‘Democracy only guarantee of peace and stability in West Africa’
• Yakubu Swears In 14 New RECs
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has said that only way to ensure genuine peace and stability in the West African sub-region is to allow its people choose their leaders and any other method would be an invitation to chaos.
According to a statement issued by Mr. Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Osinbajo said this yesterday when he received members of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) Steering Committee, led by Mahmood, who is its President, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He described the ECONEC initiative as a beautiful idea that would provide an opportunity for member countries to interact and synergise, just as he pledged Nigeria’s continued support for the sustenance of democracy in the sub-region to ensure peace, stability and economic development.
Speaking earlier, Yakubu said all ECOWAS member countries were currently under democratic rule, a situation he described as a laudable development.
He said ECONEC seeks to assist member states in areas of need to ensure the sustenance of democracy in the region, adding that it was particularly important for all members to help Sierra Leone, which, according to him, emerged from a major crisis not too long ago.
Yakubu told Osinbajo that Cameroun recently requested for help from INEC, as a result of which “we are dispatching our experts to assist them.”
The INEC boss also said it would be better to deploy ECONEC to ensure peace in West Africa than to deploy ECOMOG (The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group), a military unit established by ECOWAS members in 1990 to intervene in the Liberian civil war.
The ECONEC Steering Committee is made up of Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde.
Meanwhile, Yakubu yesterday swore in 14 new Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), with a charge to shun all overtures of corruption from politicians.
At the ceremony at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, Yakubu noted that the occasion marks yet another important milestone in the consideration of credible election in the country.
Two of the RECs were reappointed for a second and final term, while 12 are fresh appointments.
Yakubu said managing elections is no ordinary responsibility, noting that on the commission’s shoulders lies a large share of responsibility of conducting transparent elections leading to credible and ultimately acceptable outcome.
The last general election, he said, has been rightly acclaimed all over the world as a turning point in the country’s democratic evolution, a pride to INEC and Nigeria.
“Your appointment is coming barely 19 months to the next general election. Our commitment to Nigerians is to make the 2019 election better than the previous elections, and this is achievable.
“The eyes of the nation are on INEC. We must demonstrate that 2015 was not a fluke, but a systematic progression in the maturity of our democracy,” he said.
He maintained: “Good elections begin from our credibility as election managers. In turn, our credibility depends on the openers and transparency of our process borne out of courage to strictly adhere to the provision of the Constitution, the Electoral Act and our Regulations and Guidelines.
“Outcome of elections must be determined solely by the votes that eligible citizens cast at the polls and nothing else.
“You will be responsible for managing personnel, processes and resources in your state of origin. You will also interact with partisan actors. Some of them would like to forge an unsavory relationship with you and your staff.
“You must resist such overtures. Always bear in mind that INEC is not a political party. INEC has no candidate in any election. You must demonstrate transparency, impartiality, courage and balanced interaction with all stakeholders for all stakeholders.
“As an umpire, our responsibility is to guarantee a level playing field for all actors, inclusiveness for all citizens, irrespective of gender or disability and above all respect and protection of the choice made by voters as the sole determinant of elective representation at all levels,” he said.
He charged the RECs to be conversant with existing electoral legal framework and the commission’s plan and procedures and to be conversant with the Commission’s Code of Conduct, saying where in doubt, they should seek guidance or clarification from the commission, either by directly liaising with the headquarters or through the quarterly consultative meetings between the headquarters and the states.
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