A former presidential candidate, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim has called for the immediate commencement of electoral reforms ahead of the 2027 election.
Olawepo-Hashim, in a chat with newsmen yesterday, warned that the 2027 election will be a war if some knotty issues in the electoral process are not urgently sorted out.
He said two areas that electoral reform must urgently address are independence of the recruitment process in leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); and the need to place the onus of proof of conduct of credible election on INEC instead of on the petitioner as provided by the law.
He said Nigeria now needs believers in democracy across party lines to survive, adding that citizens are beginning to question the relevance of democracy to their lives.
He said “If we don’t sort out the electoral system right now, not six months to election or one year to election; the 2027 election is going to be a war. Nobody will want to go to court. We don’t want that. So let’s sort it out now. Nigeria needs statesmen not politicians. We don’t need politicians to be in the driver seat to reform our institutions. We need statesmen to speak up and talk.”
He added off season elections would have ordinarily been used to test the gains of these reforms.
Olawepo-Hashim lamented that the quest for an equitable electoral process had been a long struggle, recalled how, as a member of the political advisory committee during the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, he presented a paper on the need to reform the electoral process.
Olawepo-Hashim, who noted the committee was set up to review the 2003 election, added that his recommendations were not different from those of the famous Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee after the 2007 election.
Olawepo-Hashim, who recalled how he and other political leaders in 1998 made presentations to the military junta on the formation of INEC, said “My position is that the INEC chairman and commissioners should be advertised by all Nigerians who are competent to run free and fair election. And the National Judicial Council should conduct the interview and recommendations shortlisted and sent to the National Assembly for approval. The appointment of INEC leadership should be independent of the presidency.”
Olawepo-Hashim, who recalled that this was the submission he, Dan Nwanyanwu, Pascal Bafyau, made to the military leadership at the twilight of junta’s reign in 1998, added “If we don’t do it, we will never have credible elections in Nigeria.”
He added, “Secondly, the electoral act should be done in such a way that the onus of proof of credible election should be on INEC not the petitioner. Because INEC is the one that has all the custody of evidence of an election. You cannot ask a man who is not in possession of electoral materials to prove whether or not an election was done well. Otherwise we will be bothering the judiciary unnecessarily. I know that people have expectations of the judiciary. But judges adjudicate based on evidence. And the truth of it is that the electoral Act has skewed its balance in favour of the winner of the election and the man who organised the election. So if we don’t change the law, and you just need a clause in a electoral act to do that. And now is the time to do that.
“The question is why is it that when it gets to the National Assembly, they refuse to do it? It is because they believe they can out rig each other during the election. These are the two elements we need to deal with right now.”
He said “We have to rescue the democratic process because it is becoming meaningless. We are having coups all over Africa because people do not see any content in democracy. They write results and fix themselves in the office. The determinant of who wins election is his or her warchest, thuggery and violence. And then genuine people don’t get elected through that process.”
He said the business of electoral reform is not a business for the opposition alone but for all who love Nigeria.