The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had closely followed events in the National Assembly elections held last Saturday on 9th April 2011, and wish to commend workers and the Nigerian people for an impressive turn out at the polls, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Professor Attahiru Jega for the commitment and patriotism demonstrated in the conduct of the elections into the House of Representatives and the Senate.
We are particularly impressed by the exceptional courage put up by the Commission’s Chairperson, Professor Jega in ensuring that the Commission lived up to expectations of Nigerians and the international community at large, who had cause to be skeptical of the conduct of credible elections given the nation’s past elections, which were characterised by massive fraud and other electoral malpractices.
Despite these remarkable efforts by the Commission, we cannot but frown at certain disturbing incidents that could have marred the elections, and the need to urgently check or correct them in successive elections.
For instance, electoral violence seems to be a method our politicians are yet to discard in its totality. The gruesome bombing of INEC office in Suleja, Niger state on the eve of the elections, and explosions at a polling booth in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, as well as assassination of political opponents in Osun state and the kidnapping of the Senatorial candidate of the Labour Party in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Kayode Ajulo, among others, are macabre incidents that clearly indicate that the Nigerian politician is yet to accept decency as part of contemporary politics in the country.
We strongly condemn this spate of violence and mindless bloodletting, and call on the Federal Government to apprehend the perpetrators of these heinous acts and summarily bring them to book.
Also disturbing had been some reported cases of ballot box snatching, stuffing of ballot boxes, and underage voting. We prevail on INEC to thoroughly investigate these cases with a view to prosecuting those responsible and cancel elections in areas of such violations. The brazen registration and voting by underage persons, and in some cases children clearly below voting age, is a serious dent on the work of the electoral body and should be addressed decisively before the next elections.
More worrisome had been some cases of missing names of duly registered Nigerians from the voters register and the late arrival of voting materials at polling locations. While it is true that some Nigerians did not take advantage of the verification exercise after registration, INEC should look at the possibility of redressing this anomaly to allow them participate in the voting process. The issue of getting voting materials to locations on time is clearly within the powers of INEC to deliver, and we urge the electoral body to do all within its means to fulfill that mandate so as to have a smoother polling in subsequent elections.
As the Presidential election comes up this week Saturday, we strongly urge politicians of all political parties in the country to admit the failures of past efforts at achieving credible elections, which has in no small way seriously dented the image of our country in the comity of nations, and resolve to be part of this new process that we believe will produce credible leaders for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
We strongly believe and advocate that our politicians and political parties should collectively resolve that politics is not a do-or-die affair, but a game that should go through a decent process, which to some extent last Saturday’s election has portended.
We, however, commend some of the candidates who accepted the results of the elections, even when they lost, and congratulated the winners. In particular, we acknowledge the courage of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, for publicly accepting defeat, as a shining example. If this new trend is maintained, we are sure Nigeria and Nigerians would be the beneficiaries.
Also commendable, has been the patriotism and commitment of some INEC members of staff and ad hoc personnel, particularly members of the National Youth Service Corps, who have borne the brunt of conducting elections in very trying circumstances. In this regard, we acknowledge the steadfastness of INEC Returning officer in Anambra Central Senatorial District, who allegedly refused to accept bribe to announce phantom results.
We appeal to workers and all Nigerians of voting age who are already registered as voters to go out in higher numbers than the last election to vote for candidates of their choice in the next elections as this is the only way we can all contribute to the development of democracy in our country.