Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said that those elected officials who occupy offices on the platform of a political party but defected to another should naturally lose their seats to allow for fresh elections into their positions.
This is coming as President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday charged politicians to ensure that the country does not fail either by their actions or inaction as he maintained that history would not be kind with the if it does.
Jega, in his speech at the All Nigeria parties and political stakeholders’ summit held in Abuja yesterday also called on the National Assembly to amend the electoral act to enable the Commission determine criteria for parties to get on the ballot.
Speaking on the topic “Interparty Collaboration, National Stability and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria”s the INEC boss, who described such defections as political ‘normadism’ said when an elected official “defects, he is supposed to relinquish his office to allow for a fresh election.”
Jega who lamented the rampant change of political parties by politicians noted “some observers have described this as political normadism. While we must respect the right of citizens to choose at will what parties to belong to as part of their freedom of association, the negative effects of haemorrhage of party members and rancour it generates cannot be underestimated because on one hand the legal framework is not too clear. If you are elected on the platform of a political party and you cross carpet and change your political party, then obviously you have to relinquish the seat and election needs to be conducted to fill that seat. This is an important issue we should address.”
It would be recalled that five governors and 37 lawmakers in the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently decamped to the opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Those governors who defected include those of Adamawa, Admiral Murtala Nyako, Kano, Dr, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kwara, Abdufatah Ahmed, Sokoto, Aliyu Magatarda Wamakko and Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi.
Speaking on the challenges of inter-party collaboration, Jega said “we need to improve the functioning of IPAC to ensure full commitment of all parties to the Council’s Code of Conduct. We also need to improve the funding profile of IPAC to enable it continue to play its roles in growing our democracy and national stability.”
He also added that there was need to continue to improve the organisation of political with a view to modernizing them.
Jega further said “the thorny issue of deregistration of political party remains. INEC has submitted a proposal of the amendment of the Electoral Act to expunge the provision empowering the Commission to deregister political parties but instead empower the Commission to determine the criteria for parties to get on the ballot. We believe it will afford the parties space to continue to play their cardinal roles in political development without challenges posed by election management by the unwieldiness of countless ineffective political parties.”
Meanwhile, President Jonathan in his remarks told politicians in the country that “History will not judge us kindly if this country fails as a result of our actions and inactions.”
He urged the political class to ask their supporters and followers across the country to focus on saving the nation’s democracy.
He said “We must reinforce and recommit our various supporters across the nation to the Nigerian project irrespective of party affiliation, ideological differences and alliances. Let us bear in mind that no advantage or benefit can be gained by any political party over the other if our democracy fails. We have no choice but to work together and the time is now.”
Reviewing the nation’s political outlook, Mr. Jonathan said he noted with regrets the comments and conducts of leading politicians, stating that they were heightening the tensions. He said collaboration among the various political parties have been less than salutary.
The President pointed out that unguarded utterances fester the embers of discord, bitterness, and rancour in the country. He added that such unfortunate development play into the hands of extremist elements waging a vicious campaign of terror against the state.
According to him, the increased activities of armed groups and insurgents are better addressed by a political class united in its commitment to defend the polity irrespective of political differences.
He cited the recent bombings in Abuja and Jos leading to death of scores of people, the continuous killings in Adamawa and Borno and the abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok in Borno State, saying the political class needs to work together.
“We must never politicize the fundamentals and core imperatives of defending the state; as to do so can only embolden the terrorists and other enemies of our republic who will seek to employ any perceived political and social division for their nefarious ends,” he said.
He also appealed to political parties in the country to relate with one another and conduct themselves with responsibility and statesmanship with a focus on positive inputs into governance, whether they are presently in power or not.