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Nigeria: It’s Senseless to Swear in 2023 Winners of Polls with Pending Court Cases, Says Abuja Cardinal Onaiyekan

He called for a review of Nigeria’s electoral system.

The Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, on Thursday aligned with some legal luminaries in Nigeria that it was not ideal to inaugurate politicians into office while they have pending litigations in court.
Speaking during a Channels Television interview, the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), posited that if Nigerians really want to practice democracy, they must desist from manipulating elections.
He argued that it was unreasonable that after chasing away the military which ruled Nigeria with the barrel of the gun, it now has to deal with a political class that wins elections fraudulently because they have massive resources at their disposal.
According to the former President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, it was overdue that the country must review its electoral system to ensure free and fair polls.
“I am saying this because according to the electoral law, the elections are not over until it is over. And there are cases in court that have not been disposed with. That is why we’re in an anomalous situation.
“We have a declared president-elect whose election is being challenged and the courts are handling it. I think I’m entitled to take the position that I’m still waiting for the courts to tell me who won the election.
“That is why I say we’re in an anomalous situation. And I’m one of those who have been saying it doesn’t make much sense to be swearing in people when they are still in court.
“I know it has happened with governors. But the outcome has really not been the best of all cases. I think we ought to review our election process so as to make sure that we do have a winner who will be sworn in and everybody will rally around. I cannot understand it. I’m not a legal man. I’m not a judge.
“It’s a pity that it’s taking so long for the courts to make up their minds on this matter,” Onaiyekan added.
While calling for an overhaul of the entire electoral system, Onaiyekan stressed that the courts have had to intervene because the country’s balloting process was faulty.
“My problem now is that the whole system of our election needs to be properly reviewed. So that it should easier for winners to emerge according to the wishes of the people. I even have very basic questions.
“Do we really want democracy?  From what we have seen from political actors, it seems many of them are not really interested in democracy. They want power by all means.
 “This is an issue we must agree on. Do you know that for 30 years, this country was ruled by people who had guns, not by democracy. We were forced to obey everybody and they became presidents one after the other.
“But we agreed after that that was not the way for Nigeria to move. If we don’t want it with people carrying guns, well, I don’t think we should be accepting it with people who can just manipulate the system and frustrate the wishes of the people because they have resources,” he argued.
He opined that the country must not be made to wait endlessly for the court cases to be decided, stressing that once these cases are decided promptly, then Nigerians can rally behind the winners.
The bishop further stated that it would also give the declared winner the freedom to concentrate on governance, rather than being distracted by court cases.
“The country cannot wait indefinitely. The point I am making is that obviously, it is the people who decide who should be the ruler. But all things being equal, the process that INEC is supposed to work on should have brought out a winner that is acceptable to the people.
“The courts have come in because there’s a discrepancy. It confirms my feelings that it is not right to have a system that is constantly contested.
“We should go and find out how it is that every election is being contested? And I think we need to look more carefully at the constitution of INEC. How independent is it? How is it able to actually come out with the wishes of the people?” he pointed out.
He further posited that there were serious issues with the last election, opining that whereas Nigerians believed that the technology that was introduced would help, their hopes were dashed by the electoral umpire.
“I think the past election has shown very well that we have serious issues in this matter. We had hoped that technology will help us, but we also see now that technology is in the hands of human beings. So we should have to go back to ourselves as a nation. If we decide we will rule ourselves democratically, we must all accept the rules of democracy.
“And those who want to be in power should allow that rule to run its course. We are seeing so much discussion now about politicians and issues that concern them about who is going to occupy what position  in the National Assembly.
“We are not hearing about what is going to happen to Nigeria and we have serious problems on our hands, in terms of security, economy and corruption,” he argued.

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

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