega as the new Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to conduct the 2011 election.

In the last three years, there has been so many issues raised around electoral reform, but it is clear that those who initiated the Uwais Panel in response to the world wide condemnations of the 2007 elections and those who are supposed to make legislation based on the report are unwilling to act because of self preservation.

Justice Uwais and his panel of which Professor Jega was a member undertook a very thorough job of attempting to sanitise our defective electoral process.

Nearly 18 months after the submission of the Report of that panel, the "Unedited" version of that report lies in the "In Tray" of our extremely busy lawmakers at the National Assembly. The recommendations contained in that report have since been "bastardised" surreptitiously via a wide variety of cunning ways. The manner of Prof. Jega's appointment is one glaring example.

Justice Uwais had a very valid reason for recommending that the Head of INEC should be appointed by a truly independent body - certainly not subject to the whims and caprices of the President.

President Goodluck Jonathan is toeing the path of his predecessor, the late President Umaru Yar'Adua and the ruling party, the PDP which had insisted that the President should retain the appointing authority.

The appointment of Professor Jega by President Goodluck Jonathan in disregard of the recommendation by Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Group is unfortunate, and a mockery of the campaign of the civil society for electoral reforms.

The appointment process dishonoured the intelligent recommendations of the Uwais panel on Electoral Reforms set up by the Yar'Adua/Jonathan Administration. It would have been better for the President to follow the process recommended by the Uwais Committee.

Professor Jega, the current Vice-Chancellor of the Bayero University Kano, an activist, and a former Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) president during IBB regime is deemed to be a man of impeccable academic and Activist credentials.

But he has been dealt a very unfair hand by our current crop of leaders. His appointment is a myopic and needless circumvention of the letter and spirit of the core recommendations of Justice Uwais' Commission.

In view of these concerns as to the manner of his appointment and his relationship with Professor Maurice Iwuh, the onus is now on Professor Jega to demonstrate credibility and handle the new assignment with courage and integrity. His track record as a unionist in the academic field stands him in good stead. He has fought for the good of the members of the academic world. He should now fight for the good of Nigerians. He needs courage.

Indeed, for being a very prominent member of the Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Group, the appointment arguably couldn't have gone to a better person. However, the issues of a free and fair election in Nigeria are much more fundamental than the 'man' occupying the INEC Chair.

The INEC chairman will be in his office in Abuja while election will be in our states, LGAs and wards, where electoral mal-practices occur.

We note that the problem with Nigeria political system will not be solved until Nigerians change their attitude to governance and stop seeing elections as a do-or-die affair. Our politicians see politics as a very lucrative business which is why some are ready to commit all kinds of atrocities to get elected. It is not right.

The important question is: Are we ready for change? We are the problem!

As Nigeria turns 50 this year, the sad truth is that during this period Nigerians have been denied the right to choose those who should lead the country either through military dictatorship or sheer impunity that makes nonsense of the people's vote when elections are allowed.

This disconnect has created a situation where governance is not about the people. Those in government are not accountable since they do not require the people's vote to be in office.

Every crisis that Nigeria faces today is a function of mis-governance promoted by this culture of flawed elections.

This is now the time for the people to work for real change. In doing this let us remember the words of Edmund Burke: "The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts... the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

The push to place Nigeria in her rightful place is on, in full gear. There can never be better time to board the train that takes us to the Promised Land than now.

Signed
For Transform Nigeria Movement:
North-West Nigeria North-Central Nigeria

Thomas Okrika George Stephen Hassan

John Luka Owobo Paul Yomi

South-South Nigeria South-East Nigeria

Philip Nnamdi Nwaochei Peter Njoku

Emmanuel Ohai Law Mefor

South-West Nigeria United Kingdom

Oluwatobi Adelaja Emmanuel Abadom

Akin Lawanson Elvis Ayiya

Netherlands Italy

F. Chuks Agu Rufus Oteniya

Obi Ochije Samuel Afolabi

USA Denmark

Nicholas Agbo Ambrose Obimma

Modupe Odunsanya
Australia Brazil

Seyi Osiyemi Miebi Diri

China Burkina Fasso

Razi Abdullahi Nnamdi Ousmane