General News | 31 March 2011 22:44 CET
'2011 Marks the Beginning of true Democracy'- President Jonathan
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has said the year 2011 marks the beginning of true democracy in the country as his administration is resolved to engender a credible electoral process where every vote is counted and leaders are not imposed on the people. Speaking when he received a group of 21 leaders of Civil Society Organisations on courtesy call in State House yesterday, President Jonathan called for concerted efforts from the civil society groups and all Nigerians against violence and rigging of any kind at the forthcoming polls. 'We must all collectively condemn electoral violence because if we damage the country, then we lose collectively. You must stand up against electoral violence and rigging of election irrespective of political parties. I am a PDP person but if PDP is involved in violent campaigns, you have to condemn such very strongly and clearly. I have told my PDP family that nobody should rig for me. We must conduct free and fair general elections, and every vote of the electorate must count come April,' President Jonathan stated. President Jonathan also urged the civil society leaders to stand up for justice and fairness at all times and not compromise their integrity for anything. 'I urge you to play your role very well as observers in monitoring the fair conduct of the forthcoming elections. You should observe and report unbiased to the rest of society. Continue to do things the way they should be done and do not compromise your integrity. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you must stand out so that people will spot the difference between you and others and appreciate your sacrifices.' The President noted that Government's confidence on the integrity of members of civil society groups has been demonstrated in the appointment of two civil society advocates, Prof. Attahiru Jega as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Dr. Sam Amadi as chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), to oversee critical aspects of national life. President Jonathan said government will continually engage civil society groups constructively to fast-track national growth and development through the Special Adviser to the President on Relations with Civil Society, Chineme Ume-Ezeoke, who was also present at the meeting. Earlier, leader of the delegation and Executive Director of the Centre for Creativity and Leadership Development, Abdullahi Ali Dogo, who read an address endorsed by the various civil society groups, commended President Jonathan for demonstrating political will towards the conduct of free and fair polls in the country. 'We applaud your proactive efforts, Mr. President, towards ensuring credible elections in Nigeria, especially your advocacy of one man, one vote which we often hear you advocating, in addition to your championing the campaign for violence-free elections.' 'We commend the appreciable improvement of socio-economic infrastructure across the nation. We recognize your efforts in security of lives and property and urge you to do more.' The civil society groups hailed President Jonathan for his approval and implementation of free skin treatment of Albinos in Nigeria, describing the gesture as the first of its kind worldwide. They also applauded the present administration's efforts in according women a sense of belonging through key appointments towards achieving the 35% affirmative action. They assured President Jonathan that the forthcoming polls will be observed, monitored and reported in line with international best practices, while urging government to ensure that electoral offenders are severely punished irrespective of societal status.