Nigerians must not bungle this year’s elections –Obasanjo

By Jamiu  Folarin, Senior Editor, Abeokuta

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday warned against any attempt to bungle the general elections bill for Feb 14, saying that the international community was watching the scenerio.

He made the remarks at a public enlightenment programme on the electoral process, organised by the The Muslim Congress (TMC) and the Organisation of Tadhamunul Muslimeen (OTM) in Abeokuta.

“The elections are crucial and the international community is watching us. We should not disappoint them.

“We must ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.

“These elections are for progress and development of this great country and should be devoid of sentiments, like religion, ethnic and nepotism.

“The election should be a unity election for all of us,’’ he said.

Obasanjo, who was represented by Chief Idowu Akanle, said that all eyes would also be on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police to ensure free and fair elections.

He said that the global watchers expect the elections to be characterised by prompt arrival of materials and provision of adequate security, where necessary.

“We must not make the mistake of allowing the international community to make jest of us; as such, those we want to beg are the Independent National Electoral Commission, who told us here on how the process would go, to assure us that it shall be well.

“You must be fully prepared. You must be up and doing. No excuses.

You know all the terrain very well; there should be no delay and late arrival of voting materials.

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“Where you are going to use boat to ferry on the water you know it, where it is going to be bicycle, you know it. So, there should be no unnecessary delay.

“A situation where somebody at Eggua will be phoning at 11 am that they are still expecting materials will be unacceptable.

“A situation where the police will be telling us that there is no fuel to move will be unacceptable,’’ Obasanjo warned.

In one of the lectures delivered at the occasion, the Chief Imam of Barau Central mosque, Ibadan, Alhaji Ismail Busaer described Nigeria as the jewel of Africa.

He noted that its success or otherwise would have adverse effect on other countries in the continent.

The Islamic cleric explained that the historical antecedents of Islam supported active participation in electoral process as evidenced during the time of Prophets Yusuph and Muhammad.

Busaer, who is also the Naibul Amir, Dawah and Cultural Affairs of TMC, remarked that it was mandatory for all Muslims to participate actively in the Nigeria’s electioneering process because it is part of their religious duty.

“Muslims have religious responsibility to correct the ills in the society through the methodology adopted by Prophet Muhammad in ensuring a peaceful and harmonious society.

“What we lack in this country are integrity and good manager despite availability of abundant human and natural resources,’’ he said.

On the controversy over claims by some religious sects, faulting all form of participation in the electoral process, Busaer insisted that Islam preaches active participation in electioneering process.

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“Our religion is comprehensive and satisfied man’s spiritual, social, economic and political challenges.

“Islam encourages us to participate active in election.

“Abstention or political apathy is a sin,’’ the Islamic scholar said.

He, therefore, charged all Muslims not to shy away from the general elections scheduled for this February and that they should conduct themselves peacefully during the polls.

In the second lecture, the Director of Qist Legal Consults, Barrister Rasheed Atta, cautioned politicians against desperation before, during and after the election.

He said that the success of the general elections should be the collective responsibility of all, adding that the electoral umpire should be truly independent and non-partisan.

He suggested that the power of incumbency could be curtailed if political office holders are made to ‘withdrawal from office six months to the elections’.

The Judiciary, he suggested, should be charged with equivalent responsibility of run the state during that six months.

In his welcome address, Alhaji Ibrahim Ogunkoya, the Wali of The Muslim Congress (TMC) said the lecture event was organized as part of the organisation’s contributions to the nation’s development.

The theme of the programme was “Ensuring Free, Fair and Credible Elections: A Collective Responsibility’’.

“I implore all Nigerian to think deeply before making a choice of any candidate. Muslims MUST come out and vote for candidates they considered to be capable, competent, truthful, pious and God–fearing

“These are the attributes to look for in a leader.

“Voting is a civic and religious duty for Muslims. The Quran has enjoined us to bear witness when called upon.

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In his goodwill message, Rev Joseph Akinsanya, the Chairman of Inter-religious Council (NIREC), Ogun State Chapter, said that Nigerians were gradually becoming politically conscious and showing more concerns about how they are being governed.

He asked Nigerians to use the opportunity of the 2015 general elections, to show good example for the rest of African countries.

In his keynote address, the Ogun State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Pastor Timothy Ibitoye, remarked that the INEC had put all machinery in place for the successful conduct of the election from Feb. 14.

The REC, who was represented by Mr Abayomi Onsarutu, an Electoral Officer, advised eligible voters to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) and adhere strictly to the rules guiding the electoral process.

Ibitoye said the commission was well prepared to ensure that the election is fair, free and credible.

Speaking on security operation during the polls, the Deputy Police Public Relations Officer in the State, ASP Abimbola Oyeyemi, assured that security agencies are ready to play their role of ensuring security of voters, voting materials and INEC officials.

The event was attended by the Chief Imam of Egbaland, Alhaji Liadi Orunsolu, the National Missioner of the Nawarudeen Society of Nigeria and Overseas, Alhaji Yunus Kehinde and the Chairman of the Muslim Rights Concerns (MURIC), Ogun State, Ustaz Tajudeen Yusuf.

Various religious organisations, traditional rulers and students organizations also graced the occasion.

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