• Gives conditions for new parties to participate in Anambra guber poll
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, Tuesday upbraided political parties, accusing them of arming youths with dangerous weapons and buying them drugs to aid electoral violence and rigging of elections.
He also urged political parties to engage in campaign of issues instead of unnecessary name calling during electioneering campaigns.
Jega, who was speaking at a confidence-building workshop with women and youths of political parties in Abuja, said: “Youths are misused; if not abused, politicians provide arms and drugs for the youths. This should not be allowed to happen. Politics is not a do-or-die affair. Electoral contests should not be seen as a war situation and the bottom line is if politicians buy arms and drugs to the youths, it would not argue well for our electoral process. But, INEC will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute offenders, if they are caught.”
The INEC chairman, who described the activities of political parties due to the military tendencies of politicians, lamented that they behave like ‘military garrison commanders’ because of their imposition of candidates that did not win elections.
Jega, who lamented the absence of internal democracy within the political parties, said political parties were presenting candidates that did not win elections at the primary elections.
According to him, “We monitor the primary elections of the political parties, but the candidates presented by the parties to us are not the candidates that we saw win elections during the primaries that we monitor. Some of them behave like garrison commanders. This is not good for the system and development of democracy in the country.”
On the multiple voting by the electorate during elections, Jega said, henceforth, those he described as ‘dead persons’ would not be allowed to vote.
He said: “We have a credible voting system in place. A situation where politicians buy up the voter’s card and give it to people to vote will no longer happen, even where you cut off the thumb of the owners of the card. All voters with voting cards must pass through the card reading machines, so dead people will no longer vote.”
In an apparent reference to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where its former National Youth Leader, Alhaji Giza Umar, was about 60 years, the INEC chairman said the youth leaders of political parties were expected to be within the age limit of between 18 and 35 years.
He also said a group, the Alliance for Credible Alliance (ACE), had complained that some political parties allegedly appointed over aged Nigerians as youth leaders.
While stressing the commitment of INEC to monitor campaign expenses, Jega said: “Nobody wants to see violence in the electoral process. So, we have a responsibility to do everything possible to keep on taking adequate measures to minimise violence in the polity.
“We also have to do everything possible to minimise the use of money in the electoral process. In INEC, we are doing our best as we move towards 2015, so that we can effectively monitor the expenditure by candidates of parties as we move towards 2015.
“It is clear that there are certain limits imposed in the legal framework as to how much candidates can spend during electoral campaigns. Regrettable, we have not been able to monitor this in the past and we are doing our best so that as we approach 2015, we should be able to monitor campaign expenditures of candidates. This issue also involves lack of internal democracy in political parties.”
The INEC chairman further lamented the inability of the commission to prosecute electoral offenders, stating that where there was evidence of such offences, the judiciary failed to dispense justice.
He gave the example of a prominent politician from Bayelsa State, who was caught as an electoral offender, explaining that the politician in question went to court and obtained a court injunction against his prosecution by the commission.
According to him, “In Bayelsa State, we wrote to the Inspector General of Police and decided that the results from the area should not be accepted but what happened. Our job was not to implement. There has to be polices record. That person in question went to the court and got injunction stopping us from prosecuting him. We are accused of not prosecuting big fishes.”
On whether the two newly registered political parties; the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Independent Democrats (ID) could participate in the November 16 governorship in Anambra State, Jega said they could provided the two parties met the commission’s guidelines for the governorship election.
He said: “We have issued the guidelines, if they can compile, do their primaries in compliance with the legal provisions, if they have their structures on ground, then they can partake at the governorship elections slated for November 16.”