The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau yesterday called for the amendment of the 1999 constitution to give room for independent candidacy in the Nigerian electoral process.
Mikyau, who described Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution as a fraud, added that the process of selecting candidate by existing political parties was faulty and cannot produce the best leaders.
Citing Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that provides states that, “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for vote for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”
Speaking at the 19th Annual Gani Fawehinmi lecture put together by the Ikeja branch of the NBA, held at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Mikyau, charged lawyers across the country to ensure that the forthcoming 2023 general election, slated to hold in February, are free, fair, and credible.
He said: “Most of us are aware of what happened in the last primaries across the political parties, and its from this flaw process that candidates emerged, where we must select our next leaders. We don’t have any other choice.
“With due respect to the framers of the constitution, Section 221 is a fraud being committed on the people of this country. Fraud in the sense that we don’t pay attention to how we produce our candidates, and you cannot contest election unless on a platform of a political party.
“We all know what goes on in these political parties, that is why we don’t get the best of us to emerge as candidate for us to choose at the general elections. Whatever they produce that is what we are limited to in term of our choice. I think it is a fraud that is committed on us.
“The only way we can break away from that is to pursue constitutional amendment to say that the best of us is the one we want for the election to emerge on the platform of independent candidate. That is the only way we can break away from this fraud.”
He added: “In 1919 when the democratic dispensation began, Nigerian were limited to just three political parties. If you don’t vote for any of the three political parties, you don’t have any other choice. Today, everybody is celebrating the freedom to join a political party of their choice. This freedom is one of Gani’s legacy for generations unborn.
“In 2002, INEC released guidelines to regulate registration of political parties in the country. Gani’s National Conscience Party was one of the political parties that applied but denied registration. He went to court to seek redress
“The least we can do to immortalise Gani’s ideals is to ensure that what he fought for are not compromised. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, it is our duty to ensure that the forthcoming electron are free fair and credible. That is the least we can do to honour Gani, our own formidable hero of democracy.
“We should work towards improving the democratic process in Nigeria. Gani worked to ensure that we have more political parties to choose from, but we can take it higher by seek to provide for an independent candidacy.”
In her Keynote address, former chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs. Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei, charged the Federal Government of Nigeria to deal with the issue of insecurity to foster confidence in the citizenry.
In her lecture entitled, ‘A Free, Fair And Credible Election: An Indispensable Tool For National Development’, Osei stated that a free, fair and credible election, remains an indispensable tool for national development.
While declaring that Nigeria has got some success in conducting elections regularly, the former Ghanaian electoral chairperson expressed sadness that Nigerians were daily being confronted with cases of abduction, which she said, could hamper a smooth electoral process.
Osei charged the FGN to deal with the issue of insecurity to foster confidence in the citizenry.
The chairman of the occasion and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ado-Ekiti, Professor Akin Oyebode, described the late Fawehinmi as a unique individual, who fought against bad governance.
In his words: “Gani had an indomitable spirit that you cannot overrun. Gani succeeded in democratising the legal profession. He made indelible marks in the practice of the legal profession in Nigeria.”
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, who was represented by the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, declared that Fawehinmi stood for democracy and led the battle against military rule in Nigeria.
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