Carrington canvasses free elections in Nigeria

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - Damisi Ojo
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Carrington Former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Walter Carrington (OFR) yesterday suggested ways the nation could take to have free and fair elections.

Carrington advocated for an electoral body that the people believe to be independent of any political party and has exclusive role of conducting elections.

At a public lecture in Akure, the Ondo State capital, to mark the one year anniversary of Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s administration, the former ambassador noted that when elections are rigged, more than a mandate is lost.

Carrington said: "The very core of the democratic system is eroded through election malpractices; we have seen it happen routinely in countries around the world: in Asia and South America as well as in Africa.

"Power once gained is not easily relinquished; the prerequisites of power prove to be too intoxicating. High office, which should be revered as a public trust, is instead debased into a public trough.

"2011 may well be the most important election. The disaster of 2007 must not be repeated. Substantiated reforms must urgently be enacted; the occasion which brings us together now is the celebration of the first anniversary of the vindication of the people’s will as expressed in the gubernatorial election for 2007," he said.

Carrington congratulated Mimiko for the tenacity with which he fought in the courts to reclaim the mandate the people gave him as their governor.

According to him, to have done otherwise would have been to surrender to political forces that would have made a mockery of the democratic process.

Quoting late Gani Fawehinmi, the former US envoy said: "What happened in the governorship election in the state on April 14, 2007 was an abominable and despicable act of daylight electoral robbery. Justice demands that nobody should be allowed to profit from the proceeds of such a robbery."

He lamented the bad name Nigeria has been given abroad, especially in America, as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Carrington, who described Mimiko’s administration as progressive, told the governor: "You are creating an enabling environment which will encourage your Diasporan daughters and sons to bring back to Ondo the skills they have gained abroad."

He acknowledged some indigenes of the state he called "heroes" in the struggle for democracy and human rights. They include the late Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Olu Falae, late Gani Fawehinmi and Dr. Fredrick Fasehun.

The former ambassador said Mimiko was elected fairly by "the people" to govern "for the people" and look out for their broad interest and not for the political elites’narrow interest.

He said: "I am here today because I am confident of your desire to do so."

Chairman of the occasion and former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, described Mimiko as a fighter of uncommon courage.

Nnamani said: "When Mimiko was not declared the winner of the election, he did not act like politicians who go into deals with the winner, abandon their platform and principle to become part of a "unity government."

The former Senate President and a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said he shared with Mimiko the commitment of free and fair election and respect for the sanctity of the ballot box.

According to him, in a complex country like Nigeria, democracy is the best form of governance that could sustain political stability, urging opposition to unite in curbing the excesses of the PDP.

Special guest of honour at the lecture and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, eulogised Carrington, Balarabe Musa and other progressives for their struggle to enthrone democracy in Nigeria.

Represented by Mr Dele Alake, the former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Tinubu praised the former ambassador for his unwavering disposition to the struggle for democracy, stressing that Carrington once shelved the toga of a diplomat and stood against the forces behind the annulment of the historic June 12 election.

Dignitaries at the occasion included former governors Bamidele Olumilua of Ondo; Balarabe Musa of Kaduna; Chief Alex Akinyele, former Information Minister; Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, a rights activist; Miss Adenrele Adeniran-Ogunsanya, Secretary to Lagos State Government, who represented Governor Babatunde Fashola; Prof. Sam Aluko, a foremost economist, and Mr Dan Anyanwu, a politician.

Chiefs Reuben Fasoranti, Olu Falae, Prof. Ajayi Borroface, Dr Kunle Olajide, Dr Olapade Agoro and Prof. Femi Mimiko, VC, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, among others, were also there.

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