Saturday, June 10, 2023

Nigeria should jail electoral offenders or kiss democracy goodbye: Utomi

I do hope our judiciary can draw a lesson from Kenya and not let its reputation go down the drain.

• March 27, 2023
Pat Utomi
Pat Utomi

Pat Utomi, a Nigerian political economist, says Nigeria must punish all offenders in the 2023 general elections or risk truncating the nation’s democracy.

Mr Utomi, the convener of BIG-TENT, a coalition of political parties, social movements and civil society organisations for Peter Obi-Baba-Ahmed Datti, made this remark at a news conference on Monday in Lagos while assessing the process and outcome of the recent polls.

According to him, unless those who commit electoral fraud, disrupt the process, harass, kill and maim voters are jailed in Nigeria, the phrase “go to court” will continue to be a regular line among election riggers in Nigeria.

“What happened to yesterday’s electoral process offenders? So, why will the offence not be committed again,” Mr Utomi asked.

“I do hope our judiciary can draw a lesson from Kenya and not let its reputation go down the drain.

“But it must then punish offenders. If this does not happen, then the essence of institutions in setting boundaries is gone, and we can kiss democracy goodbye.”

He stressed that unless the judiciary was reformed and regained the confidence of Nigerians, a phrase such as ‘go to court’ would continue to mock the institution.

Mr Utomi also said the Big Tent was putting finishing touches to its plans in partnership with other well-meaning organisations to prosecute election riggers, not only in Nigeria but also in the International Criminal Court (ICC), to serve as a deterrent to others who might want to go that route in future.

“Governors, politicians and other public officials, who undermined the 2023 elections, should be dragged to the ICC. The only reason impunity thrives is because yesterday’s offenders were not punished.

“Electoral offenders must be punished, and we are determined to do that. We are compiling their names, and very soon, we will take action on that,” he added.

Mr Utomi, a former presidential candidate, called for strong institutions, reliable systems and values to save Nigeria’s democracy and to birth a new Nigeria.

Commending Nigerians for uniting to secure the nation under the ‘Obidients’ Movement in the build-up to elections, Mr Utomi said, “the ring of a new Nigeria is possible.

Mr Utomi said that INEC had sold and even oversold the new infallibility of the BVAS/IReV tech system, which later failed on election day and gave room for manipulations.

He said that when it mattered,  the system did not just fail; it collapsed “whether it be a glitch or was tampered with, is left for the tribunals and competent Court to establish.”

Emphasising the need to exalt the rule of law, Mr Utomi said that an emerging consensus from historians, political scientists and economists was that “institutions separate the success from the failures of the race of progress for the human race.”


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