A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Atahiru Jega, has expressed optimism that Nigeria will conduct a credible election in 2023 in spite of the current challenges.
Jega said this at a Colloquim in honour of Prof. Adele Jinadu, a Senior fellow of Center of Democracy Development, to mark his 79th birthday celebration themed “Adele Jinadu and Electoral Democracy in Nigeria: Knowledge Production and Praxis” organised by the Electoral Hub in Abuja.
He said that in spite of increasing attacks on the facilities of INEC and violence recorded at political campaigns, he was optimistic about a credible election.
”I have a lot of fears about the outcome of the election, but I am an incurable optimist about the future of our country.
“So I remain hopeful that in spite of the recklessness that we see, in spite of the vandalism that we see perpetrated by many of our so-called leading politicians.
“We are hopeful that people will mobilise and become effectively engaged in the electoral process so that we have a good outcome in 2023.
“We can’t give up hope. We still have to engage because the more we engage, the more the possibility of change happening,” he said.
Jega described Jinadu as a beacon of hope for the next generation passionate about the need to reform Nigeria’s electoral process.
He said there was a need for the academia to participate actively in politics for the progress and development of the country.
“Nigeria is at a very critical junction when the promises of democratic development are being systemically undermined and eroded.
“The nation is in need of good and knowledgeable people who believe in humanity to address the fundamental need of the people like Jinadu.
“Jinadu did not bury his head in the university system but is also very active in sharing knowledge and experience in order to reform our politics to clean up our electoral system, and to ensure that we have good governance in this country,” he said.
Former INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, said the 2023 election would be very important in defining the future of the country.
Ibeanu expressed optimism that the current happenings in the political space, especially the attacks on INEC facilities would not affect the conduct of the poll.
“The 79th birthday of Jinadu is a good time to reflect on our electoral democracy, specifically his personal contribution to the development of that democracy generally and particularly as a teacher and as an activist.
“I am not a prophet because I can’t see into the future but I hope what is happening now does not affect the poll.
”I think the important thing is that INEC seems to be quite ready, what is important is for Nigerians to realise the importance of this and also for the agencies because it’s not just about Ionic, it’s about several the agencies that are involved in all this.
“But ultimately, I think the most important thing is for citizens to realise that this is a critical time in history and that the elections of 2023 will be very important in defining the future of the country,” he said.
The celebrant, Jinadu said there was a need to take bold action to unlock the heavy fetters placed on democracy and development by the political class, the country’s party system, and the frightening loss of direction in pro-democracy civil organisations.
“There are worrisome signs, particularly within the civil society, of a growing vicious attempt to discredit the leadership of INEC in a manner to bring about the reversal of advances towards the routinisation of electoral democracy in the country, made under Atrahiru legs and now under Mahmood Yakubu,” he said.
Jinadu said that pro-democracy stakeholders in the state and civil society should devote more energy to resist ongoing attempts by anti-democracy forces working to derail INEC by launching an attack at it.
He said that it should be realized that INEC is not the enemy of democracy but those who are afraid of INEC’s dancing attempt to routine electoral integrity as the core of Nigeria’s electoral process and electoral governance.
He called on stakeholders to expose such people for their diversionary tactics to shift attention ftom their undemocratic and unpatriotic agendas.
The Director, the Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels, said Jinadu was an icon of democracy who worked tirelessly in reforming Nigeria’s electoral integrity.
Hamman-Obels said that it was only natural to celebrate him for his enormous contributions toward making Nigeria’s democracy work as well as his contributions in reforming the electoral process.