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CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HAS FAILED – ERUBAMI

By NBF News
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Erubami
Moshood Erubami is a household name especially in the area of human rights activism and pro-democracy crusade. He was once the President of Campaign for Democracy (CD) as well as Convener of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the oragnisation that hosted the US Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton in Abuja sometime ago.

Presently, he is the National Chairman of the Voters Assembly, an organisation that strives for good governance.

In this interview with Daily Sun, the fiery activist takes a critical look at the socio-political situation in Nigeria, describing the country as a disabled one.

On whether President Goodluck Jonathan can contest 2011 election, Erubami says constitutionally, he is qualified. But he quickly adds a proviso, that there are a set of conditions he has to meet before Nigerians could earnestly ask for him.

The Voters' Assembly boss also speaks on other issues such as the ambition of former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to return to power and the assumption of office of Professor Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) among others matters of national interest.

Excerpts:
Nigeria on the threshold of 50 yrs
So far, so good. The state has been wobbling and fumbling with practically no discernible direction in its economic, social and political programming.

In the next couple of weeks from now, Nigeria will be 50, yet a disable-socially, politically and economically challenged. The political situation in Nigeria is as hazy as the harmattan dust and as cloudy as Canadian winter. The social situation is pregnant with lots of uncertainties, apprehension, acute poverty and unemployment combined with glaring denials, neglect and deprivations.

This situation is brought about by the bad luck of the country, not being blessed with leaders with the requisite blue print for its development. Political leaders since 1967 have been unluckily accidental, unprepared and reluctant.

The first exception could have been the late President Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua who unusually confessed that the election that brought him into office was flawed, and was prepared to correct the inherent anomalies. Truly, he set up a 22-man Electoral Reform Committee, saddled with the tasks of raising the standards of elections in Nigeria to an international standard. He specifically directed the Reform Committee to consider areas he himself knew has been our albatross.

He included in their terms of reference, areas that he thought would strengthen our electoral laws to chart a new course for electoral credibility in Nigeria. However, he changed gear when the report was submitted, seeing through it the path towards committing class suicide and through the late President's body language, it was discernible enough that he was not going to be courageous to implement wholesale, the report of the Uwais led ERC. Hence, he looked for a way out by giving the report to a three man gang led by former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, who worked in the best selfish interest of their party to water down the core areas that are prerequisite to free, fair and credible elections in the Country.

The rest has since become history following on past steps that have been taken by the over recycled leaderships which have been responsible for the rots that the country had witnessed in the last 50 years. At the end, the President did not fail to give Nigerians what they expected to move Nigeria forward, but also blocked the chances of the country to join the list of democratic nations that have made credible election a sin qua num for the sustenance of democracy. His failed health led us to adopting another unprepared leader whose occupation of the seat of President was also consequentially accidental.

Where was Goodluck Jonathans blue print for the development of Nigeria until the demise of Yar'Adua? Definitely, he is like his predecessors, just putting his pathway together and that obviously cannot be ready in a year. Where is he going to start from 2011 election? Niger Delta? Power or energy? Unemployment? Poverty alleviation? General insecurity or religious bigotry?

We need prayers to God to guide our leaders aright, so that the struggle of our heroes past shall not be in vain.

2011
With the lethargic state of the electoral reform, it is doubtful that conducting credible election in Nigeria in 2011 will be possible. This is because the non readiness of new electoral law for the conduct for the 2011 elections run contrary to the pledge of President Goodluck Jonathan to give Nigeria credible election and might undermine the possibility of his contesting in the next election for the office of the President.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has failed Nigerians, by imposing their choice of electoral reform on the people, by rejecting the electorates genuine request for electoral laws that will set the pace for future credible elections. They have carried out their wishes by rejecting the Uwais report as not being sacrosanct ,against the expectation and reliance of the people that the House will act as the key institution of government by which the genuine desires of the people can be voiced.

After the Executive have rejected the Uwais report on the electoral reform, Nigerians still thought that citizens could hold legislators responsible, and believe that they will not stray too far from the positions held by constituents back home. Alas, contrary is the case as they have refused to justify the huge resources that the country has placed at their disposal for doing nothing.

It is unspeakable that few months to another general election; some members of the National Assembly could be seen to be exhibiting thuggery tendencies in their veins, instead of engaging in serious debate on how to effect the necessary changes in the nation's electoral process, so as to lay the foundation for a credible poll.

Their pattern of behaviour in this regards, has shown that the National Assembly members are clearly not in accord with the bulk of their constituents on the important issues of constitution review and electoral reform

Obviously with what we have seen with the constitution review, the National Assembly members have voted against the clear preference of a majority in the general public on issues as significant as the constitution amendment and electoral reform.

Citizens from various Nigerian constituencies, would like elected representatives to effectively argue for them when issues after their hearts are being discussed at their levels. However, this has not been the case with us. This is very bad and something concrete must be done in the next election to ensure that our votes count.

He could be our Messiah only if the President is sincere and committed to institutionalizing democracy in Nigeria.

During his acceptance speech, the president promised Nigerians that his government will institutionalize good governance that its first rung on the ladder will be credible election. What we find today is that the hope of achieving that is getting dimmed by the day, with the nomination and appointment of partisan members of the ruling party into a sacred election management body like Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

We are however happy that the President has taken steps to recall some of these partisan elements. But there are still more than meet the eyes and they can be the land mines for Jega as Chairman of the INEC.

The appointment of Jega is very pleasing to us in the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG). He is honest and transparent, and he has demonstrated commitment to national development throughout his life in the University, and at the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) and we are convinced that he would never enter into any calling he would not be able to see himself through.

Jega is not loquacious, loud-mouthed and quarrelsome. He is not such that writes his tracts, marks it and award marks for his non-performance, and does not pride in his ever righteousness and adjudging all others as enemies in a project in which they equally have stake. He is honourable, very energetic, efficient and non-diabolic person. Apart from his educational qualification, he is somebody who can use his appointment to mend the distrust among the citizens and government and bridge the wide gap of confidence between the INEC and the electorate.

The appointment of Jega is an indirect gift of the Uwais report, given that he was a member of the Uwais led reform committee and participated in writing the critical areas of the Uwais report. The report is not an end in itself, but a means to achieving an end, which we believe he will achieve with the support of the Civil Society in Nigeria and abroad. He only needs to remain focussed in office and be what he was positively before his appointment, to be able to scale all attempts to influence him to commit sins against his God. The Civil Society will work with him, advise him, support him and pray for his success to make all the difference.

IBB's presidential dream
As a Nigerian, IBB has the constitutional rights to contest elections into any office in Nigeria. However, he has shown in many ways that he does not like democracy and that he himself is undemocratic. It would be foolhardy for Nigerians to struggle for democracy and hand it over to an undemocratic force. It would appear that the space for contest into the highest office in Nigeria cannot be easily opened for an element that annulled the freest, fairest and most credible election in Nigeria. From what I heard Nigerians say, his situation is such that if the contest for Presidency is a football march, if IBB scores a goal in the march, his goal will be disallowed. His chance however depends on the people not on individual preference.

Human rights groups, as the closest to the people should work with government to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to bring qualitative changes into INEC; to put it back in shape with the headship that will be on top of every step needed to be taken to deliver a perfect election like never before.

What about President Goodluck Jonathan?
Zoning of political offices is not in the constitution of Nigeria and to that extent is unconstitutional and self limiting. Every person has equal rights to aspire to any level of political office in the country based on his or her meeting set criteria for distinguished leadership.

In the case of Goodluck Jonathan, he is qualified to contest, but he has to show a testimonial of performance in his current project for the people to run in the next election for presidency. Good electoral laws, guaranteed uninterrupted power supply, gainful employment for the unengaged hands of the Youths and unemployed graduates, provision of security and good welfare for all, will be those credentials that can see him through the hurdles of contest for the Presidency. If his party fails to pick him as a candidate, and he can achieve all these areas of good governance, Nigerians would earnestly ask for him.