Nigerians are reportedly frustrated and worried that ongoing efforts by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's administration to reform the electoral system significantly will not succeed. This comes after the chairman of the committee appointed by President Yar'Adua to oversee a transformation of the country's electoral system met with a cross section of Nigerians. Some citizens expressed deep frustration over the lack of credibility of the electoral process and their inability to advance leaders of their choice.
They are also questioning whether the country can hold free and fair elections in an atmosphere of political violence, vote-rigging and lax federal oversight. Emma Ezeazu is the general secretary of the Alliance for Credible Elections. From the capital, Abuja, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Nigeria's electoral system is disconcerting.
"I think he (the chairman of the electoral committee) has gone through the federation holding public hearings on elections in Nigeria, and he has heard from the Nigerian people. Everywhere he went people came with very deep-rooted complaints about the electoral system. So, I think a man in his position who also presided over a lot of electoral cases and saw first hand the depth of the problem is in a position to make that statement that Nigerians are doubtful whether there would be credible election in the country," Ezeazu noted.
He said feeling among many Nigerians about elections in the country is that of distrust.
"Indeed, that is the reality because many people believe that if elections are anything to go by in this country, then it would never be credible because it has gone so bad," he said.
Meanwhile the chairman of the committee reportedly said that his committee would recommend that future elections be raised to international standards, the electoral body to be made autonomous, and the performance of political parties improved. Chairman Muhammadu Uwais, who is a former chief justice, adds that President Yar'Adua's government must do more to ensure electoral bodies are independent enough to conduct federal and state elections.
Ezeazu said it seems the chairman of the electoral reform committee wants to allay the fears and distrust of Nigerians about elections in the country.
"It is interesting that he is saying these things because the opposition political parties have been very skeptical about him heading the electoral reform committee. And if he is the one sound-biting on the issues of the credibility of elections now, then I think that is probably hopeful. But it looks as if he doesn't have much option because when he met the president recently to submit an interim report, the president made a very strong statement on the fact that the main or the most critical problem in Nigeria and indeed Africa now is the electoral system. So he was urging them to look into the problem. If the chairman of the electoral reform committee speaks strongly about bringing international standards to bear on Nigeria's electoral system, then that is something encouraging," Ezeazu pointed out.
He said the responsibility lies with both the government and Nigerians to work hand in hand to ensure elections are credible.
"It is a dual responsibility and it is the responsibility on the federal government to use this opportunity of this ongoing electoral reform to completely remove the power of the incumbent over the electoral management body because that is the main source of pollution of the electoral system," he said.
Ezeazu said the current electoral commission hasn't been able to live up to the enormous responsibilities and challenges in Nigeria's elections.
"If you are talking about the present electoral commission, then that is totally out of the question because the present electoral commission managed by Professor Maurice Iwu is totally incapable of organizing any credible election in this country. What the people are calling for is a disbandment of the present electoral body and the redrafting of its mandate and its composing powers so that it is free from the president or the governors as the case may be," Ezeazu noted.