By Ralph Madugu
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has tasked the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to do everything possible to win back the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system.
It also demanded responsible action from INEC and appealed to Nigerians to remain calm in the aftermath of the February 25 presidential election.
The Association, in a statement issued following the release of the results of the just concluded presidential poll, also demanded for what it termed “responsible action” on the part of the electoral umpire.
In the statement signed by its President, Archbishop Daniel C. Okoh, the Association expressed concern over recent developments in the country in the wake of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls, stating that elections were vital for a country’s stability and democratic consolidation, hence the process must be conducted and concluded safely, fairly and credibly.
While urging political parties, candidates, supporters and the public to desist from any action that could create needless tensions or stoke any form of violence that could push the country to the precipice, CAN tasked all presidential candidates to abide by the spirit and letter of the Peace Accord they signed prior to the elections.
The Christian reminded them that this was the only country Nigerians have, hence the need to keep it safe, united and peaceful.
“In the same breath, we encourage all political actors, elder statesmen, eminent personalities in our society as well as religious and traditional leaders to make proactive interventions to calm any tensions and nip signs of violence in the bud.
“We equally ask the Independent National Electoral Commission to do all within its scope of authority to ensure that the will of the people as expressed through the ballots during last Saturday’s presidential and federal legislative elections count.”
Commending the large voter turnout, the Christian body, said “CAN commends the electorates for the huge number of voter turnout, which is even more than the population of several countries. However, the implication is that, once anything goes wrong in our country, it will have a ripple effect across West Africa and beyond.”
According to CAN, ideally, when people vote, the votes should be counted and allowed to reflect in the outcome of the poll, stating that anything short of that, remains an “aberration in any democratic context and contest.”
CAN lamented that despite the many assurances given by INEC about its level of preparedness for the polls, it observed in many quarters that the February 25 elections fell below the reasonable expectations of the people.
It added that late arrival of election materials, malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines, failure of the planned electronic transmission of results and other structural challenges in the electoral process cast a shadow of doubt on INEC’s sincerity to deliver a transparent and fair general election and also threatened the credibility of the entire system.
While calling on INEC to explain to Nigerians why the preventable lapses were not addressed in a timely manner, CAN challenged the electoral umpire to rise up to the occasion in the face of the current precarious situation by doing everything possible to “win back the slipping confidence of the people in the electoral system,” particularly as the country prepares for the governorship and state legislative polls on March 11.
According to CAN, the international community was watching the behaviour of the Federal Government and its agencies, especially the police, the army and the other law-enforcement agents, to see how far they respect the country’s constitution, the rule of law and the obligation to act well in playing their roles in respect of elections.
“CAN commends the electorates for the huge number of voter turnout, which is even more than the population of several countries. However, the implication is that, once anything goes wrong in our country, it will have a ripple effect across West Africa and beyond.
“As it is said, when Nigeria sneezes, the rest of the African continent catches cold. This implies that all stakeholders must ensure that these elections are free and fair so that no room is created for people to agitate unnecessarily or for violence to erupt.
“Against this backdrop, CAN calls for calm and restraint on all sides.”