From JONATHAN AWANYAI, Asaba
Immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ratify the Electoral Bill this year ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Uduaghan made the call recently while delivering a lecture at the 1st Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan Annual Public Lecture under the auspices of Prof BIC Ijeomah Centre for Public Policy & Research at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State.
The thought-provoking maiden lecture was titled: “Making Nigeria Elections Cleaner, Transparent and Credible.”
The APC Delta South Senatorial candidate, who lost to incumbent Senator James Manager in the just-concluded 2019 general elections, decried the various shortcomings that trailed the last general elections which he described as “still acceptable.”
He opined that to ensure a better electoral outing in 2023, “gradual release of funds for INEC should begin with 2020 appropriation bill and a manual should be developed and used by security agencies for election security management.”
The two-time former governor of Delta State added that “all those arrested for violating the electoral law should be punished expeditiously as a lesson to others,” calling for the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunal which he said was long overdue.
He urged INEC to be more rigorous and timely in its selection of ad-hoc staff, conduct series of training for them long before the election, allow for the local people to identify partisan officials and checkmate the continuing failure and or sabotage of card reader as well as taking “a second look at the electronic voting and electronic transmission of results.”
On eradicating vote-buying, the former governor called for education and sensitization of the electorate on the longterm effects of the menace of the society.
“With 20 years that Nigeria has practised democratic rule, these ingredients are very much in deficit.
“Overall it does appear that the voters may not always understand what their best interest is and how to ensure that their best interest reflects in the election.
“With a more informed electorate, the rising culture of solicitation and vote buying would not have been so prevalent as we find today during elections.
“The argument that voters sell their votes because of hunger does not hold water. Eventually how much does each get? Pittance.
“An enlightened electorate will not readily sell their votes because to do so means you are forgoing your right to demand prudent and accountable government: the real democracy dividend.
“And when a politician is buying votes he has calculated that in entering this bargain, he is going to devote considering amount of his time in office recouping what he has spent. And be prepared for the next election and repeat the same thing.
And so, I am calling for an intensification of voter education. Unless there is voter education that makes people aware of the self-harm in bargaining and selling their votes, we won’t be making as much progress as I think and believe we should.
“I should also say that when votes are sold and bought, the people are outrightly forgoing opportunities for jobs to be created, for infrastructure to be built and for a solid economy to be developed.
“Vote buying corrupts and distorts the most elementary part of electoral politics.
“It was Charles de Gaulle who once remarked that politics is too serious to be left to politicians. This is true when it was said as much as it is true in the politics of Nigeria today.
“Our people, the electorate are easily beguiled. When people are bought with money then they lose the right to complain.
“So the people bear considerable responsibility and we must without belabouring the point stress that government in Nigeria must invest heavily in promoting political education at the grass root.
“The awareness of the people may have improved but awareness without commensurate political education can only go so far.
“The greatest empowerment the people need today is political education,” Uduaghan enthused.
He further urged Nigerians, to next time, seek and vote for candidates with the right moral and societal values to occupy political spaces at all levels.