Polls: Onaiyekan says Nigerians have lost confidence in electoral system

THE immediate past Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan says the voters’ apathy and boycott that almost marred the last Saturday governorship and state assembly elections were protest and vote of no confidence in the nation’s electoral process by the citizens.

“The massive boycott of the polls on March 9th in many places can well be a loud protest and vote of no confidence in the process that had destroyed their trust in the system,” Onaiyekan said at the opening mass homily of the 1st Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja.

The event also witnessed the dedication of St Gabriel Chapel Building at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi, Abuja.

He attributed the myriads of irregularities that characterised the conduct of the elections to bad laws which according to him, “made implementation problematic, and at times offered lacunae for evil-minded people to exploit things to their own advantage.

“Even where the rules are clear, they were not always adhered to. Those who claim that these elections were wonderful because it worked in their favour should be reminded that bad Election cannot lead to good governance,” he added.
The Cardinal noted that the “government that has been declared re-elected must listen to the sound of murmurs and protest in the winds and take proactive steps to pull the nation together.”
He lamented that it was quite unfortunate that in the modern era, a free, fair, transparent and peaceful election has become so hard to attain.
“To the extent that the problems are deliberate manipulations, it is time to repent and change ways, for the sake of the survival of our nation, now and for future generations to come,” Onaiyekan said.
While condemning the spate of violence across the country during the election and militarisation the electoral process, the former Archbishop of Abuja emphasised that election ought to be an opportunity for Nigerians to choose their leaders, and not a battlefield.
“Elections are supposed to be an opportunity for us to choose those who will serve us. In many cases, it has been turned into a battlefield for warriors fighting to capture power and conquer territory and people,” he said.
“No wonder it has become such a do or die affair- winner takes it all. No wonder the process has been militarised, with armed thugs engaging our security forces, who in their turn are rarely able to be as fair and professional as they claim to be. No wonder votes often no longer count.”
He warned that “if the name of the political game does not change from domination to service, elections will continue to be problematic and the nation will continue to stagnate”.
The Cardinal, however, charged those who won in the elections to always discharge their duties, having in mind that power belongs to God alone and He would demand accountability on how power is used.
“Whatever the outcome of our elections, fair or foul, whoever holds power at the end of the day, even with the fairest of election victory, must remember that power belongs to God and Him alone. He will demand strict accountability on how anyone takes power, and how anyone uses power. God cannot be deceived or challenged,” he said.

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